Chicagoland Grows® Introduces Three New Plants

Gloria Ciaccio
(847) 835-6819, direct
gciaccio@chicagobotanic.org

Sarah Clark
(630) 719-5768
sclark@mortonarb.org

Release Date: 
Monday, January 7, 2013

GLENCOE, Ill. (Jan.7, 2013) – The Chicagoland Grows® plant introduction program will introduce three new plants at the Mid-America Horticultural Show (Mid-Am), from January 16 to 18: Forever Pink Phlox (Phlox ‘Forever Pink’); Beijing Gold® Peking tree lilac (Syringa pekinensis ‘Zhang Zhiming’) and Crescendo™ sugar maple (Acer saccharum ‘Morton’) sugar maple.

The Chicagoland Grows® Plant Introduction Program is a nonprofit corporation of the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Morton Arboretum and the Ornamental Growers Association of Northern Illinois (OGA).

Forever Pink phlox is a compact, carefree and long-blooming garden plant that flowered for three weeks in June and then repeat-bloomed with coverage as great as 15 percent of the plant until the end of October in trials at the Chicago Botanic Garden (USDA Zone 5b.)   

“I can say with confidence that in nearly 20 years of developing and testing plants for Midwest gardens, this is the best home garden plant that I have developed,” said Dr. Jim Ault, director of ornamental plant research at the Chicago Botanic Garden.   

Phlox ‘Forever Pink’is an herbaceous perennial plant that forms a dense, uniform clump with consistently upright stems. Two and three-year-old plants remained uniform in size and habit. The basal foliage remained evergreen most winters. Two-year-old plants measured 13 inches tall in foliage and 16 inches tall in bloom and were 18 inches wide. Two-year-old plants were within an inch of the same size as three-year-old plants    

The plant is quick to mature and forms a dense clump with numerous stems in its second year from rooted cuttings. The peak bloom of attractive purplish-pink flowers in June comes at a time when the spring moss phlox are finished blooming and the summer-flowering phlox have yet to start blooming. This plant will repeat-bloom well into October, truly living up to its name. The selection appears to be sterile, which explains why it stays in bloom for so long: there is no energy wasted in seed production, and no bothersome seedlings to contend with in the garden.

Forever Pink phlox is mildew-free, and no disease or insect problems were observed during its trial at the Garden. The strong yellowish-green foliage is attractive all summer and into autumn. Home gardeners can take advantage of this phlox’s uniform size and mass the plants for a striking display. Forever Pink phlox also makes a good container plant.    

Phlox ‘Forever Pink’ should be planted in full sun toward the front or middle of a perennial border. Phlox grows best in full sun and well-drained, medium-moist soil. It is drought-tolerant once established and performs admirably in the heavy clay, alkaline soil at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The plants never need staking and after a four-year trial, no dividing was necessary. 

Chicagoland Grows will also introduce Crescendo™ sugar maple (Acer saccharum ‘Morton’). This sugar maple is heat- and drought- tolerant, and has durable dark green summer foliage and outstanding orange-red fall color. It is an excellent specimen or shade tree for residential lawns, parks and golf courses. A native plant selection, Crescendo could make an excellent replacement for trees lost to the emerald ash borer.

This tree was discovered as a spontaneous sapling growing in a hedge row at The Morton Arboretum; the Arboretum’s landscape architect noticed the tree for its consistent fall coloration. Over the years, Crescendo proved to be attractive and uniform in habit. Its well-balanced branching gives this tree a broadly oval habit that will reach 20 to 25 feet in height with a 15- to 20-foot spread in 10 to 15 years. In maturity, it reaches 40 to 45 feet in height and is 30 to 35 feet wide. It is considered to have a moderate growth rate.

Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 7, Crescendo grows best in full sun on moderately moist, rich, well-drained soil. Once established, the tree has superior heat and drought tolerance. In fact, it is more drought-tolerant than other midwestern-grown sugar maple selections. In addition to environmental adaptability, there are no significant disease or pest problems. As with most sugar maples, do not use Crescendo on sites with compacted, poorly drained soil or in areas with significant deicing salt spray or runoff.

The third entry for Chicagoland Grows is a superior lilac tree called Beijing Gold® Peking tree lilac (Syringa pekinenesis ‘Zhang Zhiming’).  Recognized for its multiple seasons of interest, Beijing Gold boasts attractive fragrant, primrose-yellow flowers in early summer and clean, dark green foliage that turns an eye-catching apricot-yellow in fall. The ornamental, cherrylike, cinnamon-colored bark is attractive year-round. “Everything is gold about this tree lilac,” says Joseph Rothleutner, tree improvement specialist at The Morton Arboretum. “From the unique yellow flowers to the outstanding golden fall color, when it comes to tree lilacs, the Beijing Gold takes first place.”

Native to northern China, the selection was made by Professor Zhang Zhiming of the Beijing Botanic Garden, People’s Republic of China, and introduced into the United States through the North American-China Plant Exploration Consortium.

A small, deciduous tree, this selection can be grown either single- or multistemmed. It is more upright and less coarsely branched than most tree lilacs. Since its branching habit is better than most tree lilacs, Beijing Gold requires less corrective pruning. This tree will stand out in your landscape when featured as a specimen plant or in groups in the lawn; Beijing Gold is also an appropriate choice along drives and parkways or for use under utility lines.

Hardy to USDA Zones 4 to 7, this tree grows to 20 feet in height with a 15-foot spread. Beijing Gold has a moderate growth rate of around one foot per year. This variety grows best in full sun on well-drained soil. Once established, this tree lilac is drought-tolerant. Beijing Gold also is not bothered by the bacterial blight, powdery mildew, scale and borers that often plague lilacs. Tolerant of both soil and aerial de-icing salt, this tree is well adapted for difficult urban sites.

This exceptionally rugged flowering tree will add year-round beauty and interest wherever it is used.

The Chicagoland Grows Plant Introduction program is dedicated to the evaluation, selection, production, and marketing of recommended and new plant cultivars. Plants selected for the program have proven to be adaptable to the Midwest and are made available to the commercial and retail landscape industry through an international network of growers and propagators.

*Chicagoland Grows®, Cresendo™, and Beijing Gold® are active trademarks of the Chicagoland Grows®, Inc. Plant Introduction Program.

 

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Editors, please note: The Chicago Botanic Garden's newsroom is online at www.chicagobotanic.org/pr. For digital images, contact Julie McCaffrey at (847) 835-8213 or at jmccaffrey@chicagobotanic.org.

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