Archive for the ‘Pruning’ Category

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

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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

Beneath the Leaves

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana “Contorta)

I usually like to showcase lush green gardens or individual plants in this blog, with some miscellaneous posts here and there.  But it’s Winter and there isn’t much lushness around now.  So I thought I’d do something different.  It’s always fascinated me to look at the trees in the fall and winter when they’re bare of leaves.  You can finally see the structure of them.  They look so different without their clothes on and you can really see how the buds look and the ways they grow.  I’ll show you a few of the deciduous trees in our garden so you can see this structure and appreciate the trees from a whole new perspective.  They’re still beautiful to look at now, and you can see how I’ve pruned them to attain their current shapes.  It’s something that’s so much harder to see when they’re in full leaf.  Hope you enjoy the tour…

Jade Butterflies Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”)

Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica “Vanessa”)

Red Pygmy Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”)

Diana Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”)

Eddie’s White Wonder Dogwood (Cornus florida x nuttallii)

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

Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”)

Waterfall Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall”)

Dwarf Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret”)

Bloodgood Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Bloodgood”)

Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”)

Weeping Purple Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica “Purpurea Pendula”)

Red Fox Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs”)

I hope this little story has given you a different idea of a new way to look at trees when they don’t have their leaves on them.  It’s a true art to learn to identify them by their buds and growth habits, without the leaves to guide us.  It takes practice, and I’ve personally found that the aspect is an easier way to identify them then the buds are, but that’s just because I haven’t learned the buds as well.  It’s a lot harder to do, but totally worthwhile to try to learn them.   There’s so much more going on beneath the leaves…

Seeing thru them,

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!

Nandina

Nandina domestica, also known as Heavenly Bamboo, is a medium sized shrub that grows a bit like bamboo, thus the common name. But it’s actually in the same family as Barberry – the Berberidaceae. It can grow up to 8 feet tall, or more, with a spread of 4-6 feet given room. It grows in a fountain shape and the way you prune it is to lop off the tallest canes from the ground up and let the new ones take over, which they will do rapidly. This is a fast growing plant and this variety – “Moyer’s Red” – turns a lovely reddish shade in the winter.

The red berries follow the flowers you can see in the following pictures. In some you can even see a few berries. They are a common plant and in some areas are considered invasive, but not here in Seattle where we are. This is one of the few plants we have more than one of. Mostly I try not to repeat myself, but a line of them was too attractive to miss, so we did that as you’ll  see below. All the plants you’ll see are almost 8 years old, and are some of the first plants I planted when I moved in with Louie in 2009.

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This is a shot of the front of the yard, as seen from the street. This is the first view people have of our garden. As you can see the Thuja pyramidalis behind the Nandina are about 16 feet tall and make a nice backdrop for them. In between them we planted Oregon Grape, also in the Barberry family. They have small purple berries on them now that are pretty good to eat, but are a bit sour so they’re best for jelly and such.  The Nandina berries are poisonous and even the birds tend to leave them alone.

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This one is right by our front porch. It’s at least 8 feet tall, and there is a legend that if the Heavenly Bamboo gets taller than the door jamb that it protects the home.  This one will do that pretty well I’d say. It has a lot of flowers on it now and a few berries left over from last season. It frames the entrance to the house and provides interest all year round with its various changes.

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This last one is by the door of the garage and is well over the door jamb, so I guess the garage is well protected. I did a little bit of fancy pruning on it to air it out some and give the form a chance to show itself off. You can see a couple of little reddish new shoots coming up thru the neighboring foliage at the bottom. I’ll let them grow and in time they’ll replace the taller canes now growing. It never turns very red because it’s in a north facing area and just doesn’t get much sun at all.  The ones in front do much better at changing color because they get so much more sun.

I’ve known Nandina for some 45 years of gardening and have planted so many of them in landscapes I really couldn’t begin to tell you how many of them I’ve put in the ground. They used them a lot where I grew up in central California and are in fact pretty overused there in places. I almost grew to dislike them when I worked there doing landscapes, but I’ve overcome my prejudices as I’ve gotten older and away from that business end of things. Now I just plant what I like and am happy with them.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of these plants in various shapes. They’re nice plants for narrow spaces or for screening, and to provide that Asian flair for the garden. They aren’t hard to find and  there are many varieties, from small mounding shrublets to this tall natural form I’ve shown you. Some turn blazing red in winter, some don’t. All in all it’s a very versatile plant for many gardens.

Happy Growing!

Steve

Acer palmatum “Sango Kaku”

I wanted a nice tree to walk in under as we came up to our front porch. I didn’t have the room to plant a big tree so I planted a smaller one that gets maybe 25-30 feet tall – big enough for my purposes for sure. In the following pictures I’ll show you how it’s grown so well over the last few years. It was small when we got it and I had to pick one that would allow me to train it so that it wouldn’t block the paths and stairs around it. I did a lot of work to accomplish that, including at one point tying it up so that it was straight, more or less. I dunno if that was really necessary but it worked and now it’s full and big and does the job I wanted it to do. See for yourself!

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April 2010 – shortly after planting

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October 2010 – with some nice fall color

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May 2011 – after a year’s growth

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August 2011 – getting a bit sprawly

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January 2012 – in a little bit of snow – why’s it leaning?

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August 2012 – much fuller now – getting big

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May 2013- nice spring growth

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November 2013 – bare after leaf drop. See how skinny it is?

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May 2014  – lots of growth!

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November 2014 – Fall color – see how the tips are going last? Last to grow – last to turn…

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July 2015 – still skinny

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October 2015 – gentle fall color – it gets brighter!

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March 2016 – just starting to grow – see how red the new growth is?

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April 2016 – in the rain – makes it look huge and cool-looking!

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June 2016 – today – big enough to be a real tree to walk under now – finally!

It’s a bit hard to believe that this tree grew from a few sticks in 2010 to this 20 ft tree in about 7 years of growth. It’s still growing as I write this so I know it’ll get even bigger this year -and it’s still a baby in tree years. I did manage to accomplish my goal of keeping it very narrow so that we can walk up the stairs and into the garden without hitting our heads on the branches.

It’ll get a lot wider and still another 10 feet of of height perhaps and pictures I’ve seen of big ones make me kind of shudder – it’s going to be a big tree here, despite it’s being classified as a “small tree” in my books. It doesn’t get quite as big as the straight species which will get over 40 feet – even 50 for a really big, old one.

This one will do for us. It’s also known as the Coral Bark Maple for the bright red stems it puts on when they first come out. It’s supposed to resemble a tower of sea corral in Japanese, thus the name – “Sango Kaku”. Its lovely in winter, especially with a bit of snow on the ground around it. As they age the limbs turn an undistinguished brown but I still like it fine.

It’s pretty common in nurseries and even the big box stores (where I got mine! – eek!), so if you like this you’ll probably be able to find it somewhere in your area, depending on where you live of course. But common doesn’t mean it’s not great ya know – just that a lot of us like it… 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip thru memory lane with this wonderful tree. I only had a couple of good shots of the really excellent fall colors it turns – from the yellow I did show to a striking reddish orange that you can see from up the street. It’s a beautiful tree and I’m happy to have it to walk in under when I come home. Maybe you could do this too…

Rising from the sea…

Steve

A Fine Day for Pruning

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I’ve been itching to get my shears out and prune these Japanese Maples for some time now. There’s some controversy about just when is the “proper” time to prune these delicate creatures. I tend to follow the advice of Cass Turnbull, of Plant Amnesty, a Master Pruner here in Seattle. She says the best time is basically “when the shears are sharp”.

In other words you prune them when you’re ready to do it. You have to be in the right frame of mind to do these trees. They can be messed up so easily if you make the wrong cuts. I have spent literally hours gazing at these two trees to determine just which branches to cut and why. My goal is to prune so that you can’t tell that I’ve even done it.

I suppose you’re wondering why I put  up these two shots. After all you can’t tell anything can you? I sure hope not. If you can tell I’ve just pruned a couple of buckets of branches off the two of them then I’ve done a poor job. If you could see them up close you’d see a scar or two of course but otherwise I think you can’t tell.

We were lucky to have a perfect day today for this work. It’s been sunny and warmish, for Seattle anyway, with no rain, another rare occurrence just lately. And I just felt good about it today. I was in the right frame of mind and felt prepared to do it and suffer the consequences if I screwed up. But I don’t think I did. They look just like I had in mind for them to look when I was done.

I pruned several other things in the yard but the prostrate rosemary that half froze to death isn’t that pretty right now and the Pfitzer Juniper didn’t fit my theme of maples so I’m not showing those. I did a bunch of other chores around the yard since it was so nice out and I was in the mood. I’ve really been wanting to do some gardening and it’s just been too wet recently so I’ve put it off.

So today when I got home from an appointment I put on my pruning gear and got myself prepared. I sharpened my shears and got out the buckets and bins to put the prunings in. I spent an little time just looking at the trees again to make sure I was ready for this and I got out the tall pruning ladder so I could get at the top of the bigger one and off I went.

The top shot is of a Japanese Maple, or Acer palmatum, called Sangokaku or Coral Bark Maple, for its reddish new bark. It means Pillar of Coral in Japanese, or Sea Corral to be precise since that’s what it supposedly reminds folks of there. It gets about 25 or 30 feet tall and grows in this vase shape tho I’ve emphasized it and made it tighter since it’s between two paths and we need to be able to walk under it.

The other one is an Acer palmatum dissectum called “Waterfall” we just got about a year ago. It was pretty low to the ground when we first got it and I had to prune quite a bit last year. Over the past growing season it put on a lot of growth and so I had to do some more work on it today to keep it off the Rhodie in front of it and keep it in good shape. It may get to 10 feet tall they say and as wide. I’ll have more pruning to do in time.

I have 4 other Japanese maples in this garden and the rest of them don’t really take any pruning to speak of yet. They’re growing very slowly, except for one I’ll profile soon, and just can’t handle any loss of limbs. I’m waiting for them to gain some size first before I attempt to prune them much and some of them will probably never need much pruning. I’ll get to them when it’s time.

I have pruned them a bit tho and you can’t tell at all that I’ve even touched them it’s so subtle. That’s the way I approach most of my pruning. I’ll try to be as subtle as I can so you can’t tell what I’ve done. It’s like how when you clean a house it just looks right when you’re done, you can’t tell you cleaned it actually and done any work. Good pruning can be like that. You can’t see it.

I was taught to prune by a few talented people in my youth and one of them gave me a motto I love. He said he did “Aesthetic and Therapeutic Pruning”, a phrase I’ve used ever since. This practice means that you take into account the nature of the plant you’re working on and allow it to be itself as much as possible, with minor adjustments to keep it in shape and healthy as well as beautiful. It’s a great way to think about it.

I don’t believe in topping plants if there’s any other way to prune them. But sometimes it’s necessary. I almost lost a big Viburnum rhytidophyllum a year or so ago and thought it was going to die so I topped it way back and tied it up and in a few months it started to grow again and is a gorgeous shrub that looks grand now. You can see where I cut it still but that will disappear in time as it’s an evergreen so will cover up its scars. But it’s rare I’ll do something that radical unless I’m trying to save a plants’ life, which was so in that case.

But topping trees is often a tragedy and I really try to talk people out of it if there’s any other way to go. Often it’s more work to do it right I’ll admit, but you end up with a plant that has it’s natural form instead of bare arms sticking up out of the jungle of suckers that will come on after you top something. It looks like hell to me and I hate it. There are better ways to do it if you just look closely and see where to cut it.

We have a big pruning project we still have to do – an Italian plum in the back yard that shades much of the garden. It’s gotten way too heavy and needs to be thinned badly. It’ll be a few hours project tho and we just haven’t gotten to it yet. But we will soon, before it starts to bud out. The cherry next to it has buds showing now and I think I got to the Maples just in time too because one of the ones I have in a pot is definitely starting to push its buds out already. I’m so excited I can’t stand it! Wow… 😉

Anyway, that’s enough about pruning for now. I know that as time goes on I’ll have many more plants to prune in this garden that have yet to mature. But I hope I’ve done a good enough job of planting them with enough space to grow that I won’t have to do a whole lot of pruning to keep them happy together. Time will tell but if I can do it so you can’t tell I’ll be happy. And so will the plants!

Pruning to be invisible,

Steve

PS: Here are a couple of posts I’ve done on pruning before: https://gardeningingreenwood.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/plant-amnesty-says-stop-topping-trees/ and https://gardeningingreenwood.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/some-thoughts-on-pruning-and-size/. Both have some redundant material but new stuff too, especially about Plant Amnesty, which is so cool I want to share it again… ;). Thanks for reading.