Archive for the ‘Conifers’ Category

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Ginny Gee Rhododendron/Rhodendron “Ginny Gee” – March

This will be the last of my Random posts.  I could do many more I guess but this’ll be over 5 dozen, and that’s a lot of plants to profile.  This has been a fun exercise for me, and I hope for you too.  In the future I’ll try to keep up with the changes in the garden more as they happen, but I got so far behind this seemed the best way to try to catch us all up.  I don’t make any promises about how often I’ll post tho.  I go by my emotions and they change so often, and sometimes I just can’t bring myself to write anything clever or informative.  We’ll see how it goes as time goes along.  Here are the last Random plants.

This is such a cute little rhode.  It’s smothered in light pink blossoms, with some yellow shading to them.  It grows relatively slowly and will only get to be a 2-3′ ball.  It’s been in our garden for about 4 years and has grown a lot since then.  I had it in a shadier spot and it only put on a few blooms last year.  But I moved it to a sunnier spot and it loves it.  This year it rewarded us with zillions of blooms.  Again, it shows just how much difference the sun makes!

Sango-Kaku Japanese Maple/Acer palatum “Sango-kaku” – now

We planted this tree at the corner of the path to the front steps and the one into the garden.  It’s also known as a Coral Bark Maple.  Its red stems (supposedly) look like a tower of coral rising from the sea in spring when it puts on new growth.  You can’t really see that now because the trunk grays out with age, but it’s brilliant in spring.  It makes a wonderful archway with the Green pine as you walk under it into the garden.  It’s gotten this big in 10 years and will grow to 25′ or 30′ in time.

Ward’s Ruby Azalea/Azalea kurume “Ward’s Ruby” – May

This may be my all time favorite azalea.  I love the deep dark red and the intense effect it creates when it forms a mass of tiny blossoms.  By some wonderful chance I planted it where you can see it directly from the back door of the house straight thru the garden.  It’s so bright it shows up way back there.  It’s been here for 10 years and won’t get much bigger, just fuller.

Wissel’s Saguaro Lawson False Cypress/Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Wissel’s Saguaro” – now

This is one strange looking plant.  It’s named for the Saguaro Cactus of the southwest area of the US because the arms spread out and up like the cactus does.  It’s grown great here – to over 8′ in just 5 years.  No one seems to know just how big it will eventually get.  15′, 20′, ??? – who knows?  I even cut a hole in the maple above it to allow it to grow thru it if it gets big enough to reach that high.  It’s a great plant to have at the front entry to the house.  It gives the impression that perhaps the folks who live here are just a bit eccentric.  Now why would they think that??  Ha ha…

Pacific Fire Vine Maple/Acer circinatum “Pacific Fire” – now

This is a cultivar of our native Vine Maple that grows abundantly all over the Pacific Northwest, and down into California.   In the forest the species of this tree will grow to 30′ as it grows up thru the surrounding trees like a vine.  In less shaded areas it’s only a bush 15 or 20′ tall and wide.  This variety is called Pacific Fire because the new growth is a brilliant red and the stems keep some orangish color in them as they age.  It’s been here for 3 years and has grown this big from a 5′ sapling.

Anna Rose Whitney Rhododendron/Rhododendron “Anna Rose Whitney” – May

The flowers on this rhodie come in trusses of 10 or 12 flowers, and are so abundant the whole plant is just covered in them in spring.  It’s gotten pretty big in the 10 years it’s been here, and will get bigger still.  The only fault I find with this plant is that the blooms only last for 2-3 weeks – not as long as some, and not as long as I’d like.  But they’re so beautiful when they bloom I’m just being picky.  And after all – photos are in bloom forever!

Howard McMinn Manzanita/Arctostaphyllos densiflora “Howard McMinn” – February

I lived in the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California for many years, and the Sierras were my “backyard” as I was growing up.  So manzanitas have been in my life for over 60 years.  Their mahogany brown bark is a defining characteristic of them.  They twist and turn and form amazing shapes as they grow.  Some are as big as small trees, but this one only gets about 6′ x 5′.  It’s been here 10 years.  The flowers are very fragrant and the bees love them.  A bee-keeper friend in the Sierras would bring us manzanita honey sometimes.  It was so fine it set up and crystalized almost immediately.  Yummy!

Underplanting of the Red Pygmy Maple – now

There’s no one plant to focus on here.  You can see the leaves of the Red Pygmy up above and the Treasure Island Cypress at the right.  In the center are 3 nice rhodies – on the left is a Ken Janeck with its new leaves such a soft light green.  Next to it is a Ramapo rhodie which has light purple flowers.  Barely seen behind them is an Impeditum that doesn’t get enough sun to bloom (remember what I said about enough sun??).  The Japanese Tassel fern is on the right and the Japanese Forest Grass is behind the maple’s trunk.  The ground cover is Redwood Sorrel, the plant that grows all under the trees in the Redwood groves on the California coast.  I love it but it’s also a terribly invasive pest.  Gotta go with the love I guess.

Irish Heath/Daboecia cantabrica – now

This is an unusual heath. Most heaths are Ericas, and heathers are Callunas, but this one is a whole different genus.  I got it 10 years ago at the Kruckerberg Botanical Garden in a 2″ pot.  I stuck it in between the heathers in this bed, which have since all frozen off.   I had to move it, but it’s survived all the rest.  It’s full of lush spring growth but I’ll show it off later when it’s in bloom.  It has lovely lavender bell shaped flowers (like all the Ericaceae) that bloom from midsummer to early fall.

Little Heath Lily of the Valley Shrub/Pieris japonica “Little Heath” – now

This got pretty crowded over the 10 years it’s been here, so last fall I decided to prune out the deadwood and open it up to see how it would look.  I was amazed.  A little hint – always take out the dead wood first.  You may find that’s all you need to do to make the plant look spectacular.  At least always start with deadwood before you prune the rest of it.  You can see the intricate form of the branches here now with a few flowers at the top (where it gets sun) and some new pinkish growth on the tips.  In front of it is a small growing Gemstone Hinoki False Cypress.  We just panted it over this last winter.  It’s a dwarf, only growing to about 24″ tall and 18″ wide.  It may take 20 years to get that big.  It’s truly a gem!

Cilpinense Pink Rhodendron/Rhododendron “Cilpinense Pink” – February

One of the earliest rhodies to bloom here.  It has delicate light lavender flowers that contrast nicely with the soft blue of the Snow White Lawson Cypress next to it.  It’s been here for 4 years and has tripled in size in that time.  It’s not super hardy tho and one year the entire set of blooms got hit by a late freeze just as they were blooming.  Since then we cover it with burlap sacks to keep them safe, and it’s worked well.  It also has very lustrous leaves that are a bit downy looking at the margins.

Stockholm Scotch Heather/Calluna vulgaris “Stockholm” – now

A most unusual Heather.  It only grows upright and doesn’t bloom at all, supposedly.  It had a few blossoms on it when we got it 2 years ago, but none since.  It turns a darker purple-brown in the winter.  It fits in well here with the Wild Ginger at the left and the Western Bleeding Heart above it.  To the right is a Nana Dwarf Hinoki Cypress – one of the smallest Hinokis.  I like how heathers and heaths have coniferous looking foliage.  I’ve planted some just for their foliage, knowing that they won’t get enough sun to bloom.  But that’s OK sometimes….

Entrance to the Front Garden – now

This is where you come into the front garden.  You can just see the arch I created with the Japanese Maple on the left and the Oregon Green pine on the right.  The ground drops slightly as you go under the arch so it really feels like you’re walking down into a little glade in the forest.  It’s a charming garden to be in.  I did a post called A Hidden Gem awhile ago that shows it off much more fully.  You can see the Waterfall Maple at the back right, and the Silver Knight heather on the front left.  Our Wildlife Sanctuary sign is just under the Maple by the  heather.  This seems like a good photo to stop with, so I will.

For those of you who have been counting you’ll notice that this is actually the 13th photo in this post, as opposed to only 12 in the previous 4 Random posts.  I guess I had an extra one somewhere.  I decided it was more important to show you all of them than to cut one for the sake of continuity.  I think it was the right decision.  They’re all cool photos.

I’ve really enjoyed putting out all these photos in such quick succession.   I do prefer to do more informative posts, focused on certain plants or collections of plants, but this was cool to do because I didn’t have a focus.  Sometimes Random is the way to go, especially in this chaotic world we live in.  It just seemed natural.  I have no idea when I’ll post again, but I hope it’s not another 5 months like it was this last time.  As I’ve said, my moods determine when I post, and my life in general, so I just hope they give me the impetus to post more often again. Time will tell…

Randomly yours no more,

Steve

 

 

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Oregon Green Pine/Pinus nigra “Oregon Green” – now

I just came in from my usual morning stroll thru the garden.  It was a bit damp with a slight drizzle.  I particularly like to walk in the garden when it’s all wet.  The plants feel incredibly alive!  The rainfall is so nourishing.  It seems like all the plants are rejoicing.  Walking in the garden got me all excited about it so I thought it was a good time to do my next post of miscellaneous photos.  Most are very recent but a few are from Fall or Winter.  I’ll tell you.

I already showed you a photo of this pine from the front so you could see the candles on the outside.  This is the inside.  I pruned it out in February.  My main goal was to open up the center for both sight and air circulation.  I also just felt it was a little crowded inside.  It felt like the energy wasn’t moving thru it properly.   I tried to bring out the inner “flow” to it.   It all radiates out from the main trunk now.  The tree has done most of this itself.   I pruned out the inner part but the tree itself created the sinuous form.  You can’t see it in the photo but it continues to twist and turn as it reaches the top.

3 Fabulous Ferns – now

This is the west end of the fern bed that runs along the north side of the garage.  The 3 ferns here are, from left to right, a Hard Shied Fern (Polystichum aculeatum), and Mackino’s Holly Fern (Polystichum mackinoi” and a Remote Wood Fern (Dryopteris remota).  Underneath them all is a wonderful patch of Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii).  I’ve loved this little plant since we had it growing at my parent’s home in the first landscape I ever did for them.  It brings back good memories.

 

Tomato Seedlings In the Greenhouse – April

I started 9 seeds each of 3 different heirloom varieties.  2 I bought form the Seed Saver’s Exchange, a seed bank/seller I recommend highly.  The other one I planted with seeds I grew last year.  Beam’s Yellow Pears.  Small sweet pear shape yellow fruits kids eat like candy, and so do adults… These were so well developed we could plant them in early May.  They’re good sized now.  I had way too many of course – I only planted 2 of each variety for us.  So I put the others out on the front parking strip and people took them almost immediately.  I love sharing the plants I grow.

Silver Knight Scotch Heather/Calluna vulgaris “Silver Knight” – now

This lovely little heather is at the foot of our front steps.  In late summer it’s covered with light lavender blooms, but I planted it more for the foliage and form than the flower, since that’s what we see most of the year.  We planted it about 5 years ago.

Tenzan Sugi/Cryptomeria japonica “Tenzan” – now

This is the one plant in the garden that I can say with surety is a truly rare plant.  The nursery where I bought it labeled it as such and my reading confirms this to be true.  It’s the smallest form of Cryptomeria there is and valued as such.  Brand new here.  It only grows about 1/4″ a year.  It’s supposed to get about a foot big.  It’s only 8″ now.  It’ll take it years to do that.

Charity Mahonia/Mahonia media “Charity” – now

This one has been here about 9 years.  In that time it’s grown to 12′ x 10′, give or take.  It’s a prickly thing so I had to prune it back quite a bit from the path at its foot.  I pruned up the branches but this year it’s putting back all the foliage I cut off!   Only it’s further back from the front so I won’t have to mess with it, and it won’t mess with us.  I did a post awhile back called Hummer Heaven that shows this in full bloom, covered with brilliant yellow flowers that the bees and hummers love.  On the left below it is a Soft Shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum), also known as Alaska Fern, tho it’s native to Europe.  Go figure.

Graciosa Hinoki False Cypress/Chamaecyparis obtusa “Graciosa” – now

I took this photo from the porch above this plant so you could see the delicate tracery on its branches.  We planted this tree just last year after the snow destroyed the big Arborvitae we had here.  It grows slowly at less than a foot a year.  It’ll get 10′ tall and 8′ wide.  It fits nicely among the rhododendrons, azaleas and kinnickinnick, under the Japanese maple at the right.

Waterfall Dissected Japanese Maple/Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall” – now

It does look a bit like a waterfall doesn’t it. The way the leaves overlap one another resembles water flowing down over it.  This tree has been growing here since 2013.  It’s grown from 2′ across to over 8′.  It’s supposed to get even bigger, so I have to prune it back from the lawn every spring.  It puts on 2′ of growth a year so it’s a bit of a job.  It gets harder every year.

Firefly Scotch Heather/Calluna vulgaris “Firefly” – Fall

This is one of the most colorful heathers there is.  In summer it’s orangish green, but the real show is in fall and winter when it turns this deep brick red.  We planted a line of them along the North side of our veggie garden.  It was too weird to watch the South side of the plants turn this great red color, but from the North side, where we stand to look at them, you can’t even tell the South side is red.  Shows you how important it is for plants to get sun, and at the right time, to turn color in fall.

Lady Fern/Athyrium filix-femina – now

This lovely fern is a native of the Pacific Northwest.  We never plant them but they come up all over the garden, often in perfect places like this one.  It’s a deciduous fern so it dies back to the ground in fall.  This one is over 5′ tall and got that way because it was growing behind a large Arborvitae that supported it.  Now it tends to flop on the rhodies in front of it.

Bloodgood Japanese Maple/Acer palmatum atropurpureum “Bloodgood” – now

This maple is in the middle of the garden.  When you look at it all from the back deck it really stands out.  It’s been here for 8 years, and is now 14 1/2′ x 11′.  It will eventually get large enough to fill the space it inhabits now. I’ll have to do some pruning as the years go by to encourage the trees to all fit together, as I do so often.  In fall this tree gets much darker red, almost black and burgundy and is truly stunning.  It’s big enough now to feel like it’s a real tree when you’re underneath it.

Primo Eastern Arborvitae/Thuja occidentalis “Isl/Prm Primo” – now

We just got this cute little thing this last winter.  When we bought it it was a darkish brown color.  Now it’s this lovely dark green.  I love how the branches grow upward like some stone formations I’ve seen in the terrain of the inner mountain west. But this is actually from the east coast and has the same parent as the ubiquitous Pyrimidal Arborviate, the columnar tree grown so frequently as a tall fast growing hedge.  By contrast “Primo” only grows an inch a year, if that.

OK, that’s another batch.  I may only have one more set, but I have to count them to see.  I may add a few more too, if I see some more I like.  I keep taking photos so you never know.  I’m really enjoying this casual flowing show of photos.  It’s so much easier to just post them and write a bit about them.  I don’t have to have an overarching theme to follow.  But I imagine I’ll get back to that format now that I’m feeling somewhat caught up.

This blog is partly a chronicle of the timeline of the plants in this garden, so I have to keep posting their pictures as they grow up.  I’ve taken over 9,000 photos of this garden so I never lack for subjects to post.  It’s so interesting to me to show them as they’ve grown.  It’s very educational, and lots of fun.  I’ve learned a lot growing this garden.  Skills I use in my daily life – Patience being the biggest one I suppose.  You absolutely have to be patient to be a gardener (and I have to work at it).  Plants grow on their own schedules, not ours.  The same is true of life.

Acceptance that it is what it is, is the key.

Steve

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Jade Butterflies Ginkgo/Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies” – now

Back again with another dozen photos.  As I mentioned in my previous 2 posts these are all miscellaneous photos I’ve taken, mostly in the last few days, with a few from Winter or Fall.  I’m labelling them and telling you a bit about each one, but not in great detail.  I have no theme or rationale for what I’m putting out here.  I just think they’re all cool plants and I want to show them off.  They’ve grown so much since I last put them out here.  It felt like time I posted again.

This is a dwarf form of the incredible Ginkgo, sometimes called the Maidenhair tree, because the leaves look a bit like Maidenhair ferns.  The common name suggests the leaves look like butterflies on the branches.  Ginkgos are unique trees, the only member of both their genus and family.  They’re millions of years old.  We have a National Monument here in Washington state called the Ginkgo Petrified Forest.  We’ve been there and seen tons of fossils of very old Ginkgos.  This little tree is now about 11′ tall, with an expectation it will grow to be 20′ or so.  It grows pretty fast so it’ll get there soon.

Robust Male Fern/Dryopteris fillix-mas “Robusta” – now

We planted this about 5 years ago and man has it grown.  I thought it would be a 3′ – 4′ ball, which is pretty big already.  But this one is over 5′ across.   We have to dodge it to walk on the path here.  But it’s no problem.  It’s such a lovely vibrant fern.

Ghost Fern/Athyrium X Ghost – now

This one is deciduous.  It loses all its fronds in fall.  In spring it bursts forth with these wonderful light green fronds.  I can see why they called it Ghost.  It’s still putting on new growth as I write this, which is pretty late for a fern.  It gets up to 3′ across.

Tuscan Blue Rosemary/Rosmarinus officinalis “Tuscan Blue” – early spring

I’m so amazed at this rosemary.  True, it’s been here for 10 years, but it’s Huge.  Here it’s covered with light blue flowers, a super bee magnet.  They love to swarm it and it literally buzzes when you walk by it.  It must be 8′ across and 4′ deep and 6′ tall.  We get lots of good seasoning from this plant.  I love to cook with it.   It works well in so many dishes.

Snow Sawara False Cypress/Chamaecyparis pisifera “Snow” – now

When I planted this 9 years ago I was guided by the American Conifer Society’s website that said it would become a 16″ x 16″ box.  Hmmm.  Not such a good estimate.  It’s 4′ tall and 5′ wide now.  I have to carefully prune it back every year to keep it in this space.  It’s called Snow because it has these lovely white tips in spring, as you can hopefully see here.

Floating Coud Japanese Maple/Acer palmatum “Ukigumo”

This was supposed  to be a 20′ tree but in 10 years it’s still a bushy little thing, tho it’s started to put on longer shoots the last couple of years.  You can see why it’s called Floating Cloud.   The light green foliage is suffused with lots of white and pink so it looks like a cloud, especially when seen against the darker foliage at the back of the garden.  It does seem to float.

Pacific Trillium/Trillium ovatum – now

In early spring the first flowers are pure white.  As they age they turn this lovely light pink.  I took this photo when I did just to show off this difference.  I collected this plant with my pocket knife in the woods in the Cascades one day on our way back from Eastern WA.  That was 9  years ago.  It’s done well here since then, putting on more flowers each year.

Himalayan Maidenhair fern/Adiantum venustum – now

This dainty looking little fern is actually very hardy.  It keeps this delicate foliage all thru the winter.  In spring it puts on light pink fiddleheads of new growth.  This is only its second year of growth here and it’s spreading well.  It’ll fill the area in time.

Inverleith Scots Pine & Nootka Rose/Pinus sylvestris “Inverleith” & Rosa nutkana – now

The Pine has grown here for 10 years.  Last year it had the creamy tips it’s supposed to have, but we’d never seen them before.  Very nice – we’ll see if it does it again this year.  It was found in the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It was only supposed to get to be a 10′ a 3′ tree.  Labels are so deceiving.  I collected the rose on my land in eastern WA.

Korean Butterfly Maple/Acer tschonoskii ssp Koreanum – February

A relatively uncommon maple.  This is from North Korea.  It’s  the first maple to leaf out in spring, and the first to lose its leaves in fall.  It was a 10′ tree when we planted it in 3/14.  It must be well over 25′ tall by now but I dunno how to measure it with a transit, yet.  As the trees get bigger I’ll need to do it that way.  This turns wonderful shades of reddish orange in fall.

Red Dragon Dissected Japanese Maple/Acer palmatum dissectum “Red Dragon” – now

This delicate tree was getting far too large to keep on the deck, so I had a brainstorm and decided to put in on a stand so it could grow out over the steps and path.  It’s high enough that no one will run into it.  It’s really cool to look up thru it at the sky.  You can see the fine tracery of the dissected leaves really well.  It’s a deep red now and turns even darker red in fall.

Treasure Island Lawson False Cypress/Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Treasure Island” – now

This is a new addition to the garden.  We had a small globe blue spruce here that wanted to get way bigger than there was room for.  So I took it out and replaced it with this golden cypress.  It really stands out in the garden where it is.  I used to dislike yellow plants but I think it was because I lived in central CA and they looked washed out in the hot sun.  Here in grey sky Seattle they’re stunning, and I have a few of them.  They make a superb contrast with all the shades of green we have.

Gee, that went fast, and my back is still in OK shape.  Maybe it’s because I just spent 2 1/2 hours touring the garden and even did my PT stretches out there in the sun.  I must have examined all the plants 10 times in that time.  It felt so good to be out there I wanted to stay outside longer.  But I decided to come in and do this post.  This makes 3 dozen photos I’ve shown you so far.  I have many more.  I don’t want to pin myself down to a specific number but there’s a lot.  I hope to do them all soon.  I love all these plants so much it’s a real treat to be able to share them with others who might also enjoy them.

I hope you’ve had fun looking at them!

Steve

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Oregon Green Pine/Pinus nigra “Oregon Green” – March

As I said in my last post I’m doing a few posts on how various plants have grown lately.  Most of the photos are from this year  – just a couple of days ago in fact.  A few are from over the winter.  They’re in no particular order.  Off we go….

This tree is right on the edge of the driveway and provides a significant break between it and the garden within.  This is a photo from a few months ago when the candles were still white.  It’s one of the attractions of this tree.  It’s called an Oregon Green pine, but it’s actually an Austrian/European Black pine.  It was found or created at a nursery in Oregon so it got that name too.  It’s a strong grower with very muscular branches.  I pruned out the center to display the amazing structure of this tree.  There will be  photo of that later on in this series of random photos.

Maupin Glow Incense Cedar/Calocedrus decurrens “Maupin Glow” – now

This tree was found near the town of Maupin, Oregon, thus its name.  A man was hiking and saw a brilliant flash of gold and found this tree.  The new foliage is this brilliant striking yellow/gold.  As the foliage grows it turns green, as you can see on the inside.  It has luscious dark reddish bark and the wood smells wonderful, as do the crushed needles.  Too bad it’s sited next to the dilapidated garage next door.  It was the only place I could plant it.

All the websites say this will only get 15′ x 5′ (10 year size).  This tree is about 18′ x 15′ after 7 1/2 years in this spot and 2 years in a pot on the deck before that – just under 10 years.  I don’t really know how big it will get, but there is one old nurseryman who says it will eventually get 40′ or  50 ‘ tall.  I suspect, and hope, he’s right!  It can get that tall where it is without any interference.  I hope I live to see it!

I grew up near the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, and the species of this tree is a major element of the forests there.  I’ve been in love with this tree most of my life.  It’s really wonderful for me to have it here in our garden.  Reminds me of my youth running free in the woods.  I was a real nature boy, living in the mountains and forests.  I learned much wisdom there.

Green Jewel Dragon Sugi/Cryptomeria japonica “Ryokogu coyokyu” – now

One of the several Cryptomeria, or Sugi in Japanese, in the garden. The species of this tree is a large forest tree and is the national tree of Japan.   The wood is prized for building temples and shrines, like the Hinoki.  There are literally hundreds of cultivars of it.  This is one of the smaller ones.  It’s only about 18″ tall x 14″ wide, after 6 growing season here.  It grows very slowly, only 1/8th of an inch a year, maybe. It looks like a craggy little mountain to me, but apparently someone thought it looked like a Dragon, thus its common name in Japan.  Whatever, I love the little conifers like this.

Louie –  the most wonderful man in the world! – Last fall

Ours is an inspirational love story.  We didn’t meet until we were both 57 years old – proving it’s never too late to find your true love, and that’s what we did.  We’ve been living lovingly together for over 12 years now and are quite sure we’ll be together for the rest of our lives.  We plan to live into our 90’s – we have to be able to watch the garden grow after all…!!

Sappho Rhododendron/Rhododendron “Sappho” – 3 weeks ago

This is one of the few plants Louie planted some 30 or more years ago.  It’s an old time favorite of mine from 40 years ago.  It has beautiful lavender buds that open to pure white flowers with deep purple hearts to them.  That’s my study window above the shrub, so I get a wonderful view of it when it’s in bloom.  Named for the ancient Greek poet Sappho, who lived on the island of Lesbos, from which Lesbians get their name.

Dwarf or Reticulated Iris/Iris reticulata – early February

This is a very dwarf form of the well known Iris.  As you can see they bloom very early in the year, which is pleasant when not much else is in bloom.  They’re so dainty, with such deep vibrant colors.  They’re well established after only 3 years here.

Umpqua River Kalmiopsis/Kalmiopsis leachiana “Umpqua form”

This may actually be one of the truly rare plants I have.  Most are either unique and unusual or semi rare.  But this is considered to be the very first member of the Ercaceae family – the Heath and Heather family, that contains everything from Rhododendrons and Azaleas to Blueberries, Cranberries and Huckleberries, and so many more.  It was found in 1930 in high mountains in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Umpqua National Forest in Southern Oregon.  It has lovely little bell shaped flowers, a hallmark of the Ericaceae.  It’s grown well here since I planted it in 8/18.  I feel lucky to have it here in the garden.

Carstens Wintergold Mugo Pine/Pinus mugo “Carstens Wintergold” – Last fall

We saw this little mugo in the winter when it was this glorious golden color.  That’s only two years ago.  I’ve found that many plants that color up in the winter need sun to do that, tho not all of them.  To be sure it would change I set this pot up on this bench last fall where it can get the most sun possible on the deck.   It worked perfectly and you can see the result.

Red Fox Katsura/Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs” – now

We planted this as a 12′ tree in February 2015.  It’s the tallest tree we’ve ever brought home, and it stuck out the back of the VW van about 2 feet.  In the time it’s been here it’s gotten too tall to measure, and I can go to 21 -1/2 ft with my bamboo measuring sticks.  I pruned back the lower side branches a year ago and last year it put out a few new branches, but not many.  But this year it’s literally covered with new growth.   There are little branches all over it – some 5″ long and some 18″. All this beautiful purple red, which are especially lovely when you see them against the sun.

The name red fox, or rot fuchs in German, comes from a fanciful idea that the foliage looks like a fox’s tail as the branches grow upward on the tree.  Ours isn’t doing that yet, but it looks like it’s going to over the next few years.  I’ve seen photos of it doing that and it looks nice.  But I like this one too.  It’s got a nice gangly look to it that I find attractive.  I love the leaf colors too.  In summer they turn a deep blueish green.  And in fall it turns a golden color.  A very unusual tree.

The Back Garden – now

This is what it looks like from the deck right now.  There is still new growth on the conifers but most of the other plants have already put on their new spring growth.  It’s been an exciting time!  So many things to look at when I take my morning stroll thru the garden.  It’s been warm enough that I’ve been able to do them naked, as I did last year.  (See World Naked Gardening Day last spring).  The Weeping Giant Sequoia on the right has finally gotten taller than the plum tree that’s been here for 50 years.  A few others are getting closer to its size as well.  It really does feel like a little forest when you’re in the middle of it now.  After 10 or 11 years the trees and shrubs really do feel sorta mature.  It’s a nice place to spend time.

Naselle Rhododendron/Rhododendron “Naselle” – May

I’m so psyched by this rhodie.  I had it where it didn’t get much sun and it bloomed poorly.  So when I cleared out this space I moved it here and look at the results!  It’s covered with these magnificent creamy salmon flowers in huge trusses of 8 or 9 flowers.  I’m so happy with it.   It shows why sunlight is good for plants.  It’s in short supply in our garden, so I use it carefully.

PJM Regal Rhododendron/Rhododendron “PJM Regal” – February

This is one of the earliest plants to bloom every year, as you can see.  I moved it to this location a couple of years ago but we’ve been growing it since March 2015. It grows slowly but is always covered with these beautiful magenta blossoms.  This is another one I can see clearly from my study window.  I’m lucky to have such a nice view of the front garden.

OK, I’ve reached the point where my back once again says I’ve done enough for today.  Time to go water the garden.  I have several more of these to do so I don’t wanna abuse myself too much.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this random look at more plants in our garden.  I hope you come back for the next ones too.

Happy (almost) Summer!

Steve

Then and Now

Photo taken 11/08

I thought it might be fun to do a retrospective of the whole garden from its beginning 10 or 11 years ago to today.  This is what the front of the property along the street looked like when I first met Louie in February 2008.

Photo taken 1/20

Same scene today.

Photo taken 11/09

I didn’t have an earlier photo so this one was taken when the plants were first planted.

Photo taken 1/20

Fewer plants of some types, more of others.

Photo taken 11/08

This is the entrance to the house.  Look how small the plants are.

Photo taken 1/20

The Himalayan Sweet Box in the center scents the whole area now.  It’s grown a lot.

Photo taken 11/08

Future site of many cool herbs.  It’s so empty!

Photo taken 1/20

Now this is an herb bed!  Look at the Tuscan Blue Rosemary at the very back!

Photo taken 11/08

We had to take out this poor apple.  It was in bad health and the apples were awful.

Photo taken 1/20

Much more open now.  It’s nice to see thru it all.

Photo taken 11/08

This had grass up to the garage when we started digging.  Such rich soil!

Photo taken 1/20

Many many ferns later…  and a greenhouse at the end!

Photo taken 11/09

I didn’t have one from when this was empty, but there was grass to the fence before we dug it out.

Photo taken 1/20

This is a bit wider shot so you can see we put in a bamboo fence and many plants.

Photo taken 11/08

This is the west end of the garage before we built the greenhouse onto it.

Photo taken 1/20

Looking over the veggie garden to the greenhouse.

Photo taken 12/07

This was taken about 2 months before Louie and I met.

Photo taken 1/20

It’s a real Garden now!!  Here’s to our little Wildlife and Nature Sanctuary!

I hope you enjoyed looking at these photos as much as I enjoyed putting them all together.  I had to do a lot of searching through my photo files.  I have some 8,000 photos of the garden since 2007 so there were a lot to choose from.  I tried to take the “now” photos from about the same place the originals were taken but I didn’t always accomplish that.  I think they still get the point across.

It’s amazing to me to look at these and see just how much things have changed.  It’s possible to transform an entire yard into a beautiful garden so thoroughly.  It’s why I loved creating gardens for people in my past.  You can make such a difference with a few (OK maybe a Lot!) of plants and some time.  It’s very rewarding.  I love gardening!

Time travel has its rewards!

Steve

A Hidden Gem

This is what It looks like across the front of our property.  You can see the Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”) interspersed with Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) all across it, with Lime Marmalade Coral Bells (Heuchera “Lime Marmalade”) and Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens”) underneath it all.  Behind them (to the left) is a large solid hedge of Pyrimidal Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Pyrimidalis”).  This is all a thick screen for the little garden that lies behind it.  It’s a very private space for being right off the street.  We’ll go for a short walk thru it now.

This is what it looks like when you walk up the driveway and peek around the screen.  I’m standing on the path at the entrance to the garden.  On the left it’s framed by a Sango Kaku Japanese maple (Acer palmatum “Sango Kaku”).  Next to the maple is a small sign letting you know that this garden is a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary.  We had to show the WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife that we had food, water and shelter for the many birds who frequent our gardens.  It’s very exciting to watch them fly and listen to them sing.  We got the sign and a wall plaque for the kitchen for our $5 donation.  What a deal!

Above the sign is a Graciosa Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Graciosa”).  It’s part of a new bed of plants we put in last February to replace a lost Arborvitae killed by the snows we had then.  A sad loss, but it’s a nice garden now.  The thin purple stems next to the Graciosa are really a Twombly’s Red Sentinel Japanese maple (Acer plamatum “Twombly’s Red Sentinel”), which is supposed to be the only fastigiate (narrow and skinny) Japanese maple there is.  In the bed with it are Azaleas, Heaths, Rhododendrons, a Gardenia and a small White Cedar.

Next we’re going to be coming into the garden from the opposite end.  We’ll enter from the path from the back garden.  I usually post pictures of the back yard so I wanted to show you the front for a change.  So here we go…

This photo is taken from the path that comes from the back garden along the north side of the house.  To the left of the trunk of the Korean Butterfly maple (Acer tschonoskii ssp. Koreanum) is a long semi-deciduous hedge that screens off the north side of the yard from the neighbors and the street, especially in summer.  Combined with the Arborvitaes along the front and the conifers along the driveway it creates a nice secluded space, as you’ll see.

The narrow conifer in the right side of the frame is a Weeping White Spruce (Picea glauca “Pendula”) that will eventually get a lot taller than the house for a nice exclamation point at the corner.  On its right is a Sappho rhododendron that Louie planted over 30 years ago.  It has white blooms with a splotch of dark purple in the centers.  A very old variety.  Nice.

In the center of the photo are a couple of small dwarf conifers.  On the left is a Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Bobozam”) – the same arborvitae as the Pyrimidal in front – amazing variety, eh?  Next to it is another arborvitae – this time a cultivar of our PNW native, the Western Red Cedar.  This one is called Grune Kugel or green ball in German (Thuja plicata “Grune Kugel”).  In winter the Bowling Ball turns light green, and the Grune Kugel has red tips.

Above the conifers is a deep purple PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”).  Blooms early with light lavender blossoms all over it.  Behind it is a huge old Camellia that’s been here since the ’40’s.  It has kind of mediocre red blooms in early spring but it’s so covered with them it’s still nice.  Next to it is a small growing version of the Japanese maple called Lionshead (Acer palmatum “Shishigishara”).  Interesting crinkled leaves turn a striking orange-red in the fall.

This is your view as you turn the corner and come fully into the garden.  The Lionshead maple is much clearer here and next to and below it you can see the Waterfall dissected Japanese maple (Acer palmatum dissectum “Watefall”).  The tall tree near the center is a Red Fox Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs”).  It has purple leaves in spring that turn a nice deep blueish color for summer and yellow-orange for fall.  A unique tree that grows upward, but not out, supposedly.  To its right is another commonly planted dwarf Hinoki (Chamaecyparia obtusa “Nana Gracilis”).

Forming the screen at the end of the garden is a large blue Pfitzer juniper (Juniperus pfitzeriana “Glauca”) that Louie planted when he did the Arborvitae hedge 30 some years ago.  You can see how it merges with the Arborvitae hedge out front to form a solid screen.  Makes it very private in here.  On the low right is a Winter Daphne (Daphne odora “Marginata”).  It is one of the smelliest plants in the world.  It fills the whole garden with its intoxicating sweetness in late winter.  Wow…

You have a better view of many of the plants I’ve mentioned so far.  The Arborvitae and Katsura on the left, the Hinoki next to it, the blue Pfitzer juniper and the Daphne at the bottom.  At the back you can also see in the arms of the Oregon Green pine (Pinus nigra “Oregon Green”) sticking up.  It merges with the Pfitzer to complete the screen around the corner to the path I stood on in the first photo.  Above the Daphne and Sappho are  the arms of a species tree of the Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa).  It encloses the front porch to make a lush dark green entrance to the house.

We come full circle here to the opening on the gravel path I stood in at the start of this little tour.  You can see the blue Pfitzer at the far left with the Green Pine seeming to grow out of it.  I’ve trained the pine and the Sango Kaku maple on the right to form a cool arch you walk under to come into the garden.  I love plant arches….  I think it makes it seem a bit more mysterious to walk into a garden under an arch.   Especially in summer when the maple is in full leaf.

I think I’ve covered all the trees and shrubs you can see, with the slight exception of a couple of Rhododendrons you can barely see in the center of the photo (Rhododendron “Naselle” and Rhododendron “Sir Charles Lemon”).  The Naselle is loaded with buds for next spring but the Sir Charles won’t bloom for years they say.  It has cool leaves with indumentum on the undersides.  It’s that furry brown stuff you find on the undersides of evergreen Magnolias.  A cool feature.

This was a short tour of photos, but long on explanations.  I hope it was enjoyable for you all.  This little private garden is so secluded I was able to come out here and garden naked all summer long.  (See “World Naked Gardening Day” from last May for more on that subject…).  It was kind of fun to hang out here working and hear people talking as they walked by in the street outside the hedge.  If only they had looked behind the screen!  Privacy has all kinds of benefits…

Stay warm!

Steve

Winter Views From the Elegans

This is the Elegans.  It’s formally called Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans”, or Elegans Sugi in Japanese.  This is a photo I took from our neighbor’s yard because you can’t see this full a picture from our yard.  Too many trees in the way.  I planted it about 10 years ago from an 18″ sapling.  I’d say it’s closing in on 30′ now.  Wow.  It’s one of my favorite “pettable” trees because you can literally pet it it’s so soft and luxurious.  Not like other conifers at all – the ones that stick you so readily.

The photos in the following series form a panoramic view of the back garden from the base of the Elegans, on the other side of this photo. From there you can pretty much see the whole back garden.  It’s a comfortable, dry spot to stand at  times when there’s a little bit of drizzle like we have coming down today.  I’ll show you in the next photo.

This is where I’m standing. The trunk is angled in such a perfect way that I can lean back against it and it supports my back like a recliner.  Nice for a bad back – the gardener’s curse.  Underneath the Elegans is what’s left of the formerly large Gold Dust plant (Aucuba japonica) that I almost killed by planting the Eleagns were I did.  Silly me.  I was able to prune the Aucuba so that it now grows luxuriously on the margin of the Elegans.   It gets lots of sun and can grow tall again.

On the right is a Blue Peter rhododendron that Louie planted here some 30 years ago.  In the  spring it’s a mass of light purple flowers with darker purple centers.  A lovely older variety.  Below is the most wonderful azalea in the garden, in my opinion.  It’s a Kurume called “Ward’s Ruby” (Azalea kurume “Ward’s Ruby”).  When it blooms it’s covered with the deepest red blossoms imaginable and can be seen from the house.  It loves it here.  In fact all the Ericaceae (Heather family) thrive in the deep, wet, peaty soil we have here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  You’ll see a variety of acid loving plants here.

This is what I see when I look to my left.  The tall spindly tree on the left is a “bound” Japanese Umbrella Pine form called “Wintergreen” (Sciadopytis verticillata “Wintergreen”).  It’s bound because it was damaged in the “snopocalypse” we had in February (we don’t get much snow here so we tend to be dramatic about it when we do get it….).  I had to tie up all the branches because they were drooping so badly from the weight of the snow.  I’ll keep the ties on for a year or so and then remove them.  The branches will (hopefully) bounce back up to where they’re supposed to be.  Below it is a huge patch of Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza).  It’s a PNW native you often see on the trunks of trees in the rainforest.

Next to is is a stalwart rhodie called Anna Rose Whitney.  It’s about 6′ x 7′ now and when it blooms in spring it’s a mass of brilliant hot pink with huge trusses of 8 or 10 flowers each.  Very impressive.  The tall tree with the twisty branches to the right is a “Diana” contorted Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”).  It’s one of the handful of deciduous conifers in the world.  It has apple green needles all summer that turn a marvelous shade of deep orange before dropping in the fall.

At the bottom right is a rarely seen Alpine Yew Pine (Podocarpus alpinus “Red Tips”).  It’s from New Zealand and is related to the better known Japanese Yew Pine (Podocarpus macrophylla).  It has beautiful reddish purple tips in late spring.  It looks like a haze over the whole plant.  Above it is the trunk of the Radicans Sugi.  That’s the big dark green tree in back, behind the lamp.  It covers an edge of the little deck we built so we could hang out in the garden.  More on the Sugi in a moment.

When I turn to my right I see the Yew Pine in the foreground with the hanging light above it.  The reddish brown trunk to its left belongs to the Radicans Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Radicans”).  It’s like the Elegans in size now but is definitely not pettable.  It gets bigger too – up to 55 feet or so they say.  The tall dark shape in the background is a Weeping Giant Sequoia  (Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendulum”).  It’s grown over 35′ tall it 10 years, and is the tallest tree we’ve planted.

In the middle foreground is a Red Pygmy Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”).  Below are a couple of nice rhodies – Ken Janeck and Ramapo.  The light yellow plant is a large clump of Japanese Forest Grass (Hakanechloa macra “All Gold”).  Behind the maple is the fountain, which we keep empty in the colder times of the year.  It’s raining now so it’s full.

Going clockwise some more you can see the fountain more clearly and a fuller view of the Red Pygmy.  I’ve recently pruned it out and I’m very pleased with my efforts.   It all seems to be growing the way it wants to and should be a fine strong structure over the years to come.  I’ve been reading about Aesthetic Pruning lately.  The descriptions sound like what I’ve been doing for decades, more or less.  When I was first starting out in the landscape biz I worked with a tree pruner who did “Aesthetic and Therapeutic” pruning.  I took it to heart and have tried to emulate his practices ever since.  It’s about the health and beauty of the whole garden environment, taking all factors into consideration.  Seems like common sense to me.

On the right is a Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia Persica “Vanessa”).  I’ve trained it quite a bit to be very narrow at its base since it tends to spread out as it gets taller and we need to be able to walk around both sides of it.  It’s turned out really well and I think it will grow companionably with the big plum behind it. (You can barely see it on the right). The Ironwood turns a spectacular brilliant golden color in the fall.  You can see it shining from the back door of the house.

In this one you can see the Plum and why I need to prune the Parrotia away from it.  They have to agree to share the air space above them.  I think I did a good job of preparing them to play nice.  The small blue conifer at the bottom is a RH Montgomery blue spruce.  It wants to get bigger than it can here so I have to prune it very judiciously to keep it looking nice and healthy where it is.  We’ll see how long I can do that.  At the right is a mid-size Lily of the Valley shrub called Little Heath (Pieris japonica “Little Heath”).  It has lovely racemes of small  white bell shaped flowers in early spring.  The leaves are nicely variegated with light green and pink on the margins, especially in spring.  It’s another plant in the Heather family.

On the left is the Little Heath and in the middle is a Jade Butterflies dwarf Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”).  It’s so named because the leaves look like little butterflies.  Ginkgos are supposed to turn a spectacular shade of golden yellow in the fall. They’re known for it.  But for some odd reason ours never does this.  lt’s usually a pallid shade of yellow.  Except last year when Everything was brilliant it did what it’s supposed to do.  ???

Behind the Ginkgo is a snatch of our veggie garden, with a Spaan’s Slow Column Scots pine (Pinus sylvestnis “Spaan’s Slow Column”) at the north end of the veggies where it won’t shade them.  You can see a patch of Lacinato Kale at the back.  They’ll be in fine shape to start to grow at the very beginning of spring.  They overwinter quite well.  The blue barrels hold garden soil, compost and fertile mulch for when we need a bit of help with things.  It’s handy to keep a bit of each on hand.

This is the final shot in the panorama.  You can see the Ginkgo on the left and in the middle is the Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”).  It’s another of the few deciduous conifers that exist.   We also have a third – a dwarf Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum).  (It didn’t show up in this series of photos).  Both the Metasequoia and Ginkgo are very ancient trees, formerly found only in the fossil record.  It’s nice to have them in cultivation.  You can see the strawberry bed better here.  It’s not that big but we get quarts of berries.  Fresh fruit is so wonderful to pick and eat right out of the garden.  Above you on the right is the Elegans again.  We’re almost back where we started.

Here we are back at the trunk again.  I intentionally pruned up a hollow in this tree so we could stand under it when it rains, which it was doing just now when I took all these photos.  I didn’t plan for this to be such a wonderful viewing spot but I’m so glad I “discovered” it one day when I was perambulating the garden, which I try to do every morning.  I like to keep up on the doings of all the plants and do bits of “micro pruning” to keep everyone growing happily and harmoniously together.  It’s a magical sanctuary but it takes constant, careful work to keep it that way.  Having a spot like this where I can overlook the whole garden at once helps me get a more holistic perspective on things. It’s easier to comprehend it all as one large entity.

I hope you enjoyed these panoramic views of the garden.  It all feels so much bigger when you’re in the thick of it.

Relaxing on a rainy day,

Steve

Inside the Forest

This is the sort of photo I usually present of our garden.  It shows you the south side of the main ornamental garden, with a few marigolds and tomatoes from the veggie gardens in the foreground.  It was taken from along the fence in the back of the veggie garden.  It’s a nice colorful photo full of plants that lets you see what this whole side of the garden looks like, tho I guess this one’s a bit impressionistic, isn’t it.  Lots of colors, textures and forms all blended together.  Getting nice wide shots like this generally means shooting them from outside the garden itself.

This time I’m going to show you photos that were taken looking out from inside of the small forest we’re creating here in the rich peaty soils of our intensely planted little Nature Sanctuary.  It’s what we see when we venture off the lawn and onto the soft bark paths that wind thru the trees.  It almost feels like you’re walking in an actual forest, and it smells like it too.  Inside you’re enveloped within the lush scents of the trees and all the other amazing plants growing in here.  Many of them are taller than we are so it all feels much bigger inside it than it ever looks like from the outside.  It’s a bit different, as you’ll see.

This one was taken from a crossroads at the back of the path that leads into the south side I showed you in the last shot.  The big Elegans Sugi is on your right, and it really feels big when you stand right next to it.  The Red Pygmy maple is on the left, and standing in between them you feel enclosed in the trees’ energies.  It feels deep, calm and peaceful.

This is taken from the same spot as the last one, only now we’re looking directly under the Elegans sugi.  You can see how soft it looks.  It is.  It’s one of my main “pettable” trees because the needles won’t stick you like most other conifers will.  Being next to it you can really pet it!  It’s only been here 10 years and has grown from 18″ to over 25 feet tall in that time!

As you move back into the depths of the forest on  the same path you can see the green, white and pink variegated leaves of the Ukigumo Japanese maple on the right, with the soft droopy Elegans Sugi in the back and the deciduous Japanese Larch “Diana” on your left.  The Larch is all contorted and twists and turns around on itself.   Very cool!  The big “Blue Peter” Rhododendron in the middle has been here for well over 30 years!  The ground is covered with Kinnickinnick.

This is what you see when you turn around and look back behind you, past the Larch and towards the edge of the garden.  You can just see the Japanese Umbrella Pine on the left, with a big rhodie next to it that encloses the space nicely.  The little Licorice Fern on the lower left gives the lush feel of the PNW rain forests.  It dies back every year but returns even better.

If you stand in the same spot again and look towards the deck you’ll see our garden lamp and its wrought iron post.  The Larch is on your left and the Red Pygmy Japanese maple is on your right, with the Alpine Yew Pine in the foreground.

As you move up onto our little deck under the Larch branch you can see the bench and the light, with the fountain in the middle at the back side of the bench.  The Red Pygmy maple is right in front of you and the Bloodgood Japanese maple is the red tree on your left.  And no, we didn’t kill the deer whose horns grace our bench.  Consider it a “found” item….

This is taken from the same spot on the deck as the last shot, only looking to your left a bit.  The huge fern at the bottom left is an Alaska fern that has gotten huge in its 10 years here.  I cut it back to a foot high every spring and it grows back to this!  You can see the Bloodgood maple more clearly here.  On the left edge of the photo you can see the stairs to the house.

And finally, turning all the way to the left you can see the edge of the deck and the path leading back out of the forest to the outside again where the lawn is.  On the edge of the lawn the large conifer on the left is a 30′ tall Weeping Giant Sequoia.  It leans a bit to the neighbors – eek!  The big tree on the left is a Radicans Sugi which is now at least 25 feet tall.  You feel small next to it and can hardly see the top of it when you stand on the deck now.  All this from a 5 foot tree planted in 2013!

So did you feel the difference being inside the forest?  I hope so.  It’s so hard to convey just how cool it is to wander around under these trees and in between the shrubs.  Seeing them up close like this you get to admire all their unique foliages, forms, textures and growth habits.  You get to touch and smell them.  They become real creatures to you, not just colors and shapes you see from a distance.  It changes you to be in there.  It’s all pretty well kept and even semi formal, but it’s full of wildness too.  The plants make it so.  In just 10 years this has become a truly lovely little Nature Sanctuary and Forest.  It’s all part of our efforts to save and enhance a vibrant little part of the Natural World!  Combat Climate Change – Plant a Forest!!

Make your own little Nature Sanctuary!

Steve

Intermediate Conifers

Swane’s Golden Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens “Swane’s Golden”)

All the conifers I’m showing you today only grow 10-30 feet tall.  This particular form of the popular Italian Cypress originated in the Swane Brother’s nursery in Australia in 1946.  Since then it’s become very useful as a gold colored accent tree.  It grows at a moderate rate up to 30 feet tall, and stays narrow, so it will fit in tight spaces where the height is not a problem.  It stays this lovely golden color all year but may be slightly more colorful in summer, as many colored conifers are.

Blue Pfitzer Juniper (Juniperus chinensis “Pfitzeriana glauca”)

This is one of the most frequently planted junipers there is.  It grows 10 to 12 feet tall and spreads much wider if allowed to.  We keep ours from getting that wide or it would block our whole driveway!  I prune it back once or twice every year to keep it in bounds.  It grows with this wonderful 45 degree arching habit that makes it look pretty wild, and it is.  It’s a very vigorous and fast growing plant with a lovely blue color to it that contrasts nicely with the green ones surrounding it.

Dwarf Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret”)

This is one of my “pettable’ trees, due to its incredibly soft foliage.  It’s a unique tree – a deciduous conifer that loses all its leaves in fall after they turn a striking orange-brown.  It will supposedly grow to 20 feet or more.  Ours is already 13 1/2 feet tall after about 9 years in our garden.  It’s gotten way wider that I expected  – probably over 12 feet at this point.  The species grows in swampy areas in the SE part of the US, and puts on “knees”, or above ground roots, to help hold them up.  Ours has a couple of small raised bumps, but they’re not really knees.  Not yet anyway.

Blue Arrow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum “Blue Arrow”)

This is one of the skinniest junipers, or trees of any sort, you can find.  They grow 20-25 feet tall but only 2-3 feet wide.  It’s  considered an improved form of the popular Skyrocket juniper which is also narrow, but gets a bit wider and taller.  These  are also much bluer, which is a nice contrast to the surrounding plantings.  They’ll be a nice screen to give us more privacy.

Van den Akker Alaska Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis “Van den Akker”)

Another very narrow tree that might even be skinner than the Blue Arrows.  It grows up to 25 or 30 feet tall but barely a foot or more wide, tho it throws out side branches that are wider from time to time.  I know it’s a bit hard to see here because it’s surrounded by so many other plants.  I expect it to tower over the others in time but now it’s sort of hiding behind them.

Beanpole Hybrid Yew (Taxus x media “Beanpole”)

This is cross between the English and Japanese yews.  It combines the utility of the English yews with the greater hardiness of the Japanese species.  It will eventually grow 10 or 12 feet tall but will stay very narrow (do you sense a theme here?…).  It will only get a foot or two wide.  It’s poisonous in all its parts, especially the bright red berries it has on it now in September.  It’s growing quite fast – well over a foot a year.  It’s a lovely dark green accent for our path of conifers along the garden.

Spann’s Slow Column Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris “Spaan’s Slow Column”)

Scots pine has so many cultivars!  We have two very different ones in our small garden.  This one will stay very narrow and will only get 15 or 20 feet tall, if even that.  It grows very slowly so it’ll take it awhile to get that tall, but it puts on small cones even at this young age, which is very cool.  I like the blueish color of the needles.  Another skinny accent along the garden.

Golden Spire Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Daniellow”)

This is a beautiful golden form of our native Western Red Cedar – the tree that’s probably most symbolic of the Pacific Northwest.  The species is used by the indigenous people here to make just about everything they need – from longhouses to canoes, to clothing and hats, to ceremonial uses and even medicines.  This golden form stays this brilliant color all year long, but is brighter in the full sun it’s growing in and in the summer.  Another narrow tree, it will grow to 20 or 30 feet tall but only 3 or 4 feet wide.  The golden color is a beautiful accent among the green of the other conifers here.

Skyrocket juniper (Juniperus scopulorum “Skyrocket”)

I alluded to this tree earlier when I was talking about the Blue Arrows.  This is the original skinny juniper that was supposed to be the skinniest of them all, until the Blue Arrows came along that is.  This one is wider and taller than the Blue Arrows and grows a bit faster from my observation.  It’s a nice gray-green that sort of melds into the surrounding area and provides  a nice vertical accent by the gate here.  So far it’s thin enough that it doesn’t block the gate, and I hope it stays that way!

Oregon Green Austrian Black Pine (Pinus nigra “Oregon Green”)

I know it’s a bit confusing to call this a green pine, that is also a black pine, but that’s the way they named it.  It was “discovered” in a nursery in Oregon which accounts for the Oregon part, and of course it’s green, so I guess that’s why.   I’d have focused on the extremely white candles you see here in spring.  They open up to stiffly persistent needles that stay on the tree for years.  It has many cones which fall and line the front walk.  I love walking by it on the fallen needles and cones.

Diana Contorted Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”)

They say this tree will max out around 30 feet, but I suspect it may get even taller.  l’ve never seen a large one, only photos, so we’ll just have to wait and see.  It’s about 20 feet tall now, after 5 years growing here – once putting on 4 1/2 feet in one year!  It doesn’t have that far to go to get there.  It’s another deciduous conifer that loses all its needles after they turn a brilliant golden orange color in the fall.  It doesn’t provide much shade yet but it’s still a wonderful tree overhanging the small deck in the back of the garden. The branches all twist and twirl around themselves, thus the contorted part in the name.

Black Dragon Japanese Cedar/Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Black Dragon”)

This is one of the hundreds of cultivars of this tree, of which we have several.  It’s the national tree of Japan.  We call it Japanese Cedar but, they call it Sugi.  The species and some large cultivars are very important timber trees.  The species grows well over a hundred feet tall, and we have one cultivar that gets over 50 feet.  But this little one here only grows 10 to 20 feet tall, and it takes it some time to do that.  They call it Black Dragon for its dark needles.  It’s definitely not one of my “pettable” ones since its needles are very stiff and hard to the touch.  It grows fast in youth but it’s slowed down now to only a few inches a year.  It won’t get too wide but I’ll still need to prune it to fit in someday as it and the ones next to it grow.

These are the medium sized conifers we have growing here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  They fill a need for evergreens that don’t get too wide but still have some height to them.  They love the rich, wet, acid soils we have here in our little Greenwood peat bog – perfect for most conifers.  As you surely noticed many of these are rather skinny things, which means a lot of them can fit in the garden without taking up too much floor space.  Given the small size of our garden this is a very nice feature, and one for which I’ve specifically chosen them.  We do have some larger conifers, but I’ll wait to show them to you in a future post.  For now I hope you’ve enjoyed this presentation of the various mid-sized conifers we grow here.

Happy Autumn!

Steve

Cool Little Conifers

Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca var. albertiana f. conica)

All the conifers I’ll be showing you in this post are small ones that only grow up to 10′ tall.  I love the little ones a lot. They take up little room so there’s space to plant several of them in small areas.  Of course I have them all over the garden.  These two have been growing here for over 35 years.  Louie planted them long ago and they’ve gotten quite large in that time. They’ll get still bigger, but not more than 10′.  Discovered in 1904 they are native to SW Canada and across the Northern US to Maine.  You’ve probably seen these all over, as they are sold as christmas trees at holiday time.  Naturally no one ever realizes just how large they get and are surprised when they outgrow their tiny planting spaces.  Ah well…  Live and learn…

Snow White Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Snow White”)

This is a dwarf form of the Lawson Cypress, or Port Orford Cedar, that grows in southern Oregon. The species tree is a large forest dweller that gets quite tall, but this one will only get 6 or 8′ tall.  It’s 6 1/2′ now after about 10 years in the ground here.  It’s soft and fluffy to the touch and is tinged with a light yellow white color in spring.  One of my favorites.

Red Star Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides “Red Star”, aka “Rubicon”)

We jump across the United States from the last one with this Red Star False Cypress.  I just planted this a few months ago and it’s still very small, but it will get 4-5′ tall in time (some people say much larger, but who knows…).  Its blue green juvenile foliage turns a warm red purple in winter and is quite lovely.  A slow grower, it will take years to achieve its full size.

Mr Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentals “Bobozam”)

Where do they get these names anyway?  Doesn’t look much like a bowling ball to me, and I don’t have a clue why it’s called Bobozam, but it’s kind of a cool name.  Native to the NE United States and SE Canada it has filiferous foliage that turns this lovely light color in winter, when this photo was taken.  It’s green now.  It might become a 3′ ball, but it will take awhile.

“Grune Kugel” Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Grune Kugel”)

This is a dwarf form of the signature PNW tree – the mighty Western Red Cedar. This special tree was used by the indigenous people for just about everything.  They made buildings and canoes of it, used it for basketry, and used it in ceremonies.  It was the “buffalo” of the Northwest, as far as its utility to the native people goes.  It will take it years to become much more than a 2′ ball.  It always amazes me to see a small dwarf form of a huge tree.  Trees do such incredible things!

Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata “Blue Star”)

A very slow growing juniper with a lovely bluish color to it that looks great next to its neighbors.  It’s a nice contrast at the front of the garden as you view it from the house.  It will never get very big – maybe 2-3′ x 3-5′ in a long time.  I’ve heard they look ugly when they get old but this one is 10 years here and still looks great to me.  I expect it to stay nice for years.

Spreading English Yew (Taxus baccata “Repandens”)

Slow and elegant looking, this dwarf English yew is native to many parts of Europe and Asia.  The main species tree is well known in old churchyards in England, which I saw for myself back in the late 60’s when I was there. This will only get 3-5′ tall and 4-7′ wide, but I have to keep it gently pruned to keep it in its space here.  10 years have gotten it to this size.

Amersfoort English Yew (Taxus baccata “Amersfoort”)

This is a rare one, that many people think may be a cross between English and Japanese Yew, but they call it English, for now anyway.  It’s kind of weird looking, almost reptilian. I have to carefully remove the new growth in late spring every year to keep it from attaining its full size of 5 – 8′.  It’s next to the fountain and I want to be able to see the fountain from the house so I keep it low. Yews take to pruning very well and it always comes back great.  It was found on the grounds of the Amersfoort Insane Asylum in Holland and some wits  in the nursery trade describe it as “one crazy plant”.  Whatever…

Elegans Nana Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans Nana”)

Sugi is the Japanese name for Cryptomeria, or Japanese Cedar (tho it’s not a true cedar).  The large species tree is the national tree of Japan.  I love the way this looks like a mop headed Sesame Street character.  It’s pretty slow growing and has taken 8 years or so to get this size.  There’s a full size Elegans next to it and they look similar but also quite different.  There are several hundred cultivars of Cryptomeria, from dwarves only a foot tall to trees over 150′.  A very versatile tree.

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

It’s hard to believe that this is the tallest tree in the world, maxing out at over 365′ tall!  This is a very dwarf form that is now only 2 1/2′ tall and about 7-8′ across.  It grows pretty fast and has been here for a good 9 years now.  I got it in a 10 gallon can that was very big when I planted it, but it’s gotten way bigger since then.  Native to the California and N. Oregon coast.

Tansu Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Tansu”)

Another Japanese Cedar, this is one of the smallest ones.  In 10 years it’s still less than 2′ around.  It’s grown very slowly to get even this big and will never get a lot bigger.  It’s a bit prickly to the touch but I love the craggy mountainous look of it.

Alpine Yew Pine (Podocarpus alpinus (“Red Tip”)

Native to Australia and Tasmania this is called Red Tip because the tips of the branches turn a deep purple red in late spring.  It looks very nice when the color is on it.  I don’t have many plants from the Southern Hemisphere, but I have a few, like this one here.  Most podocarpus are native to Asia and some are large trees, but this will never get more than 4′ or so.

“Ryokogo Coyokyu” Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Ryokogo Coyokyu”)

Also called Green Jewel Dragon, a much more interesting name than the botanical one, this is another very small Japanese Cedar.  It looks a little like the Tansu in that they both look like small craggy mountains and grow very slowly.  This one puts on about 1/16″ per year.  You can barely see it grow.  The tips turn a nice reddish color in the winter.

Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia “Fastigiata”)

Not a yew at all, this is actually in the Cephalotaxaceae family. (say that fast three times…)  It’s a very narrow plant, only getting 2-3′ wide but close to 10′ tall in many years.   This has been here for 9 years and has put on a foot of growth every year.  I’m very fond of it, but had a hard time shooting it.  I had to stand on the deck above it to get the whole thing.

Wissel’s Saguaro False Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Wissel’s Saguaro”)

This may actually grow to over 10′, but it seems no one really knows how big it will get.  It’s called the Saguaro because it looks so much like the famous Saguaro cactus in the desserts of Southern California.  The tree is a form of the Lawson Cypress I mentioned earlier.  This mad cap form was developed in Holland, or maybe it was just “found”, I’m not sure.  Planted at the entrance to our house, it’s a very cool plant to greet our visitors.

Baby Blue Sawara Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera “Baby Blue”)

When I planted this it was a 1 1/2′ ball, but over the last 10 years it’s turned into a very nice cone shaped small tree.  It may get somewhat taller but not a lot.  It’s a little over 6′ now and is one of the softest plants we have.  I love to “pet” it.   The blue makes a nice contrast to the surrounding plants and gives a bit of color, besides green!, to the back garden area.

Nana Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Nana”)

Supposedly one of the smallest forms of the Hinoki Cypress, or Fire Tree, this is native to Japan.  The species tree is used for building temples and ceremonial purposes there, and is considered a sacred tree.  As with Cryptomeria there are literally hundreds of cultivars of Hinoki Cypress. The species is a tall forest tree, but the cultivars range down from there to this one.

Graciosa Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Graciosa”)

We just planted this one in February after we had “snowmageddon” here that dropped a couple of feet of snow on the Seattle area and destroyed the large arborvitae we had here.  It was tragic, but we took it out and re-made the whole area.  It looks really nice and open now, tho we lost our major privacy.  It’ll come back tho, since this tree grows to become 8-10′ tall and 6-8′ wide.  It grows a foot a year and is very soft to the touch and looks quite graceful – thus Graciosa.

Carstens Wintergold Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo “Carstens Wintergold”)

Mugo pines are small trees native to Europe.  This cultivar was created/found in 1988 in Germany.  It turns this gorgeous golden color in winter, but in spring it reverts back to a plain old green mugo pine.  It only grows 2″ a year so it will stay in this pot for quite some time.  It needs sun to change color well so I’ll have to move it soon so it gets enough by fall.

Morgan’s Chinese Arborvitae (Thuja orientalis “Morgan”)

I don’t have a clue why they call this “Chinese” since it comes from Australia, another one from the Southern Hemisphere.  It’s a wonderful plant for color that turns purple in the fall, warm orange/brown in winter and then this fine lime green in summer.  I had to site it in a sunny spot so it would change color.  This place seems to work just fine for that.

Chirimen Hinoki False Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Chirimen”)

Chirimen is a type of crinkly kimono fabric that gives its name to this unique plant.  It grows very slowly and only gets 4′ tall and not very wide, as you can see.  I pruned off the inner foliage some years ago and kinda wish I hadn’t, but it still looks OK.  It’s in a very shady spot and does just fine there.

Snow Sawara False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera “Snow”)

This is the same tree as the Baby Blue I showed you earlier.  The tips of the plant turn this lovely whitish color as they grow, even in the full shade it’s in.  The American Conifer Society tag on it said it would only get 16″ tall!!  Huh??  I saw one in a  botanical garden that was 4′-5′ around.  I’ve had to carefully prune it so it will still fit here.  Very soft and elegant.

That’s it!  All the little ones.  I have so many more conifers to show you, but I figured I’d limit it by size this time.  As I said, none of these is supposed to get even 10′ tall, tho some come very close to that, as I’ve mentioned in the commentaries.  I’m a big fan of conifers and these 22 plants are just a small sampling of all the conifers in general here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  Conifers can be enjoyed all year round with their evergreen, or blue, or gold, foliage.  They form the backbones of many gardens and offer a great deal of stability.  I love them, as you can probably tell!

Evergreenly yours,

Steve

Two Views

This is a view of the front of the back garden.  This whole image covers a space only 20 feet wide.  It’s a small garden, as I’ve said before.  I know sometimes it may seem bigger because of the way I post things but in reality it’s a tiny space. This will be a real “copse” or mini forest when it grows up more.  Some might say I’ve planted the trees too closely, and I probably have, but it will be wonderful to have such a splendid little forest here.  I love so many trees and just don’t have room for them all, but I still try!  Soon all the deciduous trees will have leaves on them and the whole area will look very different.  The flowering shrubs will fade away and the conifers and other evergreens will assume dominance.  But right now is the time of new growth and little buds are starting to open all over.  It’s an exciting thing to watch them open and grow.

This is the same area from the side.  You can see the shrubs still blooming in the background.  In the front center is a beautiful patch of our native bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa).   In the winter this same area is covered with the native wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) but in spring the bleeding heart covers it all and we see the lovely little heart shaped blooms.  By summer they will fade and the ginger will take over again.  It’s a nice trade off and makes the space look lush all year.

I hope you’re all enjoying the rebirth of Spring and the new growth all around us.  It’s such a remarkable time of year.  Get out and look closely at the tips of the trees and shrubs.  It’s a real treat to watch them slowly open and turn into leaves and flowers and new branches.  It’s a fascinating process, so do it soon so you don’t miss out on all this incredible beauty!

Loving Spring!

Steve

A Spring Garden Walk

Welcome to the front entrance to our home.  The tree in the center is a cultivar of the Port Orford Cedar, or Lawson Cypress, called “Wissel’s Saguaro”, due to its branches sticking out like the arms of a Saguaro cactus.  An interesting creature to greet our visitors.  The shrub with the red berries behind it is a large Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”.

Entering the front garden.   There used to be a large Arborvitae shrub where all the small plants on the left are now.  It was some 8′ across and 7′ tall.  That was until the snow hit in February and crushed the life out of the center of it.  We had to remove the whole plant (tons of work!) and replace it with a new collection of wonderful plants.  We lost our privacy but gained a new view of the garden entrance.  It feels very welcoming now as you enter under the arch formed by the Japanese maple on the left and the Oregon Green Pine on the right.  The wonky looking sign in front is from the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, designating us as a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary.  We welcome many wild creatures here.

Taking the next steps into the garden.  On the left you can just see a very fragrant Winter Daphne, and on the right is a gorgeous PJM Regal Rhododendron in full bloom.  The bench is a fine place to sit and read or just view the garden.

A better view of the Daphne, with a species Hinoki Cypress over it.   The tree will get large in time and provide a nice sheltered corner for the front porch.  At the right is a large Sappho Rhododendron waiting to bloom.  The hanging items are a hummingbird feeder, a wasp trap and our rainbow wind sock.  More food for the birds and safety and beauty for us.

Sitting on the bench and looking back at the entrance to the garden.  The large deciduous tree on the right is a Sango Kaku Japanese maple and the conifer on the left is the Oregon Green Pine.  You can see a bit of the arch they create together.  The large shrub in front of the bench is a Mr. Bowling Ball arborvitae.  It has very interesting foliage and cool winter color.

The stone path leading to the back garden.  On the left is a small Weeping White Spruce we put in to replace the large Blue Spruce we removed last fall because it was going to get too big.  A sad loss but it’ll save us heartache in years to come.  The hedge on the right is deciduous and just greening up.  It’s been here for over 40 years and it’s still going strong!

Entering the back garden from the path by the house.  The walk is covered with several inches of bark to keep it clean and attractive.  Nothing will grow there because it’s too shady.  Oh the left you can just see the light lavender flowers of the Rhododendron cilpenense and a bit of a red Unryu camellia.  The small Magnolia on the right suffered greatly in the snow and will never be the same.  But I staked it up a lot and it will recover at least somewhat.  Much patience will be required!

A view of the center of the back garden.  You can’t see the trees too well because they’re still dormant.  They’ll look much more lush in a few weeks.  Sorry it’s so dark here – it was an overcast day, as is common in April here in Seattle.

The center from a side view. The large shrub on the left is a dwarf Coast Redwood called “Kelley’s Prostrate” that only grows to 2 feet tall and about 7 feet wide, so far.  The species gets a huge 360 feet tall.  It’s so nice to have the redwood foliage here in our small garden that could never accommodate the larger species tree.  The fountain gives us hours of pleasure listening to its gentle sounds, much like a small creek or stream.  Imagination does wonders when your eyes are closed!

Looking into the side of the garden a bit further down from the last shot.  The small pink flowers on the right belong to a “Howard McMinn” Manzanita, and the bright pink one on the lower left is a “Kramer’s Rote” heath.  Above the heath is a small Lily of the Valley shrub and at the back is a large “Pink Icicle” camellia just coming into bloom.

You’ll see this as you walk the path I showed in the last photo.  The tree in the back is a “Wintergreen” Japanese Umbrella Pine, which also took a hit in the snow.  All these branches used to stand straight up.  Now they’re all wonky.  I doubt they’ll pull themselves back up, but ya never know.  I’ll give it time before I do any corrective pruning.  On the right you can just see the trunk of a contorted Japanese Larch called Diana.  The branches twist and turn most interestingly.  It’s been leafing out for a month now with its small bright apple-green needles.  I’ll do a post on it someday.

This is taken from the same spot as the last one only turned a bit to the right.  You can see the camellia and the cool lantern we had made for us out of wrought iron.  It helps light up the small deck you can see below it.  In the back is a large Radicans cryptomeria which will dominate the area in years to come.

A few more steps bring us to this shot of the deck, with the lawn and the house in the background.  This little deck is a sweet place to hang out and read or just listen to the sounds of the fountain next to it (you can’t see it here).  The upper deck by the house is a great place to spend some time sunbathing in private, and is a good place to have company over for cookouts.

Full circle – this is a shot of the walkway we entered the back garden through.  The bare tree on the left is an “Eddie’s White Wonder” dogwood just about to burst into bloom.  It got Anthracnose last year so we’re spraying it with Neem oil every week or so to try to eradicate it.  It won’t kill the tree but it looks terrible as the summer progresses.  I hope we can kill it off!

Here we circle back to the inner yard to see the veggie gardens and the greenhouse on your left.  The water barrel gives us enough to water the greenhouse most of the year, except in summer when it doesn’t rain. (Yes, we have Very dry summers here!)

A closer view of the greenhouse.  You can see the seed starting bed on the left with its plastic cover that holds in the moisture and heat to help the seeds germinate.  I put the curtain over the lower part of the door so I can go out and work in the greenhouse naked without spooking the neighbors.  I do it outdoors too when they’re all gone.  More on that later on!

Here’s one of the veggie gardens.  We planted the trees and heathers along the north end to tie the beds to the other parts of the garden.  We lost some planting space but still have plenty of room for many crops.  The bees love the heather flowers and they help pollinate the garden.  We grew enough onions and carrots last year that we’re still eating them today.  It’s so yummy to grow your own food.  We even have some Kale that overwintered in the back by the fence.  Sweet and tasty!

This is the last shot.  It shows how the veggie gardens and the ornamental ones merge with the path through the lawn between them.  We have gates on all sides of the garden to be able to visit the neighbors.  So far we’ve had good ones, though we’re waiting to see who buys the house next door.  They all help make this a great neighborhood to live in!

So that’s the tour.  Sorry it was an overcast day, but I hope the photos came out well enough for you to see what I was hoping to show you.  It’s an exciting time in the garden now with so many plants bursting with their new spring blossoms and others just breaking dormancy and starting to leaf out.  It’ll all look so different in a few weeks as the trees put on their new summer leaves and the other plants continue to bloom.  It’s such a joy to be in a garden in the Spring!

May your own gardens grow bountifully!

Steve

When it Snows in Seattle

The Back Garden

From the Street

The Fountain with Red Pygmy Japanese Maple behind

Tuscan Blue Rosemary

Waterfall Dissectum Japanese Maple

Weeping Giant Sequoia, Dwarf Swamp Cypress, Rasen Cryptomeria

Cryptomeria Radicans

Hinoki Cypress

Metasequoia Miss Grace, Ginkgo Jade Butterflies

Maupin Glow Incense Cedar

Sango-Kaku Japanese Maple

Ginkgo, Cryptomeria Elegans

Charity Mahonia (so sad…)

It rarely snows this much in Seattle.  But today we have over 10″ here in our garden.  Not bad by Midwestern or East Coast standards, but here in Washington the Governor called a State of Emergency because it’s so bad all over the state.  I bravely (!!??) ventured out to take some photos before the wind blew all the snow off – it won’t melt for days because more snow is predicted for today and for the next week or so.  We’re glad the power and water are still on, and we’re well stocked with food and drink, and have generators and even extra water.  (We’re trying to be prepared for the Big One that’s going to hit the PNW one day, hopefully not in our lifetimes!!)

Most of the plants will recover from the snow when it melts, but the last picture of the Mahonia shows a plant in serious distress.  I tried to pull it back up but it’s frozen in this position.  We may lose it, as well as the huge Winter Daphne in the front yard.  It’ll be hard to lose either one of them, and both at once will make me crazy.  But you can’t control the weather as all gardeners know.  I guess we’ll just have to grin and bear it.  After all it’s not bad here compared to how it could be.  At least it’s only in the 20’s and teens, not below zero!  We know we got it good….

Hope everyone dealing with snow is doing OK, and not freezing their butts off!  Stay safe!

Steve

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

The Heart of the Garden

This fountain is in the approximate geographical center of our little Garden Sanctuary.  But it’s more than that.  As a water element it’s truly the heart of the garden – what else could that be but water?  It’s the life force that the plants need most to survive and thrive, as do we.  This is a bit of a shrine to those water energies.  It also serves as a focal point to draw all the disparate elements of the garden together.  Its gentle babbling sounds are just like a small stream in the forest, which this area is slowly becoming, tho a small forest I’ll admit.

We like to sit on the deck behind it and read or just sit and visit.  It’s lovely to have the fountain as a backdrop to our conversations.  It’s a very peaceful and calming place to be.  It’s one of my favorite spots in the garden, for all these reasons, and more.  Water has always been special to me and I love to hear its gentle sounds.  It’s so healing to just hang out here and allow yourself to fall under its spell for awhile.  There’s a small stone path that leads to the fountain.  I stand there and just appreciate all the beauty.

In effect we’ve created a little grotto here and it’s filled with all sorts of cool plants to enhance that feeling of being enclosed in a small private space.  The plants around it, in spiral fashion radiating out from the left hand corner are: a purple leaved Helmond’s Pillar Japanese Barberry next to the straight stems of a relatively fastigiate form of the Persian Ironwood tree named Vanessa.  There is a Japanese Tassel Fern at its base and small Alpine Water Ferns covering the floor all around it.  Behind these and above the ferns is a Red Tip Alpine Yew Pine, with a Ken Janeck Rhododendron at its foot.

Right behind the fountain is a Red Pygmy Japanese maple, with a lush stand of Japanese Forest Grass right below it.  In back and to the right of it are a few branches of a Diana Japanese Larch that is just starting to turn golden.  The whorled plant next to it in back is a Japanese Umbrella Pine cultivar called Wintergreen.  To its right is an Anna Rose Whitney Rhododendron with a bit of the Radicans Sugi showing to the right of it.  The red tree is a  Bloodgood Japanese Maple and the evergreen at its base is an Amersfoort English (some say Japanese) Yew.  The ground cover in the middle is our native Wild Ginger, while the whitish plant in the foreground is Euonymous Emerald Gaiety.

There are still a few more plants you can’t see, like a Bow Bells Rhododendron, and a small Lawrence Crocker Daphne.  Near it is another beautiful small fern – the Dwarf Crisped Golden Scale Male Fern – a huge name for a 12″ plant!  You can’t see the Western Bleeding Heart that comes up every spring because it’s dormant now, tho it fills the area in front quite well then.  There are also some areas of white flowered Sweet Woodruff here and there.  There’s a tiny patch of Victor Reite Thrift and on the left is an imposing Kelley’s Prostrate Coast Redwood that creates a large part of the feeling of enclosure.  And finally there’s a wispy Toffee Twist Sedge at the base of the Barberry.

I haven’t listed any botanical names this time in the interests of brevity, which I seem to have failed at anyway.  Oh well, I know I do ramble on about plants, but I get so excited about them all I can’t seem to help myself.  I’m a little manic about them I guess.  I love to know their names.  It makes me feel closer to them as friends.  I like to just hang out in this grotto and meditate on the gentler aspects of a garden.  It’s a good place to do that because the energies of the plants and the water are so strong here.  You definitely feel it all surround you and know they are the ones who own this little Sanctuary, not you.  It can be a humbling experience if you let it be…

peace,

Steve

Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendulum”

12/2009 – at planting

5/2011 – after one year’s growth

11/2012 – tied up to keep it straight

 

11/2013 – wonky top develops

4/2014 – another view

9/2015 – bending over a bit

7/2016 – heading north

10/2017 – lots of bends in it

9/2018  –  going up straight again, sort of

9/2018 – from the ground up

This is a cultivar of the largest tree in the world – the Big Tree, Giant Sequoia, Sierra Redwood, or Wellingtonia – many names for one amazing tree.  It can grow over 350 feet tall with a girth of over 30′.  Wow…  This version is a smaller “dwarf” that only grows up to 35 or 40 feet tall.  The tree near it in the next to last photo I recently measured at 22′, so the Sequoiadendron must be close to 30′ or more now.  It’s so hard to tell from the ground without surveyors tools.  I especially like the last photo which I took standing at the base of the tree looking up.  It’s sort of a Jack in the Beanstalk picture to me.  Imagine climbing up it!  Pretty awesome.

These trees are native to a small area of the Sierra Nevada mountains in central California.  There are only a few groves of Giant Redwoods left and they are protected in National Parks or Sanctuaries now, tho in the past they logged them, if you can believe the nerve!!  They were so big that they shattered when they fell so they eventually gave up on that, tho they cut down far too many.  Personally I think that logging old growth trees, of any kind, should be a crime – seriously.  There aren’t many of these giants left and once they’re gone they’re gone forever, or for several thousand years anyway.  I’ve loved these Redwoods since I was a kid and my family visited them for picnics in the Sierras near where we lived.  They’re my friends, so to cut them down and kill them is murder in my book.  Just my personal opinion…

This cultivar was found in a garden in France around 1863.  They’re now growing all over the world in temperate climate zones, and are considered one of natures unique oddities.  They are often referred to as Ghost Trees because they look so otherworldly in the fog and give the impression of some spook.  It’s pretty cool to see a grove of them!

As you can see it grows really fast.  It only has 9 years of growth on it so far and it’s gotten this big.  I apparently didn’t take too many photos of it when it was young, unfortunately, but I have enough to give you an idea of how it develops.  This one is pretty straight but many twist and turn back on themselves in all manner of directions.  I had to tie this one to the plum tree near it to keep it somewhat straight and off the path next to it.  But it curves as it will and it once headed into the neighbors yard but is now coming back into ours.  People always comment on this tree when they visit our garden, and I’m very pleased with it.  It’s kinda quirky, like I am.  It suits me.  🙂

Save the Redwoods!!

Steve

Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret” II

7/9/2011

8/23/2012

9/16/2013

8/13/2014

9/10/2015

7/18/2016

B4iKKBYvSX+CyBwuLw6I8w_thumb_50e3

10/10/2017

7/2/2018

 

I know I’ve done this tree before, (https://gardeningingreenwood.wordpress.com/taxodium-distichum-peve-minaret/) but it’s grown so much since then I just had to show it off again.  (That’s what I said last time!  I don’t want to repeat myself too much so if you want to know a lot more about this tree go to the link.)  This is a dwarf version of our native Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), so called because it loses its leaves in the fall.  You wouldn’t know that to look at them would you?  A deciduous conifer is quite a rarity, as there are only a handful in the world.  I have 2 others – a Metasequoia and a Larch. All of them are amazing and unique trees.  

It’s native to the SE portion of the united States and is a magnificent tree that grows to 100-120 feet tall.  The largest one known is 145′ tall and another is 1,620 years old, making it one of the oldest tree species in North America.  It’s also known for putting up “knees” in the swamp water it so often grows in – for support I understand, not oxygen as some have thought.  (like me…).  The wood is very water resistant and lasts for generations so it’s known as “wood eternal”.  It’s needles turn a beautiful orange brown color in the fall, tho I have to say mine isn’t as beautiful as the species I’ve seen.  It was discovered by a nurseryman name Pete Vergeldt in the Netherlands in 1990 as a seedling in his stock.  You never know what you might find among this years crop!

I call it one of my “pettable trees’ because the foliage gets so nice and soft like ferns, and just begs to be touched.  It’s now 11 1/2′ tall, as of this morning, but it started out as only 5′.  So in the 8 years it’s been here it’s put on almost 10” a year, tho it seems much faster.  That’s probably because it’s gotten so incredibly wide.  It’s over 9 feet across!  In any event, it’s large for a dwarf that all the garden sites online predict will be less than 10′ x 4′, tho some have the courtesy to tell you it may get to 20 feet tall, perhaps.  That’d be splendid for us if it doesn’t interfere too much with the giant sequoia next door, and who knows who will win that one?  I have a few such challenging interactions in the garden from ignorant and overzealous planting at times.   So I prune and tie a bit here and there to alleviate the pressure.  It seems to be working so far… 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this latest update on a lovely tree,

Steve

Chamaecyparis obtusa

11/15/08

10/16/10

6/24/11

11/24/12

7/11/13

7/29/15

8/27/16

2/11/17

6/16/18

 

There are literally hundreds of cultivars of this tree, the Hinoki false cypress, but this is the original species from which all the others come.  It’s supposed to be a slow growing tree, but in looking at these pictures it seems to me it’s grown moderately fast.  Not like the ones that grow 3′ a year of course, but well over a foot, maybe a foot and 1/2 per year. That’s not bad.  It’s one of the first trees I planted in this garden, before I actually moved in to live with Louie.  I’m very pleased with how it’s grown.  It’s almost up to the roof line now, and it’s going to get bigger.

Projections for heights of this tree are difficult to ascertain because there are so many different opinions, but it probably will get to around 40′ tall and 15-20 feet wide here in our garden, in 20 or 25 more years that is.  The ones in the wild grow well over 100′ tall, with a trunk of over 3′ in diameter.  It has beautiful reddish brown bark that you can see in the next to last of these photos.  Its specific name is “obtusa” because the ends of the scale like leaves are blunt tipped (obtuse) which you can easily see when you look closely at them, especially on some of the cultivars.

It’s called the Fire Tree in Japan, where it’s native.  Its lemony scented, light brown wood is used to build temples, palaces, shrines and even table tennis blades!  It, along with Sugi (Cryptomeria), is a major cause of hay fever in Japan.  It’s routinely planted in parks and gardens there and elsewhere in temperate climates, including the US and Europe, though the cultivars are planted far more often than this species tree.  In fact I’ve seen very few of this one, tho I’ve seen dozens of the cultivars and have several here in our garden.  The cultivars, and even the species tree, are often chosen for Bonsai, and some beautiful specimens exist that are hundreds of years old.  I’m very fond of all of them that I’ve seen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about the tree that all the little ones come from,

Steve

 

4 Very Dwarf Conifers

Cryptomeria japonica “Ryokogu Coyokyu”

Cryptomeria japonica “Tansu”

Cryptomeria japonica “Pygmaea”

Chamaecyparis obtusa “Nana”

 

I have many dwarf conifers, but these are the smallest. None of these will get over 12-18″ tall and wide. They’re all getting to be near that size now and it’s taken them years to get this big. There are dwarf conifers smaller than these here, not by too much. I’m especially fond of little things in the garden. You have to really look for them to appreciate them. They don’t jump out at you like the bigger forms do.  The Cryptomerias I’ve shown you are but a small fraction of the many cultivars of this tree available, and some of the smallest selections, so far as I know, tho it’s not an exhaustive sampling by any means. These are just what I happen to have. The Chamaecyparis is a Hinoki and it’s supposed to be the smallest form around, but I doubt it. There are literary hundreds of cultivars of them as well as the Cryptomerias so I’m sure there are littler ones too. Both of these trees are revered in Japan  – Cryptomeria is the national tree and Hinoki is used to build temples. I’m so glad to have these little gems to provide a pixie’s eye view of the garden. It’s a small world after all…

Stop and look at the little things in your world – you’ll be delighted at what you see!

Steve

Kelly’s Prostrate Coast Redwood

This little treasure is a dwarf form of the tallest tree in the world – the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens “Kelly’s Prostrate”).  They grow along the coast of northern California and a ways up into Oregon.  They can grow up to 380 feet tall and live for 1,200 to 1,800 years or more.  This dwarf cultivar is only 2′ tall and measures about 8′ long and 7′ wide.  I bought it in a 10 gallon pot and it was 3-4′ across then, but only 8″ tall. That was in June, 2010 so it’s been in the garden for exactly 8 years, and My how it has grown!  It loves the moist peaty soils we have here, and I spray it often because the leaves are used to getting much of their moisture from fog in their native habitats.  I paid more for it than any other plant I’ve ever purchased –  over $200!!  And, yes, I am a bit crazy, at least for this plant! 🙂

I’ve loved redwoods since I was a kid and we don’t have the room for the huge species so this is the perfect choice for us.  It’s covered with fresh new growth right now and looks incredibly attractive.  It even smells like redwoods!  We’ve had friends think it was a giant fern because of its soft aspect.  It’s one of several unusual dwarf conifers we have in our little Nature Sanctuary.  But this one is the prize for me.  I hope you find it as beautiful as I do.

Save the Redwoods!

Steve

Contrasts

I love this little scene.  I’m always impressed with the way the colors, textures and forms compliment one another and create an interesting tableau. From the left, the plants in this picture are a white and green Winter Creeper (Euonymus fortunei “Emerald Gaiety”) and in the center, all gloriously purple, (even in the shade which I wasn’t sure would happen since so many colored plants lose their color in the shade, especially the deciduous ones – conifers seem to do better…)  is a Helmond’s Pillar, or Columnar, Barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Helmond Pillar”).  In the center the brown grassy thing is a wild looking Toffee Twist Sedge ( Carex flagellifera “Toffee Twist”), that has grown this big from a 4″ pot in just Two Years!  And to the right is a dark green Spreading English Yew (Taxus baccata “Repandens”).  In the back in the center is the trunk of an Italian Plum we harvest each year for its delicious fruit.  We also give a lot away to the City Fruit organization that gives them to food banks around the area.  Way cool…

I’ve tried to arrange my plantings so that the colors contrast nicely or maybe just compliment one another in form and texture, as you can see in this picture.  It’s a harmonious way to arrange things and I have lots of different plants that congregate here in this little Nature Sanctuary.   At the moment I think we have around 220 different cultivars, species or varieties in this garden that is only a few hundred feet square overall.  I just love so many plants that I’ve gone a bit crazy and collected as many of my favorites as possible.  I’ve also found new favorites to add to the pile.  Whew!!  But now I’m just about out of room for anything larger than flowers, so I’m going to concentrate on them in the future.  Bulbs are so mysterious and cool, annuals rock every summer and perennials share their beauty with us year after year.  I’ll have plenty to do…

What a glorious thing a garden is!  So much to see and to marvel at.  It truly nurtures my soul just to see it all from the house, and to walk among the trees and shrubs as they get bigger and bigger each year.  Louie and I both feel so lucky to have even this small space to garden in and to enjoy the freedom to express our personalities through our gardening.  Who could ask for more??  (Well I could, but that’s for my other blog, Naked Nerves, so I won’t go there now… 😉

Creating compelling contrasts,

Steve

April Flowers

How could I start with anything but Daffodils??  These are called “Tete a Tete” and have multiplied for 3 years now.  So nice at the entrance to the house.

A Goshiki Kotohime Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Goshiki Kotohime”).  The name of this beautiful maple means 5 colored Old Harp for the multi hued leaves as it opens up, and for the Koto, a traditional Japanese instrument that is harp like.  It’s the first Japanese maple to leaf out every spring and has grown in this pot for years now.  I hope it does so for awhile longer cause I can’t figure out how to get it out!!

A PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”). This is a very early Rhodie that is just vibrant with its color.  It adds some bright color into the grey days of Spring and brings some beauty to the front garden.

I wish I could let you smell this one.  It’s a Winter Daphne (Daphne odora “Marginata”) and is one of the most fragrant plants in the garden world.  We can smell it all over the front yard, even when we walk up onto the front porch.  It’s a classic!

This is a Prostrate Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Prostratus”).  It’s a weeper that sometimes falls over the edge of the wall here.  But it occasionally freezes back – it’s only mostly hardly.  It’s very fragrant to touch.

This is another Rosemary – one that most people would more easily recognize than the last one.  It’s a Tuscan Blue Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Tuscan Blue”).  It’s notable for having been introduced to the plant world by the noted author and traveler Vita Sackville-West.  It’s delightful to brush by this plant and smell it on your hands as you walk away.

This is what’s known as a species Rhododendron.  That means it’s not a cultivar but rather one found in nature, (tho this one is a cultivar of the native (confused yet?).  It’s a Rock Rose Rhododendron (Rhododendron racemosum “Rock Rose”). I’ve tried to grow this plant for several years, but they keep dying on me.  This one was trashed by the raccoons that ran over it from the old garage next door.  I put re-bar around it and that solved the problem, but I still sorta wanted to eat raccoon for dinner that night!  (Not really….!)

This is a unique plant.  It’s called a Zig Zag Camellia (Camellia japonica “Unryu”).  The name means “Dragon in the Clouds”.  The branches all grow at 45 degree angles to each other.  It’s very interesting to watch it become itself.  Lovely flowers too.

A lovely specimen of Lily of the Valley shrub (Pieris japonica Mountain Fire”).  The new growth is fiery red and looks like flowers it’s so bright.   The flowers are fragrant and are bell shaped – the hallmark of plants in the Ericaceae – the Heath and Heather family, which also includes blueberries and rhododendrons as well as many other familiar plants.

Near the Pieris is this lovely Blue Diamond Rhododendron (Rhododendron “Blue Diamond”), another early blooming one.  There aren’t a lot of Rhodies that are this kind of blue or purple, so it’s unique for us here.  It stays small.

Next to the Rhodie is this Pink Icicle Camellia (Camellia hybrid “Pink Icicle”).  We got this as a large plant and it’s put on several more feet of growth in the last few years.  It blooms early and has lovely pink blossoms with orange centers.

This one is subtle, but I wanted to include it because it’s a wonderful plant.  It shows how the color develops first on the buds.  It’s a Hino Crimson Azalea (Azalea kurume “Hino Crimson”).  It’s a brilliant scarlet red when it blooms and is covered almost totally with tiny bright red flowers.

No flowers here.  This is a Crimson Pygmy Barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Atropurpurea Nana”).  I’m showing it for the purple new growth.  It leafs out early and looks very nice next to the rock path beside it.

I love this one.  It’s a Howard McMinn Manzanita (Arctostaphyllos densiflora “Howard McMinn”). It has wonderful brownish red bark that I’ve exposed by pruning up the branches.  This smells so sweet and is prized by the bees and hummers, and by people too!!  Manzanita means “little apple” in Spanish and some of the species have small red orbs after the flowers leave, but not this one.  Too bad…

This is a big one, and again no flowers.  It’s a Diana Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”).  I’m showing it for the light green needles it’s rapidly covering itself with.  They look so delicate but this tree is very hardy.  It’s put on some 13 feet in the last 3 years alone!  I can’t wait to see what it becomes!

This tree is the first to leaf out in the whole garden.  It’s a Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”.)  It’s another fast grower and has gotten to this size in only 4-5 years.  It turns a striking color of reddish orange in early fall.

Here’s the last one – an Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifoloium).  It has these wonderfully bright yellow flowers in early spring, then they turn into edible blue berries.  Even people eat the fruit but it’s the birds who love them.  But they’re a bit dangerous to be around – they’re prickly – and Louie keeps threatening to blow them up with dynamite cause they scratch him when he mows the lawn.  But I won’t let him…  Obviously…

This is just the beginning of the flowers to come, but I wanted to give you a taste of what it looks like around here this time of year.  After a dull grey Seattle winter with little color, it’s so exciting to see all these flowers and leaf colors now, and it’s just glorious.  Everyone loves flowers don’t they?  I hope you do!!

Happy Spring!!

Steve

Cryptomeria “Radicans”

Cryptomeria japonica “Radicans”, or Radicans Sugi as it’s called in Japan, is one of my favorite trees in our little nature sanctuary, and one of the two tallest growing trees we have.  This one will eventually get to 45 or 50 feet tall in time, and not too long a time really,  as you can see in the following  pictures.  It grows very fast and loves the wet peat soil we have here in our garden.  We got this tree in a big box from a nursery in Oklahoma.  I couldn’t find it locally so I went on the web. It was 4’11” tall in this tiny pot it came in.  It’s gotten a lot bigger since then.  It’s one of the larger growing of the several hundred cultivars of Cryptomeria.

Cryptomeria, or Sugi, is the national tree of Japan, and grows well over 150 feet tall in its native habitats.  One story of it I like is that of a feudal vassal who wanted to honor his Lord, but didn’t have the funds to do it the way he wanted to.  So he planted an avenue of these trees that was several miles long.  Today it’s a prized site of huge trees for visitors to marvel at.  This tree is quite unique – the only species of its genus (maybe – there’s some disagreement among botanists).  It used to be in the same family as the Redwoods, which it resembles – especially the Giant Sequoia.  In fact it still is, but now it’s the Cupressaceae, instead of the more descriptive one of Taxodiaceae (my bias.)  They use the bark to side temples and shrines, as well as using the wood for all sorts of construction.

This is taken shortly after we planted it in June of 2013.  It looks so tiny there now but even in its first year it grew well over a foot and 1/2, not bad for a new planting.  It replaced an old cherry tree that died on us, a very sad event, so we wanted a fast grower to fill the spot left by the cherries absence.

This was taken in November of the same year, 2013, and shows the growth it put on in that time.  I left all the lower branches on at first to give the tree as much sunshine as it could get in its first year.

This is February 2014, after I pruned it up to begin the process of raising the skirt so we could eventually walk under it.  I haven’t had to prune is since then, but will surely have to at some point in the next few years.

This was taken in July of the same year – 2014 – and you can see how much it’s grown.  It actually put on 3 feet of growth that year.  It totally amazed and thrilled me, as you can imagine.  It’s living up to its reputation as a fast growing tree.

This is in the same year, but in October, after it’s put on even more top growth.  It’s about 9 1/2 feet tall now.

I  took this picture in May of 2015 – the year after the previous photo.  It’s beginning to put on the seasons growth.  It’s getting wider now and filling out more, and the skirt is still the same height as when I first pruned it up.

It’s much fuller now in August of 2015.  Amazing how much it’s grown in just 3 months isn’t it?  It’s beginning to look  more like a real tree.

This is taken in late winter, February of 2016.  It hasn’t grown much since the last photo but you can see the trunk better.  It’s still pretty skinny for such a tall tree, but it’s getting thicker every year.

A few more months and it’s added more growth by the time this photo was taken in July of 2016.  Look at it next to the light post and you can see it grow as the photos go on.

See what I mean about the post?   This is just 2 months more growth in September of 2016.  It’s starting to look a lot fuller now and the whole area is filling out along with it.

This is taken from a different angle and shows the undergrowth well.  This is in July of 2017, just over a year or so ago.  I’m being continually amazed by the growth this tree is putting on.  It’s getting way too big for me to measure it with my measuring stick anymore, but I’d guess it’s at least 16 or 17 feet tall by now.

By October of 2017 it’s even taller – probably 18 or 20 feet now.  That means it’s grown an average of 3 feet a year for it’s 5 years of life here in our garden.  Wow…  When I stand next to it and look up it’s starting to feel like the top is really far away now.

Here it is last month – February 2018.  It hasn’t really grown much since the last photo but it has all sorts of pollen on it that scattered all over the place during the winter.  In Japan it’s a prime source of allergies, so I hope it doesn’t do that too badly to us.  Both of us have allergies to things like this, but that’s the price you pay for such sylvan beauty!

No, this isn’t our tree.   It’s a specimen of the actual species of Cryptomeria japonica that’s growing in the lawn of the Quinalt Lodge in the Quinalt Rain Forest on the central coast of Washington.  We were there just last week and of course I had to take a picture of this tree.  The Lodge was built in 1926 and the tree was planted soon after, so it’s about 90 years old now.  We figure it’s about 80 or 90 feet tall, maybe more.  Not quite as tall as the native spruces and Douglas firs, or even the redwoods they also planted, but it’s still magnificent.  Ours won’t ever get this big, more like half of it, I hope…

So that’s some of the story of this beautiful tree.  I’m continually impressed with the beauty of it and how fast it’s taken its place in our landscape.  The cherry was a big loss and now this tree is slowly filling that gap.  It’s not that big yet but it will get even bigger than the cherry was so it’ll do it quite well in time.  It’s only supposed to get 15-20 feet wide, and I hope that’s true, but it’ll probably get wider.  You just can’t trust the labels, or even the descriptions on the websites.  Not a problem tho.  It’ll get the size it’ll get and that’s just the way it is.  Might as well love it…

Some day I’ll do a post on all the Cryptomerias I have here in our little Nature Sanctuary –  a dozen or so of them now – and show how varied they can really be.  But this will do for now.  Thank you for visiting me and I hope you enjoyed this exploration as much as I enjoyed presenting it.

For all the Sugis everywhere,

Steve

NW Flower and Garden Festival

As I mentioned in my last post Louie and I spent several hours the other day at the NW Flower and Garden Festival.  It’s celebrating its 30th year as America’s largest family-owned garden themed show.  It’s truly amazing!   There are a number of of demonstration gardens, which are what I’ll be showing you here.  But there’s also a huge marketplace with hundreds of vendors selling all manner of garden products, as well as miscellaneous show type stuff.   There’s also a large plant market with a number of specialty nurseries who offer miniature conifers, bulbs and tubers, even Japanese maples.  I could only handle it for a few hours before sensory overload hit and we had to leave.  But I got a lot of good pictures and I want to share them with you here.

All of these gardens were created by dedicated teams of volunteers in just the 72 hours preceding the show!  Incredible!  Of course none of them would make it outdoors as planted – they’re not meant as literal gardens themselves and their job is to showcase various themes and styles rather than an actual garden design.  They move in literally tons of rock, soil, mulch and of course hundreds of plants, ranging from a few inches to 20 feet or more tall.  I always get a lot of ideas for my own garden, but of course it’s already so over-planted I don’t really have room for more.  But next year I’ll plan ahead better and get some bulbs at least.  But then the reason we go is just to enjoy the sights.  I hope you do too!

OK, thats about it.  It’d be nice if I’d been able to remember each display, but I didn’t have writing materials and it would have been too hard to remember each one anyway.  But I hope that just the designs themselves will be satisfying for you, as it was for me.  If you have a garden show in your area please do find time to go to it.  You’ll be supporting a good cause and be able to see some amazing garden displays and get your own ideas for your garden at home.  It’s worth the trip.

Happy Viewing,

Steve

Winter Foliage

There aren’t many flowers blooming in the garden in Winter, so we look to the ones with colored foliage to give us some interest in the garden this time of year.  A couple of these change color with the cold during the change of seasons, but most of them are colored all year long.  But they’re especially valued in this otherwise rather drab season.

This Cryptomeria elegans is one that changes from a lush green in summer to this lovey purple in winter.  It’s one of the fastest growers in the garden.  It’s only 8 years old and has grown over 20 feet in that time.  The bark is a beautiful reddish brown that adds even more color to it.  It’s one of my favorite plants in the garden all year, but it’s especially nice now.

From one of the tallest plants in the garden to one of  the smallest.   This is a small patch of Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogan planiscapus “Nigrescens”).  It’s this lovely black all year long, one of only a few black plants I know of.  This clump is by the back gate and under a weeping purple beech.  You can’t see them much in the summer, tho what you can see goes well with the purple beech.  So this is their time to shine.  The silver globe is an old cannon ball we painted,  just for fun.  Art is everywhere…

Here’s’ a large one that is easily recognizable  – a Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens “Glauca”).  A common enough plant but its blue is so beautiful all year it’s a treat to have all the time.  It’s in the front yard and provides a nice focal point to the corner of the garden.  It gets big and it’s very prickly – the specific name “pungens” mean sharp, so I’ll have to prune it carefully so we can walk by it safely.

This is another small one – a Morgan’s Chinese arborvitae (Thuja orientalis “Morgan”).  I didn’t even know there were arborvitae in Asia so this was a treat to find in a nursery when I was looking for a yellow plant to provide some bright color in the front yard.  It won’t grow to be more than 3′ x 2′ and it’ll take it years to get that big.  That’s OK because I love dwarf conifers and have a lot of them.

This is another one that changes color with the colder weather.  It’s a Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”), and not only offers us a beautiful color change but also these lovely bright red berries.  Unfortunately they’re not good bird food but they sure are nice eye candy.  This is at the corner of the entrance to the yard so it gets viewed all the time by passers by.  You can see it a block away.

This one shows two plants in one shot, really three if you count the tiny Iris reticulata by the Blue star Juniper (Juniperus squamata “Blue Star”) at the top of the picture.  The juniper is always this nice blue but the one in the front is the really cool one to me.  It’s a Toffee Twist Sedge (Carex flagillifera “Toffee Twist”) and it’s gotten to this size in one year from a 4″ pot!  We step on its leaves all the time so it stays “trimmed”, and that seems to work OK.

Here’s another nice blue one.  It’s a Snow White Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Snow White”).  It’s a nice columnar plant and it works well at the corner of the yard by the gate.  It grows very slowly and will only get 6′ tall they say, and it’s almost that tall now, so I think it may get bigger.  It’s also blue all year, even in the shade where most colored plants won’t color well.  It’s very soft to the touch and has upright branching, as opposed to the shaggy downward branching of the species.

This is another one that changes color in the fall and winter.  It’s a PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”) and turns this nice purple in winter.  It’s an early bloomer and will be in bloom in the not too distant future.  It has wonderful bright pinkish purple flowers that stand out nicely against the dark green of the pyramidal arborvitae behind it. It’ll get 5′ tall in time.

One of the few golden plant we have, this is a Daniellow Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Golden Spire”).  It grows a foot and a half a year and will get to 20′ in time.  It’s a cultivar of the most useful tree of the Pacific Northwest, as far as the native people were concerned.  It’s their “Buffalo” as far as the many uses they had for it.  The species is a huge tree and covers miles of land in this area of the world.  It’s very cool to have this as a reminder of the big ones.

One last blue one.  This is a Sawara False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera “Baby Blue”) and will get to about 6 feet tall, which it almost is now, so it may get bigger.  It’s at the corner of what I used to call the Heather bed, but the heathers mostly died in the big freeze of last winter so I dunno what to call it now.  Just a nice planting bed I guess.  Some spider mites or something bad got into it last year and we lost the back half of it, but I was able to cover it up with other branches.  A sweet, soft little plant.

So that’s it for now.  I have more but they aren’t big enough to show off yet.  Maybe in a few years I’ll do this again.  Probably.  It’s so nice to have these colorful creatures in the garden now to bring some winter cheer into our lives when we walk in the garden during these days of grey and overcast skies.   I hope you enjoyed seeing them and that I gave you some ideas of how to color up your own winter garden!

Colorfully good wishes,  Steve

Welcome to Our Home

I really did mean to publish this when I took it back in October.  But life was too busy then and I just never got around to it.   But it’s a nice image of the entrance to our house and I wanted to put it into the blog, so here it is, a bit late but still beautiful.

From the left the plants here are:  the Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum Sango-Kaku), turning its lovely golden fall colors here.  It’s only about 7 1/2 years old and has grown really fast.  I trained it to be narrow at the bottom so we could still walk past it to the steps and into the garden to its right.  It forms a nice arch to enter beneath.

Next to it is a cultivar of the Austrian Black Pine called an Oregon Green Pine.  It’s been here for 8 years and is expected to get twice its present size.  It has beautiful white candles on it in the spring.  It forms the other half of the arch to walk under to get into the garden.

The tree in the back is a Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschonoskii ssp. Koreanum).  It’s only been here for 3 1/2 years and has grown about 8 feet in that time.  It turns this beautiful reddish orange fall color and is the first tree to change color.  It’s also the first tree to leaf out in the spring and the first to lose it leaves in the fall as well.  Balance I guess.

Below it is a gray green Pfitzer Juniper (Juniperus chinensis “pfitzeriana”).  It’s one that Louie planted over 30 years ago.  It’d be huge now but I keep it cut back so we can walk the path and drive into the driveway.  Louie wants to dynamite it but I’ve got him to hold off so far with some selective pruning.  They do get large tho, and it’s going to be a constant chore as time goes on.

Above the juniper is a hedge of Pyramidal Arborvitae (Thuja occidentals “Pyrimadalis”).   Louie planted these over 30 years ago as well and they were only in gallon cans then.  They form a dense screen across the front of the garden so that it’s very private inside it all.  It’s a peaceful place to hang out in any time in the year.

The ones at the far right are a line of Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”).   They’re interspersed with Oregon grape across the front of the garden and were some of the first plants I planted here in 2008.  The nandinas turn this amazing purple red in the fall and winter and you can see the colors from way down the block as you drive towards us. They have brilliant red berries on them in winter but they aren’t edible, even by the birds.  Go figure…

That’s the entrance to our home.  We hope to see you coming up the walk one of these days to visit.  You’ll be very welcome here.  Cheers!

A Bit Of A Garden Tour

Entering the Front Garden under a Japanese Maple & Oregon Green PineThe Maple you enter under – Sango-Kaku, Wissel’s Saguaro Cypress to the left

In the middle of the front garden – Dwarf Hinoki Cypress, Red Fox KatsuraMoving along – Waterfall Maple, SarcococcaAt the end of it – Korean Butterfly Maple, Blue SpruceHeading into the Back Yard – Eddie’s White Wonder DogwoodThe whole thing

4 year old SweetBay Magnolia, Blueberries in color

The north side – Pine, Golden cedar, Black Dragon Sugi, Rasen Sugi, Taxodium, SequoiadendronIn the back corner – Japanese Umbrella Pine, Alberta SpruceJapanese Larch “Diana”Elegans SugiFrom the other side – Jade Butterflies Ginkgo in frontBack thru the garden – Baby Blue Cypress, Howard McMinn ManzanitaA dwarf Sequoia – Kelley’s ProstrateThe Persian Ironwood above it – VanessaThe Inner Glade – the FountainExiting the garden and returning to the real world. Bye, Steve

Deciduous Conifers

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Of the few deciduous conifers that exist on this planet the Larch, or Larix, is probably the best known.  There are some 11 species of it that grow from the Western US across the to the Atlantic seaboard and others that grow across Europe to Siberia and into the Himalayas and beyond to China and Japan.  The one I’m showing you here is a form of the Japanese Larch, Larix kaempferi, called “Diana”.  It’s a uniquely contorted form that bends and twists as it grows fast to a small tree of maybe 30 feet tall, in not much time, given that it’s grown 3 – 3 1/2 feet for the last two years I’ve had it and it’s still growing this year.  It turns an amazing golden yellow in fall and can be seen from the house it’s so bright and clear in its color.

We won’t get much shade from this tree but its form and texture makes up for that quite well.   This tree is in the Pinaceae, or Pine family, along with another of these deciduous conifers called the Pseudolarix, or Golden larch.  It’s not a true larch but sure does look like one. Another great tree for fall color too.  It goes bare in the fall too.  So don’t be shocked when that lovely conifer you have in the front yard loses its leaves in the autumn.  They’ll come back in the spring all feathery and bright green and new.

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This tree in the Cypress family, or Cupressaceae, is well know in the south eastern parts of the US.  It’s a variety of the  Swamp Cypress that inhabits the swamps and wetlands of that area. This is the Taxodium distichum variety called a “Peve Minaret” for the developer of it in Holland.   This is a dwarf form of the tree that will only grow to 10-20 feet tall, depending on which web site you read.  I’ve only seen them get to 10 feet or so myself so we’ll see how it goes. The species tree grows to 100 -150 feet and is a valuable timber tree for commerce in its native habitat.  The wood is known for its ability to withstand rot, as is true with many plants in the Cypress family.  Not surprising, as it grows in water.  It also develops “knees”, or roots that come up above the water line.  Very cool…

This tree turns a lovely shade of orangish brown before it drops its needles in late fall.  It’s late to leaf out in the spring too but the foliage is such a treat it’s well worth the wait.  It’s one of my “pettable” trees because it’s so soft to the touch and easy to be around.  Not prickly like so many conifers are.  This tree is only 5 years old from a 5 ft tree, and it’s now over 10 feet tall and 7 feet across so it’s going to get much bigger in time.  Maybe  it’ll get to that 20 ft. mark.  I’d like that, but since it only puts on about a foot each year, as is typical for many mid sized dwarf trees, it’ll take another 1o years or more to get there.  I can wait…

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This one is perhaps my favorite tree in the garden.  Maybe.  I have so many I love.  This is a variety of the famous Dawn Redwood, or Metasequoia glyptostroboides.  This variety is called “Miss Grace” and it’s a weeper that I had to train up to get it to its current height of 9 feet.  Though it’s the smallest of the redwoods, the species will grow to over 200 feet tall in central China where it was just “discovered” in the early 1940’s.  It was found in the fossil record just before then and was a surprise to be found living still in its native habitat.  Its’s endangered there but its seeds have been sent to arboreta and nurseries all over the world.  I planted my first one for my folks back in the early 70’s and I sure would like to see it now.  It must be close to 80 feet by now I’d guess.  Wow!  I wish my folks had been able to keep that home…. ah well.  But I digress…

The story of this particular cultivar, “Miss Grace”, is that the nurseryman that found it thought it was going to be a weeper and trail along the ground.  But overnight the nursery workers tied it up to be a tree, so that’s what happened.  I worked hard to get mine this tall but it wouldn’t stay put when I tried it to get it to 10 feet and it fell over about 2 months after I took off the training stakes.  So now it weeps down all over itself.  It’s another one of my “pettables” because it’s so incredibly soft to the touch.  It turns a lovely shade of orangish brown, like the Taxodium, in the fall before it loses its needles.  It grows a little slower than the other ones, at several inches a year, so it’ll be a treat to see how big it will get in time.  I’m excited to see how it does.

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Some folks will say I’m cheating with this one.  Many people call this a conifer but it’s not really one.  It’s clearly related it’s true, but it’s not truly a cone bearing tree like the confers.  It’s a Gymnosperm tho like confers but is closer to the cycads (like Sago Palms…) than the conifers.  But I’m including it anyway because so many people call it one, including the  American Conifer Society.  So I’m fine with putting it in this list.  This is a Ginkgo biloba variety called “Jade Butterflies”.  It’s a relatively small dwarf tree that will grow to the usual 10-20 feet tall, but so far it’s only gotten to about 8 feet in my garden.  It’s grown about a foot a year tho so it won’t take it long to get to full size.  The leaves look like small butterflies which is why it’s named for them.  I can see it, but it’s a  fanciful name, as so many botanical names are.  That’s OK, it suits it.

This is a unique tree, being the only member of its family -the Ginkgoaceae – and has been around for over 270 million years in its current form.  It’s called a living fossil and it truly is.  Here in Washington State we have a State Park called the Ginkgo Petrified Forest and we visited it last year on a trip across the country.  It was amazing to see the little leaves in the rocks and to imagine this tree being around way before the dinosaurs and humans by ages.  It’s truly a piece of living history.  There are some giant trees of this type growing all over the world now so it’s a treat to have a small one here in our small garden.

Well, that’s a tour of  some deciduous conifers.  The only one I didn’t mention was the Chinese Swamp Cypress (Glypstrobus – like the Metasequoia glyptostroboides which was named for it.)  I feel privileged to have at least 3 ( maybe 4) of the 5 (maybe  6) deciduous conifers on the planet.  I try to have a great variety of plants in this garden and now have over 200 different varieties or cultivars.   It’s a lot of why we call this a Sanctuary, and sometimes a mini Botanical Garden.  I purposefully sought out these deciduous conifers for their unique status and their wonderful habits of growth.  I like it that they lose their leaves and die back each year.  It’s nice to provide a different option for the garden instead of a dark heavy conifer.  These are all much lighter feeling and the loss of leaves makes them look delicate and fine.  Just my opinion, but I find them fascinating.  I hope you do too.

No, they aren’t dead! 🙂

Steve

 

Elegant Elegans

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At planting in fall color in October 2010, pretty small – 18″ maybe

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Early February 2011 – no growth yet, but good color all winter

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After one seasons growth – December 2011

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Next summer – June 2012 – lots of growth

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July 2012 – strong tip growth

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November 2012 – Tons of new growth!

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May 2013 – Beginning new growth

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October 2013 – Very big now…

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November 2013 – Wow…

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April 2014 – pruned up some for walkway

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May 2014 – full growth

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November 2014 – Fall color beginning

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March 2015 – Green again

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July 2015

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November 2015 – Good Fall color

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February 2016 – Coming out of  Winter

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February 2016  – Getting tall now

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June 2016 – Yesterday

I know this is kind of a long strange post, but it seemed like the best way to show off the growth of this amazing tree. It’s got to be one of the fastest growing trees I’ve ever come across. As you can see it sometimes put on 3-4 ft of growth in one year. I’ve seen Coast Redwoods do 5-6ft but that’s in their habitat. This one really likes it here in our Sanctuary and I’m so pleased to have it.  The botanical name is Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans” and it’s better known as a Sugi in Japan.

It’s one of my “pettable” trees, perhaps the finest, with it’s elegant soft needles that don’t ever prick you, as so many conifers do. It’s billowing branches lift and drop in the breeze to create a delicate show of foliage that intrigues and softens the landscape. I love that it turns such strong colors in the fall and winter as well.

All in all one lovely tree, and just one of many (over 2-300) cultivars of this amazing Cryptomeria, the National Tree of Japan. It clearly likes it here in our peat bog in Seattle too. I hope you’ve enjoyed this retrospective of this beautiful tree.

Thanks for visiting our Garden,

Steve

Evolution of a Garden

I love going thru my photo album and looking back at the garden as it’s grown. I have almost 4,500 pictures so far, dating from 2007 to the present. I’ve been wanting to do a retrospective for some time to show how things have grown over time. So I’ve arranged 3 particular shots over the years in chronological order so we can see each section of the garden and how it’s grown over the years.

Except for the first row where there is no garden, the shots are arranged to show first the front of the garden, then a side view, and finally a back sort of view. Not all these are the same shot of course, but I managed to find ones that seemed to show what I wanted pretty well. Over the time these shots encompass we go from a simple lawn with a few foundation shrubs at the back and some fruit trees to a dense garden full of plants. Unfortunately we lost both of the big Cherries and a large rhododendron. So this garden has a mixture of styles and formats due to the changing of the canopy and other factors.

I might have done things differently if I’d known the trees would die, but who can know those things? I’ve tried to replace them with other trees that will be nice, but there will never be a canopy over it again. That’s OK tho,  because there will be a different look to it as the conifers at the back and sides get bigger and provide an enclosure for the garden on 2 sides. Somehow I managed to have all deciduous trees in the middle of everything so in the winter the center of the garden is bare but the sides stay green, and the underplantings stay green too. It’s a nice effect.

If you scroll down each line you can get a sort of slide show effect and see how each area has grown each year. Or you can click on the first one and go thru them that way so you see more. In fact I recommend you do that to see the full pictures.

I took the last set just a couple of days ago so they’re recent.  This is how it looks today, tho it’ll be different in a few months after the conifers grow more. It’ll take many years for this garden to mature, and we’ll never get to see it all, but I’m amazed at how much it’s grown in such a short time, so who knows? We’re planting trees we’ll probably never live to sit in the shade of, but other folks will get to. Planning for a future of green…

I hope you enjoyed this look back in time,

Steve

Still Growing

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I started this blog to showcase the new garden my partner Louie and I planted around our home beginning in 2008 and 2009 and  continuing to today. There were some foundation plants here to begin with but we added the bulk of the plants I’ve shown you and will continue to show you in the future, as long as I continue to write this blog anyway. It’s been almost 2 years since I posted to this blog and I figure it’s time to start again, slowly… So, to begin with is some of a retrospective of changes we’ve made since I last posted in 2014. The top picture here is a scene of the whole garden as it exists today. It’s changed quite a bit in 2 years but is still the same as well. I hope you enjoy this tour of what’s new and what’s still growing good. Here we go.

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This is a closer view of the picture we just saw. It’s more of an internal view. Since I last posted here we lost a big cherry tree in the center of the yard. It was next to the fountain here and if you look back a few posts you’ll see it and how it looked then. After the tree was removed we planted a new Parrotia persica “Vanessa”, a cultivar of the Persian Ironwood tree that is more columnar and upright in growth so it should fit here well as it grows. It’s chief merit is the amazing colors it turns in fall. It begins in August and continues thru October with colors ranging from deep red to a golden yellow. A very lovely tree, tho it will never provide the garden with the canopy over it as it used to have, but it’ll still be wonderful.

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This is a view of the same inner part of the garden from the side area of the lawn. You can see the new Helmond’s Pillar Barberry at the right – an upright growing form of the Japanese Barberry that is purple and columnar and grows to about 4-5ft. In front of it is a Repandens English yew that is beautiful and large. Behind it is the Bloodgood Japanese maple that has gotten quite a lot bigger in the last 2 years. The left side shows the Sequoia Sempervirens “Kelley’s Prostrate” that is now some 8 ft across and about 1 1/2 ft tall. Not as big as they normally get at 379ft or so! This dwarf is still small but it’ll no doubt get bigger in tim, tho I don’t know where it’ll grow since it’s in the paths already. Above it is the Parrotia again. It’s big and floppy from its new growth and still growing but it’ll stand up straighter once the limbs harden off, I hope…

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This is another side view farther back showing the “Jade Butterflies” Ginkgo very well. It’s about 7 ft tall now and heading to the 10+ ft it’s supposed to get, tho some say it gets to 20 ft. Who can tell with reading the web sites? They all say different things. I can hardly wait till it gets that big. The little Baby Blue Chamaecyparis pisifera on the right has grown into a 4ft cone now and is getting  towards  its 6 ft size as well. Still very full and bright blue, it’s a stand out in the garden.

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Going around the corner on the path to the left of both of the last pictures leads us to a new plant I just put in last year. It’s a “Diana” Japanese Larch -a deciduous conifer that looses its leaves in the fall after they turn a golden yellow that can be seen from the house. It was planted in the spring of last year and still it grew about 3 1/2 feet the first year! I was amazed with it. It’s grown out to 14 inches already this year so I have high hopes it’ll do well again.

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This tree was planted in 2013 to replace the first cherry we lost, and it was only 5′ tall then. In the 3 years it’s grown now it’s up to 13 ft tall. It’s a variety of Cryptomeria, or Sugi as it’s known in Japan, called Radicans, similar to the better know Yoshino but it doesn’t bronze in the winter like the Yoshino does. It’s a real presence in the garden now and tho it will never replace the cherry it was planted for it will still be able to grow to 50 ft here. Next to it is a new Camellia called “Pink Icicle” that was just covered with pink blooms with yellow centers from January thru March. It gets to about 8-12 ft they say.

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Moving along the north side of the garden: On the left is the Pendulous Giant Sequoia and next to it is the “Peve Minaret” Taxodium I profiled a little bit ago. You can see it’s grown a lot since the last profile of it. Next to it used to be a Bailey’s Creek Dogwood, but it got way too big so I had to remove it. I replaced it with another Cryptomeria, (I love them…) called Rasen which means barber pole in Japanese. It has rings around all parts of the tree – the leaves curl around the stems and the stems curl around the tree and the bark even has this distinctive swirl to it. Fascinating! It’ll grow to some 20 – 40 ft tall in time and likely will be a bit wonky but most unique. I’ll profile it soon. To its right is another Sugi called  “Black Dragon” and next to it is a “Nero” black choke cherry that is the new super fruit called Aronia and is very high in anthocyanins like blueberries, only more so. By it is a fastigiate “Inverleith” Scots Pine that is certainly larger than the 10ft the label said it would be. So much for labels, eh?

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I’m jumping to the front yard with a Japanese Katsura tree called Rot Fuchs or Red Fox, for its beautiful reddish blue green color. It’s another fastigiate that will get to 20-40 ft and will grow well here. It contrasts nicely with the  Cornus Bailhalo ‘Ivory Halo’ in the back corner (the white one) and the Gracilis Nana Hinoki cypress at its feet in front of it.  It’s leaves smell of cotton candy in the fall and turn a luscious golden yellow with reddish tints. Lovely!

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Backing up a bit again now to this Japanese maple called Sango Kaku or Coral Bark maple. Can you believe this tree has only grown here for 6 years so far? This will be its 7th year in the garden and it’s grown from a 6 ft tree to a 16 ft one, or more, since it’s really too high to measure it now. It’s so nice to be able to walk under it as you enter the house. Next to it is the Oregon Green Pine variety of the Austrian Black Pine. I’ll show you a picture of it next.

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This is the Green Pine with its new candles on it.   They look so classy with their bright white color against the dark green of the tree itself. I can hardly believe how big this has gotten in its 7 years there. It provides good cover for the birds and a screen to enclose the garden in front now and makes it all feel like a sanctuary there. It’ll get up to 20 ft tall and wide and it’s about 10 1/2 ft tall now. Not bad for a 4 ft shrub a few years ago…

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This is another new tree from a year and 1/2 ago. It’s a truly rare and unique tree – the first rare tree in America. It’s a Franklinia Alatamaha or Franklin tree, named for Ben Franklin himself by the friends of his – the Bartram brothers, botanists to King George III, who discovered it in 1865 along the Altamaha river in Georgia. They couldn’t find it again after 1803 and it’s never been seen in the wild since. All the existing trees come from the ones the Bartrams collected in the 1800’s. It has lovely white camellia like flowers (it’s in the Theacea with camellias) and turns a brilliant shade of reddish purple in the fall. I’ll profile it someday soon too.

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While we’re still in front I’ll show another rare tree. It’s an Acer Tschonoskii ssp Koreanum or Korean Butterfly Maple. It grew 4 feet last year and blew me away totally. It’s too huge now to measure of course but it’s huge. It turns a lovely reddish orange in the fall and is the very first maple to leaf out in mid February, before anything else is moving. It also loses its leaves early, so it balances itself out I guess. A unique specimen and a lovely place to sit on the bench to read or relax.

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I’m going to end today with a new garden area we planted this year. In it is a “Teddy Bear” Southern Magnolia. It’ll grow to about 20 ft tall and not very wide. This space used to be a hedge, which you can still see in the back. But we took out about 12 ft and turned it into a tiny garden. This magnolia is going to be blooming soon as you can see with its huge buds and new growth just starting.

So that’s it. I’ve enjoyed showing you some pictures of how the garden has grown. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. I also hope I can keep up these posts this time but I have some health problems that make that difficult at times. The garden helps me so much with that.

Thanks for reading and happy gardening to you always. It’s nice to be back…

Steve

 

 

 

Maples in the Sun

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We’ve been lucky to get some sunshine lately and I happened to be out in the back yard the other day when I saw this shot. So I went in and grabbed my camera and took a few photos. (You can click on them to get a larger size shot). I was struck by how beautiful the Japanese Maples look in this picture. From the left is a small dark red one called Red Dragon. It’s a Dissectum type maple and is supposed to be “the best red dissectum”. I’m leery of superlatives but I will say it’s quite beautiful tho it hasn’t grown much in the 4 years it’s been here. But I like it just fine as it stays this dark red all summer long.

The one in the middle is called Red Pygmy and is a Linearlobum type maple. It has strap like leaves that are deeply cut, almost like a dissectum but not as much so. This tree looks almost bronzy golden in the sun but its leaves are actually a light burgundy and look lovely. This tree has grown immensely from a small stick to over 6 feet by 7 or 8 wide. It turns a spectacular golden in the fall.

The third one on the right is a classic Palmatum type of maple called the Bloodgood. It’s an Old standard that has been in cultivation in this country since the Civil War and is named for the Bloodgood Nursery on Long Island in the late 1700’s. It gets to 20 feet tall as opposed to 10′ for the Red Pygmy so it’ll get larger here and fill the space it has to grow into fine.

You can see several other plants in this shot. On the far right is a newish favorite of mine from just a year ago. In that time it’s grown 4 feet and is amazing. It’s a Cryptomeria called Radicans. I have several of the Cryptomerias and I love them all. All are unique and interesting. On the far left is a spreading yew, or Taxus repandens. It’s grown quite a lot in its years here and is a low dark green presence at the corner of the yard. Next to it on the right is a Wintercreeper called Gaiety, or Eunoymus fortunei. It’s trying to grow up the Plum but I’m not letting it do so.

To the left of the Plum is a Manzanita called Howard McMinn that shows off its reddish bark for you tho it’s a bit hard to see. I’ll do a full shot of it soon and show a bit more of it. In the center of this shot is a Leucothoe fontanesiana called Rainbow that turns lovely purples and reds in the fall, tho not as much as I expected. I love the fountain like display it puts on. It loves the water it gets when we clean the fountain too.

 

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In this next shot of the garden a few steps closer, you can see the maples better and also the Blue Star juniper in the middle of the front row. Next to it is a Mugho Pine called Pumilio. It’s done well so far but not gotten too big which is fine with me. It holds down the corner of the garden there near the path. I should mention the two big trees you can see as trunks are an Italian Plum on the left that feeds many of the food bank folks we give the plums to. We like to eat them too but we get so many it’s good we can share them with others. The other tree trunk is a Queen Anne cherry that gives a lot of fruit to the birds but we rarely get any of them. Oh well, it’s a lovely tree and gives some shade to the otherwise open garden.

 

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This is the closest picture of the garden and in it you can see the Heather blooming in the left of the shot, and next to it is another Cryptomeria called Elegans, for its elegant look and soft quality of its leaves. I’ve profiled it before and it’s one of my “Petable” trees. It’s grown from about 1 foot and 1/2 to over 9 feet in 5 years. Wow! I’m impressed. Also here are on the right side you can see the Variegated Sea Holly with its purple cast of blooms near the white picket fence. It’s the most bee friendly plant I have in that it attracts several varieties of bees and is covered in them at times in the sun. What spectacular sights to see and it holds its color for several months quite nicely. Also in the middle of the shot is the Coast Redwood I profiled a week ago – the Kelly’s Prostrate. It’s just to the left of the Red Dragon maple in front of the Heather.

So that’s the pictures of the garden in the sun. It’s so lovely when it shines thru things like it does now. I like how it illuminates them from behind like this. I was lucky to catch it when I did as we haven’t had much sun since this happened a couple of days ago. It’s still been in the 90’s tho, which is very hot for us here in Seattle. We’re melting…. 🙂

Japanese Maples rock!

Steve

 

Sequoia sempervirens “Kelley’s Prostrate”

 

I love the Redwoods. But we just don’t have space to plant the tallest tree in the world here on our 1/8 of an acre lot. So I’ve done the next best thing. I found a dwarf variety of the plant. I know it sounds impossible but this one was supposed to get to some 4 feet across and about 8″ tall. Well after less than 4 years it’s now probably 6-7 feet across and over a foot tall. Still not very big but huge compared to what it started out as. It was in a 10 gal. can when I planted it and was about 3 feet by 8″. So it’s grown a  lot!

I’ve arranged these pictures in chronological order with dates so you can see how fast and full it’s grown. It got hit bad by a freeze back in 2011 as you can see by the burned leaves on that shot. But it came back and even tho it did the same again this last winter it came back again full and lush and now you can’t even tell it was damaged at all. It’s so big and full it takes up all the space I’d allotted to it and now I have to gently prune it along the paths so we can still walk thru them.

The foliage is the same as the regular species and has that lovely ferny look to it. In fact one friend asked if it was a large fern of some sort. I can see why he made that mistake because it does look very ferny, a nice following to my last post I think. I dunno how big this will get in time but I suspect it’s just gonna keep getting larger. I hope it goes up a bit and not so wide but then I can’t control that exactly by pruning and I’m loathe to do much of that anyway.

So I’ll just enjoy this bit of low skyline tree that keeps its small size and gives me the sense of having a little redwood forest in my back yard when I get close to it and smell the foliage and see the way it branches out so laterally and low to the ground. It’s so different it’s like a totally different plant, but then it isn’t either. It’s still a Redwood and I’m happy to have it growing here in my garden. It’s a wonderful and a unique plant. I hope it grows as long as its parents do, tho I’ll never live to see that!

Redwoods rule, even the little ones!

Steve

Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret”

 

I wrote a profile of this plant a year and 1/2 ago, but it’s grown so much since then and all I posted then was a single shot, so I thought I’d do a pictorial journey thru this plant’s life here in our garden. We planted it in early April 2011 so it’s only been growing for 3 years and a bit. It grows pretty fast for a dwarf. This is a cultivar from Holland of the Swamp Cypress that grows all over the Southeast of the US and is endemic to the swamps and wet places of the region.

As a tree it gets quite big, but this little dwarf will only get to some 10 feet by 3-4 feet , or so they say. It’s already that wide or wider but only about 6-7 feet tall so far, tho it’ll be taller in a couple of months as the top grows. I’ve noticed an interesting thing about this tree, and several other conifers, that intrigues me. It starts to put on growth at the bottom of the tree first and then works its way up to the top after several weeks of growth. It’s in that stage now where it’ll put on a new top, and it should put on a foot of growth there if it does what it did last year, which is no definite indication but hopefully it will do so. It also tends to put on several tops and then reduce them to just one. I’d heard that you had to prune the extra ones out, but that’s not true. The trees know what to do I’ve noticed so I just let them do it. Sometimes it’s best Not to prune…

I did a lot of research on this tree, as I outlined in my previous post I did on it here: https://gardeningingreenwood.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/the-persistence-of-greenery/. I’ll try not to repeat too much of that post but I want to talk about it a bit. It’s a unique plant in that it’s one of only a few conifers that lose their leaves in the fall and renew them in spring. The others are the Larix, or Larch, the Metasequoia, or Dawn Redwood, and the Ginkgo, or Maidenhair tree. There’s some debate about whether or not the Ginkgo is really a conifer right now but I like i that way so I’ll include it anyway. I have a Metasequoia and the Ginkgo in the garden as dwarfs but no Larix, yet… I haven’t found a dwarf of it and I wouldn’t have space to put it anyway so it may not be in my agenda. But we’ll see.

This plant loves wet places to grow as I mentioned and that’s the primary reason I planted it here. This is a really wet spot in this peat bog we garden in, and we lost a few other nice plants here before I did the research to find this one that loves having its feet wet. It’s thriving where it is so I think I made the right choice. I also planted a creek dogwood and a choke cherry along this fence line as they also love the wet soil, as do the dwarf Cryptomerias along the edge of the bed. The only original plant I put in here that survived is the Inverleith Scotch Pine and I’ve read that Scotch pine like it a bit wet too so that makes sense. It’s doing great too and it is now over 10 feet tall, it’s supposed height, tho some say it gets much bigger. I assume it will.

This plant is one of my “pettable” trees because it has such gloriously soft foliage and is so nice to touch and stroke. The others are the Metasequoia and the Cryptomeria elegans that both have very soft foliage and don’t feel like most conifers at all. I’m fond of touching the plants I grow just to get a”feel” of them and so I notice little things like soft foliage on conifers. It’s a treat to feel them. I have a few really prickly plants too, like the Oregon grape and Mahonia charity and even the Osmanthus goshiki, so it’s nice to have others that you can actually touch, tho the others are so soft when they put on their new growth it’s hard to imagine how tough they will become.

I’ve arranged these pictures in chronological order so you can get a sense of how fast this tree really does grow. I’m really amazed by this and it’s good for me as I’m pretty impatient at times and it’s hard to wait to watch plants grow slowly when you want them to get big fast. It’s a trap of course and it’s a joy to watch the Chamaecyparis obtusa Nana only putting on about a 1/16″ of growth a year. You can just see it on the tips of the branches. The same is true of many other dwarf confers, like the Cryptomerias Tansu, Pygmaea and Vilmoriana. They all just barely let you know they’re growing and it’s so cool to know they are and yet don’t show it much. Slow has it’s place just as fast does.

So I hope you found this enjoyable to see how this lovely tree grows so nicely and fills out so well as time goes on. If it does grow this much in only 3 years it’ll become a larger tree in time I think, despite the things they tell you on various websites when you look them up. I’d love it if it did get bigger than its supposed 10 feet but if it doesn’t do that I’ll be happy too of course. I just have to keep the creek dogwood next to it away from its top so it can get there. I have to do a bit of pruning to keep all the plants in their spaces and be cool with one another in their growth habits. It’s a nice challenge to grow this garden and I’m so glad you stopped by to see some of it.

Good growing to you!

Steve

WolfDance Sanctuary