Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Category

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

Advertisements

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

“Vanessa” Persian Ironwood

August 2015 – home from the nursery

August 2015 – Just planted

October 2015

March 2016

May 2016

November 2016

February 2017

May 2017

October 2017

February 2018

May 2018

October 2018

January 2019

May 2019

August 2019 – Today

 

The Persian Ironwood tree (Parrotia persica) is native to Iran, or Persia, as it was originally known.  This is a selected variety introduced in England in 1840.  It’s much more narrow growing than the species, which can get quite wide, tho not that tall.  They’re wonderful 4 season trees, with tiny red flowers in late winter and early spring.  Then in summer the scallop shaped leaves come out with reddish tinges on the margins and very lush growth.  By fall it turns spectacular shades of bright golden yellow, which you can see in some of these photos here.  In winter the bark is the beautiful part, turning a mottled green, cream and tan as it ages.  The form is also quite lovely in winter when you can easily see its branching patterns.

This is a relatively columnar form of this tree and is supposed to grow 20 – 40 feel tall and 10 – 20 feet wide.  I’ve pruned the base of it to keep it narrow so it will fit in between the paths where we’ve planted it.  It’s been growing by leaps and bounds every year.  You can see how large it’s gotten in just 5 growing seasons, and the summer isn’t over yet so it’s still growing now.  It’s pretty cool to see it put on 3 – 4 feet of growth each year, tho some  websites say it’s slow growing.  Not for us!  At first the foliage just flops all over itself and falls down into the paths.  But as the summer progresses the branches pull themselves back up into a more narrow form.  I had to restrain myself to keep from pruning it the first year as I watched this habit develop.  Sometimes it’s best to just wait and see what a tree will do before you lop off a branch or two.  You can’t put them back on you know…

Vanessa, which was named for a colorful species of butterfly, has received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticulture Society, and is also a Great Plant Pick chosen by the Elisabeth Miller botanical garden here in Seattle.  It’s in the same family as the witch hazels, but the flowers on this one don’t have any fragrance.  I’ve never seen a really large specimen of this tree, but I’ve seen lots of photos, and it’s really striking as it gets bigger.  As usual I didn’t really give it quite as much room as it might like so I’ll have to continue to do some aesthetic and therapeutic pruning on it as time goes on.  Right now I’m training a couple of the main trunks to head out from under the canopy of the plum next to it so it will grow up and over the plum and the two won’t fight each other as much.  It’s challenging to do this training but it’s also a lot of fun figuring out just how to get everyone here to get along with one another.

This tree likes the moist peaty soil we have in our little Nature Sanctuary here in Greenwood.  It holds the water well but also drains nicely so there’s no worry about over watering.  I also don’t have to give it nearly as much water as other gardeners here in Seattle say they need to do to establish their trees.  I have a system of counting to a certain number based on how many gallons of water the hose puts out per minute.  Yes, I measured the output of the hose to do this.  Sometimes it gets a little bit nuts to count out all the plants to be sure they get enough water.  At times I can’t seem to stop myself from counting everything I run into!  It’s useful to help the plants to establish well, but it makes me a little bit crazy… 😉

Happy gardening!

Steve

Riotous Ferns

Alaska Fern (Polystichum setiferum)

Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza)

Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)

Remote Wood Fern (Dryopteris remota)

Makino’s Holly Fern (Polystichum mackinoi)

Hard Shield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum)

Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant)

 

I called these ferns “riotous” because they’re all growing so outrageously,  and it’s the middle of August!!  It’s hot out!  They not supposed to do this, are they?  I suspect it’s all the water I give them, but whatever it is I’m thrilled!  They’re each putting on several new fronds and are filled with amazing green energy.  They’re as beautiful as you could want a fern to be – and these are all evergreen so they’re lovey all year round.

I see plants everywhere in the garden thriving with such lush new growth right now, but these ferns are special, each one a unique world in itself.  Ferns are often used to illustrate the concept of self-similarity in fractals. The more you dive down into a fractal the more it looks the same.  Start with a wide view and slowly move your gaze all the way down into the center of a large fern sometime and you’ll see what I mean.  It will transfix you.  Amazing!!

I hope you’re as impressed as I am with the vigor of these ferns, and in such an unlikely season.  Riotous they are indeed!!

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

Delphinium

Delphinium/Larkspur (Delphinium hybrid)

This particular delphinium has been gracing our garden for around 7 or 8 years now, and it’s also about 7 or 8 feet tall.  (I like symmetry.)  It dies totally to the ground each fall and then starts coming back up in early spring.  It blooms for an extended period of time and is slightly fragrant to boot.  I originally tried to make this bed an annual one, but somewhere in a seed mixture I planted was this lovely perennial Larkspur and it’s been here ever since.  One must be aware of the contents of seed mixes, especially wildflowers.  You never know what you might end up with.  We were lucky with this one, but the yarrow had to go since it was taking over everything.  The hummers and the bees love this plant and can be seen hovering around it at various times of day. I scared a hummer away when I came out to take this photo.  It’s probably back by now.

The name Delphinium comes from the Greek word delphinion, which means dolphin, because it was thought the leaves looked like dolphins.  Plant names are often quite fanciful.  They were listed by this name in De Materia Medica, a 5 volume pharmacopeia of medicinal plants written between 50 and 70 CE by Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician in the Roman army.  Delphinium is a genus of about 300 species of perennial flowering plants in the Ranunculaceae (the buttercup family), native over the northern hemisphere and high mountains of tropical Africa.  All members of the delphinium genus are toxic to humans and livestock, especially the younger parts.  Larkspur is a significant cause of livestock death in the West.

But they are also beautiful.  I’ve seen them in the Sierras Nevada mountains and the Coast Ranges of California, and in the Cascades in Oregon and here in Washington.  We have them on my land in the Okanogan mountains in north central Washington.  In fact I just saw some of them blooming there last week. They’re not the giants the ones here in the garden are.  They usually only get a foot or two tall and don’t have as many full multiple flowers, which seems to be true of many native varieties. The cultivated and hybrid varieties have more flowers and are prized at garden shows for their beauty. They make quite an impact with their daunting presence.  If I had the room I’d grow more larkspur here.  Maybe I’ll find some.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Steve

Japanese Maples in Spring

Waterfall (Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall”

They say you should never prune these dissectum maples to fit a space by cutting back the edges.  But since I planted it in the wrong spot and didn’t give it room to grow so I have to trim it every year.  It’s a tricky dance but so far I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it.  We’ll see how it looks as time goes on.  It turns a brilliant shade of orange-red in the fall.

Shirazz (Acer palmatum “Shirazz”)

This one is a bit wonky looking now.  It froze back very badly a couple of years ago and only the base of the trunk stayed alive.  I was heartbroken, so I talked to the nursery and they said they’d never heard of a Japanese maple freezing around here.  Of course it happened to me!   It’s got lovely variegated foliage and turns a wonderful bright red in the fall.

Bloodgood (Acer palmatum “Bloodgood”)

This is an old variety.  It’s been around for a hundred or more years.  It was found in an old churchyard on the east coast.  It has these wonderful dark red leaves all year and turns an even darker flush of deep reddish-purple in the fall.  Truly lovely.

Red Pygmy (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”)

This is a dwarf variety that is only supposed to get 10 feet tall, which it is already after 10 years or so.  It has dark red leaves when it first leafs out but it turns to a greenish red over the summer, before changing to a fiery orange in the fall.

Red Dragon (Acer palmatum dissectum “Red Dragon”)

Another dissectum that has deeply cut leaves and is always this incredible deep red.  In the fall it turns an even darker shade of red and is very showy.  It may get too big for the deck and I don’t know what I’ll do then.  I’m sure something will work out.

Lion’s Head (Acer palmatum “Shishigashira”)

This is an old cultivar that has deeply crinkled leaves.  In the fall it blazes with bright orange-red color.  It’s a late one that opens late and stays in leaf late, well beyond the others.  It’s a treat to have it here!

Twomblys’ Red Sentinel (Acer palmatum “Twombly’s Red Sentinel”)

This is our latest acquisition.  We only had a space for it recently when an old arborvitae here was crushed by the February snow and we had to take it out.  This is a unique one in that it’s the only Japanese maple that is columnar in its growth habit. It only gets 10 feet wide at most.  It will stay this color all year and in fall will turn dark red.  It’s a sport off an old Bloodgood.

Roseo Marginatum (Acer palmatum “Kagiri Nishiki”)

This is the first Japanese Maple I ever bought, back in the early 70’s, for my parent’s yard.  It’s got unique leaves that are all different and have a sickle shape to them, with creamy white and pink variegation to the margins with green on the inside.  Because it’s on the north side of the garage the inner leaves are shaded and are often yellow or orange as you can see here.  It’ll turn a lovely orange fall color.

Floating Cloud (Acer palmatum “Ukigumo”)

This is named for its beautiful “floating cloud” effect when it’s in leaf like this.  It has creamy white leaves with pink margins. It turns a deep orange-red in the fall.  It really does look like it’s floating in the garden here.  I love the planes of the foliage.

Coral Bark (Acer palmatum “Sango Kaku”)

This one is known by the new red stems you can see when the limbs are young.  They’re called Coral Bark because they resemble the towers of coral rising from the sea.  You can’t see the red stems now because there are too many leaves, but they’re there.  You can see them when you look up into the tree.  It’s the largest one we have, getting to 25 or 30 feet tall and wide.  It’s a great feel to walk under it to the door.

These are all the Japanese maples we’ve got here in our little garden sanctuary.  I’d love to have more but we’re out of room and are so happy to have such a nice variety in the ones we have.  They’re all different in some ways so we get a large tapestry of colors and shapes and sizes.  A couple of them get big but most are dwarfs and will stay small forever, or at least sort of small.  Is 15 feet small to you?   To a tree it is.  I like them when they get taller than I am.  Then they feel like a real tree to me.  They all seem to grow very fast and none of these is older than about 9 or 10 years, at least in our garden.  Who knows how old they were when we planted them.   This is why the normal 10 year sizes they usually say on the labels are always off and much smaller than reality.  You really have to just let them grow to see how big they’ll eventually get.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of the Japanese Maples we have here.  A Northwest garden would be incomplete without at least a couple of them as well as the ubiquitous rhododendrons.  We have a lot of them too.  Add in the ferns and conifers and you have most of our garden.  It’s a unique collection of over 200 individual specimens, each different in some way from all the others.  I’ve got botanical labels on all the plants so you can see their common names, botanical names, families and origins.  They help me remember them all… 😉

Thanks for visiting our maple collection!

Steve