Conifers and evergreens

Winter Interest

Pine treesI know everyone is tired of hearing of the big Northeast snowstorm. That it made such a splash on the news is good in a way. It means that there were no school shootings or major political incidents. I will take weather hype over those stories any day but I am tired of it as well. I am also living with the aftermath. New England should have snow in the winter and it does but not usually over 20" at a time. Alberta SpruceTwenty inches of snow is fairly impossible to walk through. The EM had to get to the tractor in order to plow. The barn is a good 300' from the house. I had to poke a hole in the snow cover over the fishpond. That is only fifty feet or so away from the walk but it was quite a chore to get there. There is a circulator in the pond but that much snow capped it which could cause the fish to die. SedumI left the seedheads of Autumn Joy sedum for winter interest but they have disappeared in most of the garden. These by the shed are visible due to the high winds blowing the snow off their location.  Gardening is a regional activity and winter interest means different things to different people all over the world. Winter interest in Texas can mean blooming bulbs. Winter interest in Florida can mean gardenias and orange blossoms.
Cornus with clouds
Cornus with clouds of snow
In Buffalo, winter interest can mean trees and forced bulbs in the indoor garden. I have a better sense of a more northerly approach to winter interest at this time in mid-February. My attention is drawn to the garden accents which are spread around the garden. BirdhouseThe colorful birdhouse on the hook in the long border adds pretty contrast to gray and white. Orange globe and barnThe orange globe in the sunny border is warming me with its glow. Blurry GlobeSo, what is keeping your garden interesting at the moment? Is it inside or outside? Is it man made or natural?  Oak treePerhaps it is just the trees which come into their own this time of year. Whatever it is, please share it as I need a bit more winter interest when the snow is more than knee deep.

Christmas ornaments are for the birds!

High 40.9 F
Low  31.1 F

If you celebrate Christmas with the traditional Christmas tree, do you find that your ornament collection grows every year and that there is a 'theme' to your new ornaments? Carol over at May Dreams recently posted about her garden themed Christmas ornaments.  At my house, this years'  fraser fir is not too big (I did have some complaints on this) but it is well suited to the SMALL living room (I'm yelling at the complainers who don't live here) as it nestles in the corner by the wood stove and the side table.  Curiously, I have no ornaments with a strict garden theme.  I have a few ornaments from days of yore.  Dsc_0010 This one is very old but is still singing the message of peace on earth in spite of her ragged dress. Dsc_0011 This one was made by my daughter (one of the above complainers) when she was just a little girl and she made this one also with the help of her grandmother. Dsc_0009 It is a duck egg which has been blown and painted.   In case you cannot tell, it is the nativity scene.  I probably should give my daughter this ornament for her tree which is much bigger than mine!   I love sparkle and crystal is always welcome on my tree such as these ornaments. Dsc_0023


They reflect and shimmer in the light of the tree.   Every year for my birthday one of my sisters gives me a tree ornament.  Dsc_0015_2 Here is last year's ornament and this Dsc_0020 is the current year's ornament.  Who doesn't like peacocks and dragonflies!  I have purchased some ornaments in recent years and find that I gravitate toward the birds.  For some reason, I like the look of the clip on birds perched on the tree.  Not the real looking ones, but the show girls of the group such as thisDsc_0013 pink sparkler and this Dsc_0019 wren sitting on a gilded nest. There are the glitter birds, Dsc_0011_2 some just getting ready to fly

and the cardinalsDsc_0016 in different shades of red. Dsc_0017 Some look a bit more realistic than others. In addition to the birds, there are a couple of odd additions to the mix such as this seahorse Dsc_0021 and theseDsc_0022 'bubble' balls.  The ornaments on my tree are as varied, if not as coordinated, as the plants in my garden but ultimately, it is an expression of the decorator and most trees are still, usually, Tree_star_2 topped by a star.  What does your tree say about you?   


Just a flake or two!

High 38.3 F
Low  23.2 F

Click to enlarge to see the snowflakes!

Lots of garden bloggers are posting their first snowfall.  Today marks the day in northern Rhode Island for the first snow of the fall/winter season.  It wasn't heavy.  It didn't last.   It did, however, make an impression. Is it the finale or the beginning?  Dormancy is upon us and now we can look toward next year's garden for some new challenges. Today I noticed a couple plants worth considering and/or reconsidering.  One plant which I put in the new GFSD winter garden is a Microbiota decussata or Serbian Carpet Cypress.  Actually, I put three of these in and they will, hopefully, form an evergreen groundcover. Dsc_0004 They are juniper like in their appearance and are bright green in the summer turning this plum color with the onset of cool temperatures.  This plant is not too picky about soil although it should be well drained.  It is hardy to Zone 3.   It was discovered quite recently in the 1920's above the tree line in Vladivostok, Russia.   I love the texture of this plant. It will grow in some shade where the creeping junipers would fail.  Are any of you growing it?

An overlooked perennial which caught my attention today with its' snow cloak is this little epimedium.   I am thinking that I need more of them.  They are not really showy.  Dsc_0016 Their narrow, heart shaped leaves dangle from wiry stems and in the spring they have lovely flowers in white, red,Epimedium_rubrum pink or yellow. These were in bloom on May 5th of this year.Epimedium The foliage can be tinged with bronze and one of their best features is that they grow in dry shade.  Epimediums are native to Japan, Europe, Algeria and Northern Iran depending on the species and there are many hybrids now available in season at the garden centers.  They form large clumps once established  and make a bit more of a statement as they mature.  How many of you have some epimediums?   Just a couple of plants which deserve a bit more attention and which, perhaps, you will consider, if you have not already, for your garden next season.


GFSD-Garden of winter interest!

High 80.o F
Low  56.3 F

Pinus strobus 'Soft Touch'

It was a morning of mist and cobwebs!  If I didn't already have this great little pine, I would have added it to the GFSD conifer garden.  This pine grows low and wide and has a very soft, touchable appearance.  There were webs all over it this morning.  Not the perfect symmetrical webs but the webs of some out of control spider with no organizational skills. Dsc_0049 Here they have spun their chaos on the cotoneaster and this garden stake Dsc_0050 which has a solar panel in the base and which turns on at night changing colors all night long.  I can see it from my bed and want to believe that it keeps the deer at bay.  Kids love it.
The first plant which was planted in this garden was the Thuja plicata on the right.  This arborvitae was a gift from my son to me for Mother's Days in 2005.  It has survived the deer as I have been spraying repellent which is what encouraged me to plant this garden.  I have fond memories of the globe arborvitaes as they were great to hide behind when my sisters and I played hide and seek as children.  They have a very distinctive aroma.
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Coralliformis'

The cast continues with three evergreens which are a bit less well know than others.  Coral cypress is an interesting form of Hinoki cypress.  It has contorted, coral like branches and will stay pretty small.  A ten year old plant will be three by three feet.  I love the interesting shapes of the foliage.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Squarrosa Pygmaea'
This is a cypress with very blue, tight foliage with a compact form.  I don't have an estimated height on this plant so just stay tuned for the next twenty years and we will all watch it grow. 

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Filicoides'

The Fernspray cypress is dark green with very fern like foliage.  Go figure!  The plant will reach four feet in ten years and benefits from a bit of tip pruning to keep it looking neat.  Maybe I will, maybe I won't tip prune.  We shall see.

This next plant is probably familiar to many of you.
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Allumii'
The  lawson cypress is native to southwestern Oregon but the 'Allumii' cultivar will tolerate dryer, colder conditions and has done well in this part of the country.  It is a fairly fast grower and will grow about a foot per year.  I can't wait.  It is a column of blue and will show up well from a distance.  So, the parade continues and there are a few more to highlight.


Cast of Characters-Conifer Garden aka GFSD

High 69.5 F
Low  40.5 F

So far, there are seventeen different species of trees and shrubs in the new conifer garden.  It will not be strictly conifers but they will provide the backbone and shape of the garden. I will be adding some grasses and maybe some textural perennials.  Many years ago I visited the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plains, MA.  At that time, the visitors center was located in an old building and behind it there were several large Ilex pedunculosa, Longstalk holly.  These were at least thirty feet high with a dense habit and shiny, oval leaves about 3" long.  The plant caught  and reflected light with a lustrous shimmer.  I have since coveted this holly so it was an obvious choice for the shrub border. Dsc_0013 As you can see it is not a conifer but it is evergreen and it does require both male and female plants for pollination and subsequent berries.  I have put in three, one male sited upwind from the two females.  The male is tighter in habit but I think with age they will become indistinguishable except for the berries.

Next in this border, I have added a Disanthus cercidifolius which is a member of the Hamamelidaceae family and is native to Japan. Dsc_0017 As you can see, the leaves are similar to the Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis.  The flowers are incidental and the shrub becomes broad and spreading.  This is a shrub with great fall color and interesting foliage.  Also, it is underused in our landscapes so I felt it deserved a place in the border. 

Chamaecyparis thyoides 'Crippsi'

This will grow to be a fairly large, pyramidal tree with spreading branches, about 25' in twenty years.  This particular cultivar has a yellow tinge to the foliage.  The deer love it but I will be spraying every couple of weeks to deter them.   It would be hard to have a conifer garden here without spraying repellent for the deer.  I love the shape of the fronds.

Rosa hugonis
This is a species rose and it is showing a bit of stress which is actually from over watering rather than underwatering.  You can kill a plant with kindness.  This photo was taken a month or two ago and it is looking much better right now.  Some of you may remember the photo on May 16thDsc_0019 of the Fr. Hugo rose in bloom. The blooms are beautiful but I love the gray leaves and the fine texture of this plant.  The one pictured with the flowers was six feet tall and, as you can see, covered with flowers.  This plant originates from Central China and was introduced in the late 1800's.

Rhododendron 'Independence'

This is a large leaf Rhododendron which has a light pink flower and blooms right around the fourth of July.  I know some dislike Rhododendrons but many are of native parentage.  This one is thought to be a cultivar of Rhododendron maxiumum which is native to north Georgia, Nova Scotia and Ontario.  It will achieve a height of 20' or more and is at the back of the border.  I like the reflective quality of the leaves on this plant also and they look great in the winter.  Another deer favorite however so we will have to see who wins that battle!    That is the beginning of the cast.  I'll highlight a few more tomorrow.  Are any of you growing any of these plants?   


Conifer Garden!

High 65.8 F
Low  42.1 F
Dsc_0022 Click to enlarge pictures!
May 26, 2007 The Garden of five sisters and one daughter!
Fall is a great time for planting! The above project was started this spring when the EM (i.e. Equipment Manager) decided that an excavator was needed in order to ready the field for corn.  We have many rocks.  Rocks, ledge and more rocks!  It seemedDsc_0023
May 26, 2007,  Deere at work!
a shame not to celebrate our own little 'Stonehenge' so some of the rocks which came out of this 'field', I am using the term loosely, were put along the far stone wall with the intention of creating a conifer and evergreen border for winter interest.Dsc_0024   I have long wanted to plant a conifer garden and there are evergreens which I love but I needed a special place to put them.  Most of you know, and understand, that 'plant addictions' must be fed! I have been collecting plants all season and this blog will be ongoing this week highlighting the 'Cast of Characters' now placed in 'The Garden of Five Sisters and One Daughter'.  There are six over sized boulders placed in the border as a backdrop for
the border.

Job Foreman 'Tucker', hard at work!
I am one of five sisters.  The daughter is also priceless and deserves a monument!   I planted the shrubs and a couple of trees on August 13th. Dsc_0031 Here is the border as it is being planted.  Notice my equipment, shovel and garden cart, landscape rake and hoe!  The corn has since been pulled out and the area seeded with winter rye.  Here is what the border looks like from a distance today. Dsc_0033
As you can see, it is an evolving garden and I know it will look better in five years!  My sisters are all wondering which is their rock.  I haven't assigned names yet!  The lowest one on the right has a bit of depression in it which holds a bit of water.  Perhaps that one should be for the one bearing the sign of Aquarius.  Tune in tomorrow for the 'Cast of Characters' series where I will be highlighting some usual and unusual shrubs in this border!