August 26, 2007
Here's a favorite flower of Bob Waterman, director of gardens and grounds at Cantigny Park.
Why he loves it: This shrub flowers with numerous white, bottlebrush-shaped flowers that are about 8 to 12 inches long. It flowers around mid-July, when no other shrub is flowering. Blooms can last upward to three weeks.
About Aesculus parviflora: Its range extends from Florida to Alabama and yet is very much at home in the Chicago area. It will tolerate almost any soil type and has no serious disease or insect problems. It can grow to 15 feet in width and 12 feet tall, but since it's slow-growing, it would be years before it became a problem. This handsome plant spreads easily by suckers.
What it likes: Transplant from containers in early spring into moist, well-drained soil that has been prepared with organic matter. It does well in shade or sun but does not like to be heavily watered. It is hardy in Zones 4 to 8 (the Chicago area is Zone 5).
Insider information: You can see a 40-year-old example at Cantigny Garden, just outside the Visitors Center.
Best buds: It looks good by itself but works well with most perennials. It also is very happy as an understory plant, lawn specimen or in a shrub border.