The Garden in Winter

We’re starting in the very front of our garden this time –  on the street.  We always think we’ve done all the planting we can, then we come up with more ideas.  Here we’ve planted a new mixed border of Lime Marmalade Coral Bells (Heuchera “Lime Marmalade”) in with a bunch of Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens”).  I know the black of the mondo grass is hard to see but it’s there in amongst the yellow.  See the bright red stems at the end? That’s a Pacific Fire Vine Maple (Acer circinatum “Pacific Fire”).  It stands out nicely from the Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) surrounding it and the David’s Viburnum (Viburnum davidii) below it.

Next we move to the front entrance to the house. This Heavenly Bamboo  Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”) is loaded with berries at this time of the year. It’s nice to have them to augment the decorations we put up for Solstice.  Next to it, and barely visible, is a Himalayan Sweet Box (Sarcococca ruscifolia) that is so sweetly scented right now you can smell it from several yards away. The two together are a colorful and fragrant way to greet visitors at this rather bleak season of the year.

Here’s another scenario we didn’t at first envision. There used to be a largish Goshiki osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus “Goshiki”) and another Sweet Box here, but they were both outgrowing their spaces so I removed them (shocking I know!!!) and replaced them with a couple of different dwarf conifers we had on the deck in pots.  In front is a Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Bobozam”) with its yellowish winter color, and a Grune Kugel Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Grune Kugel”) (Green ball in German). It’s also got some subtle colors to it now.  To the left is a purple PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”) I moved from next to the Dissectum Japanese Maple you can see in the middle spreading its arms out towards the lawn.  I just moved it across the path to the birdfeeder but it still does a fine job of keeping the birds safe from our resident hawk. In the middle of the conifers is a dormant Lion’s Head Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Shishigashira”).  It was a glorious reddish orange not too long ago, but now you can see its fine structure more clearly.

I was standing next to this Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”) when I took the last picture.  In fact you can see Mr. Bowing Ball in the foreground.  This is the first maple to leaf out in spring and the first to lose its leaves in fall.  That’s after they turn a striking reddish orange that lights up that part of the yard.  And now when you sit on the bench you can see thru the whole front yard, whereas before the Osmanthus and the Sweet Box blocked the view.  That’s part of why I took them out, besides their size.

We’re into the back yard now, by the side gate that goes to the driveway.  This is a Purple leaved Weeping Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica “Purpurea Pendula”).  This is the time to see the fascinating structure of this tree.  My plan is to slowly train it up over the gate, but that will take years and years of growth.  We’ll see how it goes.

I took this picture of the North side of the back garden a few steps away from the Beech.  This is when the conifers shine.  On the right of the conifer line is an Inverleith Scots Pine (Pinus sylvatica “Inverleith”).  Its bluish foliage contrasts nicely with the bright yellow of the Golden Spire Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Daniellow”) next to it.  That one goes well with the Black Dragon Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Black Dragon”) to its left.   Its dark foliage gets even darker in age.  The skinny weird one to its left is another Sugi – a Rasen (Cryptomeria japonica “Rasen”), which means barber pole in Japanese, no doubt because of its thin and twisted form, and its needles that grow all around the stem, even on the trunk.  It’s fascinating to get close to it. On the far left is a bit of a Weeping Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendulum”).  It’s gotten to be around 30′ tall, after about 9 years of growth.  It’s fast!!

Next we jump over to the South end of the yard, where the veggie garden is. This is another bit of new planting.  We put in a line of conifers along the edge of the growing beds, with Scotch Heathers in between them. They make a nice avenue of trees and shrubs to separate the ornamental from the vegetable garden, and also connect the garden across the lawn.  The first tree is a Golden Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens “Swane’s Golden”), found in Australia in a nursery there.  30′ x 3′ in time.  In the next bed is a small growing hybrid yew.  It’s called Beanpole (Taxus X media “Beanpole”) and grows slowly but very tightly.  It only gets a foot or so wide.  It’s a cross between the Japanese and English Yews.  You may have a hard time seeing the next two.  First is a bluish Spaan’s Slow Column Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris “Spaan’s Slow Column”), another tight grower, but short, to 12′ or so (maybe 30′??)  To its left is a tall narrow form of Lawson Cypress called Filip’s Tearfull (Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana “Filips’ Tearfull”).  It may get 20 – 40′ tall and 3′ or so wide some day – long after we’re gone I suspect.  At the end is a Skyrocket Juniper (Juniperus scopularum “Skyrocket”).  It’s been there for a few years already.  All of them form a nice break and connection between the two sides of the garden.

On the other side of the lawn are these two prehistoric specimens.  Both are ancient trees.  On the left is a Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”) and to its right a Jade Butterflies Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”). They have strikingly different forms but it’s a nice contrast to see them together. The Dawn Redwood in particular looks ancient already, especially when it’s bare like this.

Above the last two trees is this lovely one.  It’s another Sugi (I l love them – there are hundreds of cultivars!!). This one is called Elegans (Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans”) and turns this incredible shade of purple in winter.   It’s a feathery deep green the rest of the year.  It’s one of my “pettable” trees because the needles are so soft to the touch.  You can literally pet them and not get stuck, like you do with most conifers.  A very cool and fast growing tree.

 

I took a similar picture to this one a little while ago in a post called “The Heart of the Garden”.  This is that heart when the leaves are gone.  It’s a very different scene.  In the left foreground you can see the Kelley’s Prostrate Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens “Kelley’s Prostrate”).  It’s now about 2 1/2′ tall and 8′ wide. Very small for a Redwood but big for a dwarf.  Above it the vase shaped tree is a Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica “Vanessa”). It’s far more narrow than the species but it’ll still get pretty wide in this space.  Careful pruning will be required at some point in the future.  There’s a Bloodgood Japanese Maple here too and a Helmond’s Pillar Japanese Barberry.  Both are out of leaf and hard to see, but in the summer they’re both lovely shades of purple.  I love to have colored plants in the garden.  They’re like “flowers”, so to speak. They liven the garden up wonderfully.

To the left of the last scene is this Contorted Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”) with its spindly twisted branches. You can really see them now that it’s lost its needles.  It’s a deciduous conifer –  like the Metasequoia and the Ginkgo are. Rarities in nature but fun to have in the garden.  I have one more –  a Taxodium – the Bald Cypress of the swamps of the SE United States.

This is the final shot.  It’s of the entire back garden.  You can see how different it is with all the leaves gone.  I planted the whole center of the garden with deciduous trees and the outer ring with conifers to back them all.  It’s a great effect to be in the middle of a bare garden with lush greenery all around you. And in the summer it’s like a little forest to be in there now that the trees have grown so much.  I’m amazed at how well all the plants have grown here, but then we’re in a peat bog and have deep dark rich soil that the acid loving trees and shrubs we’ve planted just love.  We feel very fortunate to live with this wonderful little Nature Sanctuary all around us every day.  Gardening is healing to the soul, and I need that very much.  It may seem like I take care of this garden, but in reality it takes care of me…

Happy Winter,

Steve

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