For days now I have been thinking about offering some thoughts about sumac. I love to see sumac in the fall and single, colorful sumac leaves, pendant from soft, brown stems, always remind me for some reason of a puffin on the Maine coast, sitting on a seaweed covered rock ledge with a minnow hanging from its beak.
Back here in Vermont, thoughts of sumac include deer munching on the seeds and birds eating away as they prepare for winter. The red of the leaves is a foliage season standout and some folks even pick the drupes--the little red seeds in clusters-- and cook them lightly (no boil) to make a beautiful red liquid for coloring jellies.
The plant world is ever changing and each year more and more plants are offered up, some new plants, some old plants with new names. Three years ago while visiting the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay I noticed an impressive planting of sumac. The plants were 4 feet tall and not quite that wide when I visited and the bright yellows showed prominently from the raised planting. I was impressed as its color, texture, height and width made me visualize lots of planting opportunities. Trouble was, at that point I knew the plant no better than those who included it in the garden. (My opinion, no offense offered)
This sumac was Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger' also known as Tiger Eye Sumac, Tigers Eyes Sumac, Tiger Eye Cutleaf Sumac and Tiger Eye Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac. Plant names are confusing that way and you can often be wrong with a name for no good reason. In this case, the "eyes" don't have it as it's Tiger Eye.
As you can see from the picture up top, the plant is a standout and an attention getter. At the botanical garden it was planted alongside a mass of rudbeckias and the contrast was captivating. My mention of it here is not to discourage but to caution you that planting 'Bailtiger' will require work to keep it in control. In my opinion, this is not a plant to encourage neighborly friendships and to end this thought I'll just leave a portion of Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall (1915). You figure out the rest.
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
The Vermont Gardener
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