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Forest Pansy

This article was first published on 01 Jun 2011.

Forest Pansy

Forest Pansy

Nature Aids and Also Hinders Gardening

Gale force winds cause havoc in Dunedin gardens and can topple trees both large and small. In September and December 2010 several large trees were blown over at Dunedin Botanic Garden, but I think I felt most disappointment when I turned up at work to find a recently planted Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' snapped by the wind 40cm from the ground.

It had only been in the ground for two months starting as a bare dark grey stem with oddly angular branches and such tiny buds that I doubted its vigour. Soon though, it sported a few of its magenta, pansy-like flowers which hinted at the promise of displays to come. Cercis are in the Pea Family or Fabaceae, so although the flowers do look pansy-like at first glance, they are actually more pea-like. Following the flowers came the beautiful red-purple new leaves, fully heart-shaped and fluttering two-tone in the breeze.

I also thought I had positioned it perfectly in a well drained, moist position, sheltered from the worst of the prevailing south-west winds. I looked forward to its foliage colour complimenting Rhododendron yakushimanumflowers at its base in spring. In autumn too, the red-purple foliage can fade to clear yellow in contrast to the surrounding evergreens.

This is a real treasure in the garden, so I was relieved to find we had a replacement available and have since replanted it at the bottom of the track leading northwest from the azalea garden. Once again we can look forward to all its rich and varied charm.

Doug Thomson is curator of the Rhododendron Dell at Dunedin Botanic Garden.