A sport is a small genetic variation in a plant and is usually noticed when it gives rise to a new flower colour or a shoot with variegated leaves. When it’s propagated it can prove to be a valuable new variety.
Black leaved sports are much less common so the arrival of a new black-leaved Ceanothus - the first of its kind - is quite an event. Patrick Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Nurseries, a wholesale nursery in Kilkenny, Ireland, found this one on his nursery back in 1998 – this is what he says about it on his blog:
“Let me tell you first I was genuinely shocked, out of a batch of about 6,000 young plants of Ceanothus ‘Autumnal Blue’ here was this one plant that definitely was not green.” In fact the foliage is the colour of bitter chocolate.
“Tuxedo proved quite difficult to propagate thereafter,’ Patrick continues, “and it took a lot of work to save the original plant. Eventually I learned it likes sunlight, and lots of it, probably due to the darkness of the foliage. Eventually we produced enough and the rest is our own little piece of Hort history. I managed to grow the first three stable plants from this one plant and from there bulked it up in numbers year by year.”
Grow Ceanothus ‘Tuxedo’ is the same way you’d grow other evergreen ceanothus and with its dark foliage it would show up especially well against a pale wall or fence. It will flower prolifically in summer and autumn. Now perhaps it will sport again – to a variegated form!
You can order Ceanothus ‘Tuxedo’ from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries and it’s also available in garden centres across Britain. And Irish gardeners in particular can find out more about his plants at his My Plants website.