In the Field, August 2019, pt 1

Matt Deivert and Eric Sours toured three key liner suppliers during the second week of August.  This is the first of a few posts over the next several weeks highlighting some of the stock we saw.

This time investment is well worth it to put our eyes on our liners for this September and next spring. Not every plant grows the same every year and from one grower to another, so it always makes sense to get out and see what current and future crops are looking like.  It also gives us the chance to learn about production practices and new products while providing face-to-face feedback to our liner growers. Overall the liners we saw looked great.  Eric will start planting the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Featured Native: American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)

Carpinus caroliniana; 2″ at the farm.

Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam or musclewood) is an attractive but seldom-utilized native tree that excels in small landscapes, especially in moister and shadier situations.   Native to almost all of the United States east of the Mississippi River save northern Maine and the immediate Gulf Coast, musclewood is a much smaller and more irregular tree than its more commonly cultivated European brother cousin C. betulus.  In the wild, C. caroliniana is most often found in rich, moist woodlands, shady valleys and ravine bottoms and clinging to rocky slopes along stream beds.

In the landscape, musclewood matures to an irregularly-rounded small tree; typically no more than

Carpinus caroliniana; fruit detail.

Young Carpinus caroliniana in a landscape setting.

Carpinus caroliniana; autumn color

25-30 feet in height with an equal or slightly larger spread.  The deep green alternate leaves are 2½ to 4 inches long and half that in width, resembling those of the American beech (Fagus grandifolia), but with distinctively double serrated margins.  The leaves turn a bright clear yellow in autumn, fading to dark orange then brown before falling.   Inconspicuous male and female flowers in spring lead to an attractive fruit consisting of a short pendulous cluster of small nutlets, each subtended by a three-lobed leafy bract.  In winter, the smooth, fluted blue-gray bark becomes the star attraction and the source of both the musclewood name and the older common name of blue beech.  Carpinus caroliniana thrives in the garden in average to moist soils and in partial to semi-dense shade, but excels in moist, acidic situations. It also has a good tolerance for clay soils and is one of the few native plants that can thrive under the canopy of black walnut (Juglans nigra) trees.  Due to its fibrous, spreading roots, transplanting is best accomplished in the spring and when the tree is relatively young.    It is relatively pest-free and tolerant of pruning once established.

Carpinus caroliniana; 2½” at the farm in winter.

Carpinus in general have very strong, dense, almost white heartwood that can be burnished to appear like horn, hence the common name ‘hornbeam’.  The wood was used by early European settlers for bowls, yokes, and tool handles.  The tiny nutlets serve as food source for squirrels and many native songbirds, grouse, and quail while the tree itself is a favored host of several native moths.

We supply Carpinus caroliniana in a range of sizes including 1½”, 2”, 2½” and 3” caliper.  It is an excellent, attractive, and low-maintenance tree that deserves a place in your landscape designs.






WHN in the Landscape; 12 Aug 2019


Even though these native trees from WHN are technically being utilized in a “buffer planting” at yet another new data center in Chantilly, their larger sizes and exceptional quality will make an instant statement. The quality of theses tree and overall installation was dramatic enough to be noticed and praised by the general contractor–who typically focuses only on hardscaping and the actual building. Additional opportunities are in the works now for future projects.



At the Nursery, 2 Aug 2019, pt 1 of 2

A look at the great growth on our stock this summer.  All photos taken Friday 2 August 2019.

WHN in the Landscape; 15 Jul 2019


These birch can be found at the entry and in formal garden area at a brand new active adult clubhouse in Brambleton.  Birch have a reputation for liking water, but they are also very adaptable and can be used in a variety of landscape situations. The Quercus bicolor provides an anchor and shade tree for the future on the other side of the building. It is great to see native trees from WHN used in featured locations on premier jobs.



After a Storm; 24 Jun 2019


Some dramatic photos of our liner crops taken as a storm cleared the nursery on Monday 24 June 2019.



WHN in the Landscape; 25 Jun 2019


These Chionanthus 6-7 ft were planted in May 2019 as grove next to a tree-save area in this newer community in the Ashburn, Virginia area. The 2” Cladrastis were planted in a community park and plaza area next to a fountain and seating area for residents to relax and enjoy the outdoors. These are just a small representation of the plantings that can be found on this project.



Featured Native: American Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea)

Cladrastris kentukea; 2 in at the farm.

Cladrastris kentukea; 2” at the farm.

Cladrastis kentukea (American yellowwood) is possibly the most unique ‘native’ tree of eastern North America.  ‘Native’ because its current range is primarily restricted to scattered outcroppings in the Ozarks and southern Appalachian highlands where it often grows on shady slopes in chalky, limestone-rich soils. Yet the versatility of this woodland specimen to other soil, light and climatic conditions as well as intriguing fossil clues hint at a much broader range before the last ice age covered much of the northeastern United States; a distribution from the Ozarks east to the Atlantic and north to the southern Great Lakes and the Hudson River Valley.  Cladrastis itself is a very small genus; consisting of one species in North America and an additional eight in east Asia.  It is closely related to another genus in the Fabaceae (pea/legume family), Styphnolobium, the pagodatree with which—unlike most legumes—it lacks the root/microbial symbiosis to fix nitrogen in the soil.

Whatever its past—or present—the yellowwood is an outstanding choice for smaller gardens.

Cladrastis kentukea; bark detail

Cladrastis kentukea; bark detail

As a landscape plant, Cladrastis kentukea typically matures at 35-50 feet in height with a broad, rounded crown of upright branches.  The smooth, grey bark mimics that of Fagus grandifolia (American beech), only slightly darker in tone.  The pinnate leaves, which resemble Juglans regia (English walnut) are 8-12” long with 7-11 leaflets and emerge a bright yellow-green maturing to dark green before turning a bright clear yellow in autumn. Once the tree reaches a decade or so in age, late spring also brings a mass of intensely fragrant white flowers in pendulous 8-14” racemes. Resembling Wisteria, the flowers are typically more numerous every second or third year.  The flowers are followed by decorative 2-4” brown pods that persist late into the winter.  Cladrastis tolerates a wide variety of soils, but prefers sun or very light shade and ample moisture when young; as it matures, water becomes less of an issue.  The tree is deep-rooted, making it suitable for planting near sidewalks and patios; the deep roots also allow shrubs or perennials to grow under the canopy.  Pruning should be conducted in late winter, before the sap begins to rise as yellowwood tends to ‘bleed’ profusely, like many maple species.

Cladrastis kentukea; flower detail

Cladrastis kentukea; flower detail

The common name yellowwood refers to the bright yellow heartwood of the tree; this heartwood yielded an intense yellow dye used by both native Americans and early Appalachian settlers.  Native Americans also used the wood for building and figurative carving, while early settlers prized it for gunstocks. Today, the wood is used for decorative items and woodturning.  The flowers yield abundant nectar and are a favorite of honeybees.

Cladrastis kentukea; autumn color beginning

Cladrastis kentukea; autumn color beginning

Cladrastis kentukea is relatively pest-free; with only scattered instances of borers or Verticillium wilt.  Its main weakness is its somewhat brittle wood (hence the genus name: from Greek kládos/κλάδος ‘branch’ and thraústos/θραύστως ‘snap’ or ‘brittle’), so siting in a somewhat sheltered location is preferred.  The tree can also be damaged by heavy ice storms.  It also has a tendency to be low-branched, a problem easily corrected in youth by White House Natives’ rigorous pruning program.  We supply Cladrastis kentukea in a range of sizes including 2”, 2½” and 3” caliper.  We strongly encourage you to make Cladrastis a regular feature of the urban gardens you design and plant.  You will not be disappointed!





At the Nursery, 8/9 June 2019

A selection of some of the great stock we have coming on at the nursery!  All photos taken the weekend of 8/9 June 2019..