Archive for December, 2020

Mid-Winter Profiles

Winter Garden 12/2020

Happy Solstice!  We’ve finally made it to the end of the year so I thought it was a good time to show off some of the trees in the garden as they are now – some bare, some evergreen, all beautiful.  

The photo above is of the whole garden viewed from our back deck.  The plum in the center still dominates the garden but others are beginning to get as tall or taller than it is now.  The Weeping Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum “pendulum”)  on the right is the tallest.  We planted it 11 years ago this month, and it’s now closing in at 40′.  It’s a very fast growing tree.  This cultivar of the famous Big Tree, or Sequoia, was discovered in France in 1863.

Growing even faster is the Radicans Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Radicans”) just to its left.  (Sugi is the Japanese name for Cryptomeria.  It means Cedar, tho this is not a cedar…)  It was planted in June of 2013 and is probably 30-35′ tall.  That’s after 8 growing seasons – it “only” grew 1-1/2′ the first year but it’s put on at least 3-4′ a year since then.  It was originally developed for the forestry industry in Japan as a fast growing tree for lumber but now they’re planted as ornamental trees.  The massive tree in the very back is a Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara) in our neighbor’s front yard.  It’s makes a nice backdrop for our garden!

The other thing you can see here is that the whole inner part of the garden is planted with deciduous trees.  It’s pretty open this time of year so you can see the structures of the branches and how the trees are formed.   I’m a big fan of structure and have done some pruning to accentuate the form of various trees.  I think they look awesome when they’re naked like this.

Elegans Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans”)

This is a close up of the tree behind the left side of the Plum in the last photo.  It’s one of my favorite trees and the one I consider the most “pettable”.  The foliage is so soft to the touch it’s hard to believe it’s a conifer.  It’s normally green in summer but turns this incredible deep purple in winter.  It’s another fast grower having been here since December 2009 like the Sequoiadendron, but it was only 18″ tall when I planted it.  Now it’s over 30′ tall.  I was a bit concerned that it’s leaning over our neighbor’s garage, and his boat, so I called an Arborist and he said it was safe.  What a relief!  At least it’s growing up straight now!

Jade Butterflies Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”)

I  think the form of this tree is awesome.  The bark is so white and the structure is so strong.  It was planted in July of 2011 as a small 2′ tall tree.  It’s a dwarf that is now 12′ tall and wide and will get to 20′ tall, maybe??  It’s a cultivar of the Ginkgo or Maidenhair tree.  It’s the only species in its genus and in fact it’s the only plant in its whole family.  There’s a Gingko Petrified Forest here in eastern Washington with fossils going back for millions of years.  It’s originally from China but this cultivar was found in New Zealand.

Hinoki False Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa)

This tree was one of the first trees I planted when I began the takeover of Louie’s garden to create the one we have now.  (He let me do it!  Honest…).  This was in December of 2008.  It’s called the Fire Tree in Japan and the wood is used to build temples, among other things.  I’ve pruned out the center some to show the structure.  It makes it look like the tree is much older than it is since this is how they grow as they age.  There are literally hundreds of cultivars of this tree, just as there are of the Sugi or Cryptomeria I’ve shown you already.

Charity Mahonia (Mahonia x media “Charity”)

Not a tree but a very tree-like shrub.  It’s taller than the gutters on the garage so it’s 8-9′ tall, and almost as wide.  We planted it here in May of 2014.  I once did a post on it called Hummer’s Heaven because the hummingbirds love it so much.  It blooms for a couple months in Winter when not much else is in flower and provides a much needed source of nectar for them in the harshest time of the year.  The bees like it too.

Little Heath Lily of the Valley Shrub (Pieris japonica “Little Heath”)

This one is pruned out in the center to show its structure.  It has nicely variegated leaves of light cream and green with a touch of pink.  It’s been here since December of ’09 like the others.  It has lovely bell shaped flowers like all the Ericaceae (Heather family).  It blooms in late winter or early spring.  Gently fragrant.

Coral Bark Japanese Maple ( Acer palmatum “Sango Kaku”)

I did a whole profile of this tree a couple of posts ago so I won’t say much here, but this one has our holiday balls on it so I thought it would be a nice seasonal portrait.  You can see the red bark on the upper branches quite well in this photo.  It was planted in April of 2010, and is still growing 3-4′ a year.

Moonglow Sweet Bay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana “Jim Wilson”)

This is another very fast grower.  It was only 4′ tall when we planted it in May of 2014 and it’s now close to 30′ tall.  I remember telling Louie that I’d regret it in 5 years if I didn’t plant it when I did.  I’m so glad I took my own advice.  It has lovely waxy white flowers that smell like lemons, tho they’re too high to reach them now.

Inverleith Scots Pine (Pinus sylvatica “Inverleith”)

This is another older one – been here since May 2009.  It’s from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh.  It was supposed to have creamy white margins to the needles but it’s only done it once – last year.  It was lovely and I wish it did it more often.  The label said it would be 10′ tall by 3′ wide when we bought it.  Liars!  I’ve since learned that it’s going to get 40′ tall and 20′ wide!  Wow.  Luckily it has room, more or less….  The bark turns a nice orangey brown as it ages.  Below it you can see our micro Heather garden in its winter colors.

Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. Koreanum)

We planted this beautiful maple in March of 2014.  It’s the first tree to leaf out in spring and the first to lose all its leaves in the fall, when it turn shining colors of red and orange.  I’ve had to prune it up rather high to let it grow over the hedge behind it.  Louie thinks the shape is awesome.  So do I…

Diana Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”)

I amazed at all the cones on this tree this year.  It’s probably 25′ tall now, having been put in the ground back in August of 2014.  It turns a striking shade of orange in the fall and the tiny needles litter the floor around it when they drop.  I’d hoped it would shade the west end of our small deck in back but it’s too sparse to do that.

The fountain and center of the garden seen from the west

There are many plants in this photo so I won’t try to list them all.  But the one on the left is a Red Pygmy Japanese maple (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”) that has been here since December ’09.  The one on the right is a Vanessa Persian Ironwood tree I’ll describe later on.  You can see the Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum) at the foot of the Vanessa and in front of it are a few little Rhododendrons.  I’ll present the fountain from another direction next.  On the left you can see the bench on our small back deck.  It’s a nice place to hang out to see the garden from the inside.  This is really a garden you appreciate best from within.

The fountain and center of the garden from the south

Another view with too many plants to list them all.  I’ll be featuring some of them soon, like the Vanessa I mentioned in the last photo and the Kelly’s Prostrate redwood beneath it.  I did a post a few years ago called “The Heart of the Garden” which shows this same scene in summer when it’s all green and lush.  The fountain is at the center, of course.  What else would you put at the center except water, the life’s blood of any garden?

The ornamental garden as seen from the veggie garden

I  took this one mainly to show off the red Firefly Heathers in the front here.  (Calluna vulgaris “Firefly”).   They’re one of the most colorful of the heathers in winter, turning a bright brick red.  Above the heathers is a Beanpole Yew (Taxus x media “Beanpole”), one of a line of columnar conifers we planted along the north side of the veggie garden to connect it with the ornamentals.  You can also see the Swane’s Golden Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens “Swane’s Golden”) on the left as well.

North side fence line

This photo shows the line of trees and shrubs on the north side of the garden.  On the right is the Sweet Bay Magnolia I already showed you.  And the Inverleith Scots pine is next to it.  You can’t really see the next few but the skinny one next to the Weeping Redwood is a Rasen Sugi (yes, I like the Sugis…).  It’s a unique tree whose bark spirals around the stem, from the smallest needles to the whole trunk.  I’ll try to do a post on it someday to show how cool it looks.   The Redwood is near the center left and the Radcans Sugi on the left.

Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica “Vanessa”)

This is a good view of this wonderful tree, with a nice view of the Radicans behind it.  It has a unique vase shape that I’ve kept tight and narrow at the bottom to allow us to walk around it.  It flares out rapidly as it grows up.  It was planted in August of 2015, and is one of the most beautiful trees there are in the fall when it turns a glorious golden yellow that lasts for months.  It’s probably about 25′ tall now, or more.  It’ll get to 40′.

Kelly’s Prostrate Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens “Kelly’s Prostrate”)

This is one of my favorite trees in the world – the Coast Redwood that is.  The species is the tallest tree in the world but this dwarf is only about 3′ tall and some 7′ wide.  We don’t have room to grow the species but this one is evocative of the big ones, especially as it’s gotten bigger.  It’s the most expensive tree we ever bought for the garden some 10 years ago in June of 2010.  (don’t ask…)  It was in a 10 gallon can and maybe 2-3′ wide. 

Holiday Tree 2020

No this one obviously isn’t growing in the garden.  It’s a Noble Fir and smells just wonderful when you walk in the living room where we set it up.  Showing this tree just seemed like a nice way to close this post on the eve of a new year.  Bringing evergreens inside and putting lights on them at this time of year to remind us that life continues thru the dark times is a very old tradition in many western cultures.  We find the symbolism rather wonderful ourselves.  We’re grateful to be able to continue this old pagan practice.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed these portraits of some of the trees in our little Wildlife Sanctuary.  I like to keep track of how long different trees have been growing here and how big they’ve gotten in that time.  It still amazes me to think that None of the trees or shrubs I’ve just shown you (except the plum) were here when we started the garden 12 years ago.  The entire yard has been transformed in a very short time to become what you see here now.  If you look back at some of my early posts you can see what I mean.  

This is a delightful garden in many ways, but it’s unique in one particular way:  it’s a collection of well over 200 different species, cultivars, varieties, subspecies, hybrids or what have you here on this tiny 1/8th acre patch of ground.  We have only a few duplicates in the way of clumps, groupings, lines or whatever.  Otherwise they’re all different from one another, tho there are many maples or heathers or rhododendrons or dwarf conifers.  I like variety and we sure have it here.  I think they all like hanging out together.

Some folks will say that I’ve put in too many plants for the space, and they’re probably right.  That’s the pitfall of collecting.  You end up with more plants than you have room for.  Since I was in high school I’ve had a dream of living in a botanical garden.  This is the closest I’ve been able to come to it.  That’s why I call it “A Small Garden with Delusions of Grandeur”.  It’s a small delusion, compared to others I may entertain….

I’m reminded of an old Chinese proverb: “If you want to be happy for a day, get drunk.  If you want to be happy for a month, kill a pig.  If you want to be happy for a year, get married.  But if you want to be happy for ever and ever, plant a garden”.  I so agree.

Happy New Year and good riddance to 2020!  Let’s hope 2021 is a Much better year for our poor sick world.

Gardens Rock!!