Mark Mitckes is a collector who likes rare plants and gardens in Zone 7a on a hill overlooking a lake in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He has over 300 woody plants and at least as many perennials. He has been gardening for over 35 years and also has visited many gardens on his travels. His favorite area for buying plants is the Pacific Northwest coast, both in person and ordered off the internet. He has learned by experience that many of these plants will not survive his hot humid summers or cold wet winters.
Sinocalycanthus chinense (Chinese sweetshrub, Zones 5–8). This beautiful shrub is the Asian equivalent of our native sweetshrub, Calycanthus floridus. It blooms in spring and early summer in the shade with these beautiful flowers.
Cephlathus occidentallis (buttonbush, Zones 5–9). This native shrub, which produces these unusual balls of flowers in summer, thrives in light shade and moist soils.
The unusual Gloriosa superba (gloriosa lily, Zones 8–11) is a scrambling vine, and it produces these glorious flowers in summer. Though not hardy over winter north of Zone 8, this plant does produce bulbous roots that can be dug and stored over winter like a dahlia or gladiolus for replanting next year.
Tacca chantrieri, also known as the bat flower, has some of the most unusual blooms in the gardening world. Though sensitive to frost, it can be grown as a houseplant, or outside for the summer and overwintered indoors in colder climates.
Arisaema candissmum (pink jack-in-the-pulpit, Zones 5–8) is an Asian relative of our native jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum Zones 4–9). It has elegant flowers painted with stripes of white and pink.
Though Scadoxius puniceus (blood lily, Zones 9–11) can’t survive cold winters, its bulbs can be dug and wintered indoors, or grown in containers and brought inside for the winter. The reward is these dramatic and unusual flowers.
The native oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, Zones 5–9) is already a wonderful plant, but this cultivar, called ‘Little Honey’, is perhaps even better, with its beautiful yellow foliage.
It is easy to see how Symplocus paniculata (Zones 4–8) got the common name of sapphire berry.
Stewartia malocodendron (mountain camellia, Zones 5–9) is a relative of the Asian camellias but is native to the forests of the southeastern United States.
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