I just finished planting a new shrub. It's name is Michelia Figo, commonly known as banana shrub.
This amazing member of the Magnolia family is stunning. After viewing Ray Schreiner's ( of Schreiner's Iris Garden fame) private gardens I have fallen in love with Magnolias again anyway, so the Michelias are just a small step in a little different direction from the rest of that family.
Figo is an evergreen shrub that can be pruned, but they say it is best left to it's own growth habit, which will ultimately be about 15' high and wide. It's true glory though is the blossom. Like many members of this family, that is what draws us to them.
Starting with a whitish 1" bud, it eventually opens to reveal a yellowish bloom about 2-3 inches wide. On each petal there is a blood red edging. But wait...there's more. Although I do have buds on my plant I purchased they have yet to open but when they do I have it on good authority that the blooms smell like bananas...thus the common name. Blooming from spring thru summer, you will have a long time to enjoy their fragrance.
It is technically a hardy shrub here (zone 7, marginally, thru 10) I am thinking it is more like 8 or 9) so I planted mine in a protected place inside my unheated greenhouse because to oft have I been burned by what others tell me is hardy! I would think if it was hardy here we would already have it in our yards.
Even if it struggles some I believe it will be well worth the effort. I have never seen this at nurseries here in Portland but bought mine from my good friends at Gardino's Nursery in Del Ray Beach, Florida. I have been buying marginally hardy plants from them for years and thier products always come perfectly wrapped and always looking great. It's like Christmas to me every time I order from them. And they are not cost prohibative either...which is nice.Originally from China, banana shrub was introduced to the United States in late 1700s and is one of the classic evergreen shrubs of the old south and since I was born in Texas...well you get the idea. But I never did see one while living there so I am not sure how 'classic' it could be.
It also likes acidic soils, which we have in abundance here in the northwest, and good drainage. You can order this plant yourself from Gardino's Nursery, http://www.gardinonursery.com. Remember that even if it's name is banana shrub, no parts of the plant are edible, fragrance notwithstanding.
I will be blogging more in the next couple of weeks on some of those kickin' cool plants I got at Gardenpalooza! With the few sun breaks we have had this week I did get everything planted. I will enclose some pics as well.