Thursday, August 25, 2011

Low Maintenance Plants
Plant Name: Rhamnus frangula ‘Ron Williams’ aka ‘Fine Line’
Overall Low Maintenance Rating:   5 Stars out of 5
Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’, also known as buckthorn, was introduced in 2003 and is slowly gaining the recognition it deserves. I purchased a small specimen in 2006 at an end-of-season sale and it is now a gorgeous, 6 foot tall accent in an otherwise low height area of the garden. The foliage is a lovely, ferny texture and turns a bright yellow in the fall. The flowers are insignificant; I have to really be paying attention to notice them at all in the spring. It is hardy to -50 degrees (cold zone 2) and has had no problem handling temperatures in the high 90’s during the summer (heat zone 4).
This buckthorn is not fussy about soil type, but I have it planted in good soil and, considering its origins as an invader of wetlands, I doubt it would do well in sandy, dry soil without some amendments.
OK, enough with the statistics. This has quickly become my absolute favorite shrub. I like it so much, in fact, that I bought 4 more this spring, two of which I’ve even planted! This is what I call a genuine no-maintenance plant.

Ferny foliage of 'Fine Line'

Disease                                                                                5 Stars
I have never had a disease affect this small tree. I’ve read reports that the wild varieties can get stem cankers from certain fungus, but I’ve not seen it on my tree.
Pests – Insects                                                                  5 Stars
Japanese beetles can be a nuisance, but rarely more.

Japanese beetles rarely do serious damage to 'Fine Line'
Pests – Animal                                                                  5 Stars
None, unless you count birds pooping on it.
Invasiveness                                                                      5 Stars
Many varieties of Rhamnus are invasive pests. The wild varieties produce prodigious quantities of seed and can spread rapidly through wetlands. The linked report will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the invasiveness of buckthorn.
Fortunately, the cultivated variety ‘Fine Line’ has shown no inclination towards world domination. In my garden it rarely produces more than a very few fruits and, in 5 years, I’ve seen no seedlings at all.
General Maintenance – Water                                 5 Stars
Watering is among my least favorite garden chores and if a plant has survived here as long as this one has, you may assume it is not a water hog. Rhamnus is no exception. I have read that its water requirements are “medium” but mine gets by on whatever Mom Nature is pleased to send.
The usual caveat applies to newly planted greenery. All baby plants require extra care till they are established.
General Maintenance – Fertilizing                          5 Stars
I have never fertilized my Rhamnus tree (are you noticing a trend here? About the only things I have EVER fertilized are my roses!).
General Maintenance – Pruning/Cleaning          5 Stars
The form of this tree is vase-shaped and so far there have been no rogue branches needing correcting. I’m rather surprised as the wild varieties have a tendency to get weedy with age. As my tree is only 5 years old, I will withhold judgment until it is older. At this stage, I can say it has not required any extra care in the pruning department.


Alice's Garden Travel Buzz said...

I like the format of this post... most helpful. Landscape looks very verdant and lush.

(Wonder if you are around Kingston or near Rhinecliff. I may be getting my counties mixed up...:-)

Sharie said...

Thanks, Alice. 'Verdant and lush' is a very tactful way to say 'weedy and overgrown'. I'll have to remember that one! :)

I'm further north than Rhinebeck - we're north of Albany by about 20 miles.

farah aulia said...

nice post

Sharie said...

Thanks, Farah - glad you could visit!

Anonymous said...

A very interesting shrub! I wish I had room for another shrub like this!

Sharie said...

Thanks, Jayne! That's what I like about this shrub - it doesn't take up much space. They say it will only get 2 to 3 feet wide and that's all it's gotten. Maybe you could grow it in a pot? ;)

BMB717 said...

I was hoping you could give an update on your buckthorn since 2011. I'm interested in the height and width now - 2 years later. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I live in Portland Oregon, and have had a Fineline for 4 years now on my patio, in a sizeable pot, exposed to all the weather elements. My Fineline is now 7ft tall, and still as lovely as the day i purchased it. It has never changed width wise, as it grows in a 'V' shape naturally. I do find those new Asian Stink Bugs like my Fineline-i can't tell if they are doing any damage to my plant, but those stinkers sure like to lounge in the leaves! I've had no other pest problems-and my apt is directly backed up to a protected wetland area with plenty of 'pests'. Hope this helps-enjoyed your site!

Anonymous said...

I am having trouble with my fine line plants. We had them in complete shade because we were told that was okay. They became very twiggy with few leaves. We ended up moving them to a new location in the sun. It's only been a few weeks since we moved them but is there anything else we can do? I really like the plant a lot and hope I can do something to save it. We live just outside of Boston. Thanks for any help.

Anonymous said...

My finline buckthorn is getting taller than I want it to. Can the top be pruned off?

Anonymous said...

I too would like to know if the fine line can be topped? I don't want it taller then my house.

Anonymous said...

I have 4 and 2 are on the north side doing great, 1 is on the NW and doing poorly. The one on the west is doing fine also.
I'm wondering why the leaves are drying up & dying. I'm watering & keeping it moist.
Any help would be appreciated!