Archive for the ‘Grasses’ Category

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

Japanese Forest Grass

This is one of the last plants in the garden to have great fall color.  I showed you most of our other ones in my last post.  It’s a luscious light green in summer but in fall it turns this spectacular golden shade.  It really stands out in the garden now that all the trees around it have lost their leaves and all we see are their bare branches. It always provides a lush presence in the garden but I especially love it when it gives us this bright spot of color in an otherwise green understory beneath a stark upper landscape and a drab sky.  It’s surrounded by Rhododendrons and ferns and normally blends in well with them all, but now it’s a striking contrast to them.  The leaves hang on for several months as they gently fade in color and eventually meld into the surrounding soil.

I struggled to grow this plant for some time until I finally put it in the right location.  It’s in deep shade underneath our Red Pygmy Japanese maple, as you can see in the first photo, and below the fountain as you can see in the second one.  Once I grew it there it just took off.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?  It’s supposed to grow into a 1′-2′ mound and ours has gotten about that big now.  Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra “All Gold”) has an appropriate varietal name of All Gold based on what we see at this time of year.  I planted it in this spot about 5 years ago, so it’s not particularly fast growing, but it will show off its delicate beauty for years to come.

Happy Autumn!

Steve