Archive for the ‘Unusual Plants’ Category

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

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Fresh Ferns

Alaska Fern (Polystichum setiferum)

Sometimes called a Soft Shield fern this one actually comes from Western Europe.  Who knows why they name things like they do? This one is by our garage and has grown more slowly than one I’ll show you soon.  It’s gotten quite large this year.

Alpine Water Fern (Blechnum penna-marina)

This lovely ground cover fern started out as a 4″ pot several years ago.  I wasn’t sure it would make it since it’s native to New Zealand and the South Pacific.  I love the way it’s turned this area into a little grotto.  It’s growing all thru the area now.

Himalayan Maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum)

I never knew there was hardy evergreen maidenhair fern until I saw this one. It’s so delicate but still able to withstand even 2 feet of snow.  I cut it back to the ground in early spring so this is all new growth.  It’s under a dwarf Dawn Redwood.

Alaska fern (Polystichum setiferum)

This is the same as the first one I showed you, but it’s in the garden proper and has grown Much bigger and faster than its companion. It’s growing over the path now so I have to gently prune it back so we can still walk thru.  It’s 4-5′ across!

Licorice fern (Polypodium glycorrhiza)

This one is native to the west coast of North America. It’s especially prominent in the PNW here where it grows all over the trunks of trees, evenly high up in them.  It’s one of the plants that makes the rain forest so lush and beautiful.

Japanese Tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)

This one grows in SE Asia and Japan.  I’ve been growing it for several years and this one is the best them.  I cut it back in spring, as I do many of these ferns, so all the growth is new and fresh each year.  It’s part of the grotto effect in this area.

The Unknown’s One (Who knows?)

Do you recognize this fern?  If you do please let me know.  It’s an old one here but I somehow lost its tag years ago and have never been able to figure it out.  It dies back to the ground each year and has gotten bigger with each season.

Korean Rock fern (Polystichum tsus-sinensis)

An evergreen fern from Asia that stays lovely all year. I don’t even cut it back because the fronds stay so fresh all year. It went thru some deep cold this winter and did fine.  It’s under a weeping beech and is deeply shaded, but seems to like it.

Ghost fern (Athyrium x Ghost)

Another deciduous fern that dies back to the ground each year.  I don’t have many that do that as I like the evergreen ones better, but some of these are very lovely.  It’s a cross between Lady fern and Japanese Painted fern.  It shines in the shade.

Dwarf Crisped Golden-Scale Male fern (Dryopteris affinis “Crispa-Gracilis”)

A big name for such a small fern!  It’s native to Great Britain.  It loves shady rockeries so it fits in perfectly here.  It’s located right at the edge of the drip from the fountain so it gets plenty of extra water when the fountain is on.  Another grotto fern.

Western Sword fern (Polystichum munitum)

This is our largest fern here in the PNW.  It will get up to 6′ or more in the woods here.  It grows all over and is one of the principal ferns that covers the hills and valleys.  It gives the rain forest a lush look and makes it all so beautiful.

Mackino’s Holly fern (Polystichum mackinoi)

This may look soft and delicate but run your hands over the fronds and it’ll scratch you  You can feel why it’s called a holly fern when you touch it. This is all fresh new growth since I cut it back each year.  It’s only 2 years old here but is quite large.

Robust Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas “Robusta”)

I can hardly believe how fast this fern has grown in the last 2 years it’s been here.  I planted it under a large cryptomeria but it faces away from the deck so to see it you have to be on the path along the fence.  I walk there just to look at it.

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

From the male fern to the lady fern… This is a deciduous fern that gets very big – as big as the sword fern it seems. This one came up as a volunteer many years ago, and since the big shrub in front of it died it finally has a chance to show off.

Hart’s Tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)

A most unusual fern this one is.  It looks like no other in the garden with its shiny stiff fronds that stay green for years.  I cut it back after new growth started this year since the old ones were so ratty looking.  It’s come back well.  It’s from Eurasia.

Soft Shield fern (Polystichum setiferum “Diversilobum”)

This is the same species as the Alaska fern but it’s a cultivar that is much smaller and softer.  It has some curled fronds which is the diversilobum part I guess.  It has grown well over many years and comes back nicely after each winter.

Deer fern (Blechnum spicant)

Another PNW native, this covers the floor of the rain forest, along with the sword and the licorice ferns.  It has both sterile and fertile fronds – the taller ones are sterile and the shorter ones fertile (I think..).  It’s evergreen but gets ratty over winter.

Long Eared Holly fern (Polysticum neoloblatum)

Another one you don’t want to touch too strongly.  The fronds are prickly, almost like holly but not as bad.  It’s had a hard life here but is finally in a good spot to grow well.  It will fill in the area here fully in time.  It’s native to SE Asia.

Hard Shield fern (Polystichum aculeatum)

This is closely related to the Alaska and Soft Shield ferns.  I guess its fronds are stiffer then the others and that’s why it’s called hard.  I hope it doesn’t get as big as the Alaskan in the garden.  It’s not supposed to, but you never know!

Remote Wood fern (Dryopteris remota)

I’m not sure why they call this a remote fern.  It’s native to both Europe and Asia so it covers a wide range.  It needs cutting back each spring before it leafs out and that why it looks so perfect and lush.  That’s Baby Tears under it.  Soft and pretty.

I guess that’s it. I didn’t realize just how many fern we have here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  I’m a big fan of them so it’s no surprise but it’s nice to see them all here in one place.  I do these posts both to share my joy of gardening but also to create a chronicle of our garden.  I can look back over the years and see how things have prospered, or failed.  It’s very useful.

You’ve no doubt noticed that most of the ferns I covered were either Polystichum or Dryopteris.  Dryopteris is a genus of about 250 species that range over most of the northern hemisphere, from Europe to Asia and even to the Americas.  They’re commonly called wood ferns and have their highest concentrations in SE Asia.

Polysticuhm is also a large genus with around 260 species covering a similarly large area, also mostly in Asia, with 120 in China alone.  They also grow over large areas of Brazil, with only a few species in North America, Europe and Africa.  The two genera between them contain most of the ferns of the world.

Thanks for visiting us and checking out our ferns.  I hope you have some space to grow some of these wonders yourself!

Loving the lushness,

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

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

Early Spring Flowers

Pieris japonica “Little Heath”

This is one of the first flowers to show up in early January.  It’ll bloom for two or three months with its small urn shaped flowers so typical of the Heather family – the Ericacea.  It has lovely little variegated leaves that come out a nice pink a bit later.  It’s supposed to be a “dwarf”, but it’s over 6′ tall and 4′ wide now and I think it’ll get even bigger.  A lovely plant and so nice to see it’s flowers so early in the year.

Helleborus orientalis “Mardi Gras Pink” – Lenten Rose

This is another early bloomer that is no doubt familiar to most of you.  It’s named Lenten Rose because it blooms at Lent, obviously.  It tends to hold its flowers downward so you almost have to crawl under it to see them.

Iris reticulata

This little gem was blooming in February when we had the big snow I showed you in the last post.  It’s a dainty thing but it came thru 12″ of snow without a blemish or a crushed petal.  They’ve started to naturalize here in this spot and have come up for 3 years now and are forming bigger clumps each year.

Erica carnea “Springwood White”

This little ground cover is a Heath, which started blooming back in December and is still going strong.  It will spread out to cover this whole area in time and it even blooms well in the shade of the Metasequoia above it.  It also has the little bell shaped flowers typical of the Heather family.

Erica x darleyensis “Kramer’s Rote”

This is another early blooming heath called Kramer’s Rote.  It’s been here for about 9 years now and has taken over part of the path so I have to keep it pruned back a bit so we can walk thru.  I love the deep rose color.  We can see it from the house, which is a joy when the weather is bad and we can’t go out to look at the garden more closely.

Pieris japonica “Mountain Fire”

Another Lily of the Valley shrub.  This usually has more flowers, and I’m not sure why it’s not covered with them this year.  It’s still lovely and gives us early flowers like it’s smaller cousin, the Little Heath.  The new foliage is a bright mahogany red which is why it’s called Mountain Fire.

Tete a Tete Daffodils

These little wonders are right by the front walk into the house, so everyone can see them when they visit us.  They also have naturalized here over the last 3 years and come up faithfully each spring.  You have to get down low to really see them but they’re still pretty when you walk by.

Bluebells

I suspect everyone knows these cute little flowers.  I’ve seen them take over large areas and it’s amazing to see them like that.  These are just tucked away near a couple of conifers and don’t have room to spread but they also have naturalized and come back every year.  I love blue flowers so I treasure them, even tho they’re so common.

Arctostaphyllos densiflora “Howard McMinn”

This is a wonderful small Manzanita that is native to the California coast.  The flowers are so tiny it’s hard to see them I know, but they are very fragrant and are formed with the same urn shape as the other Heather family members. The bark is a notable feature on this plant.  It’s a dark reddish brown and also grows in an interesting, gnarly shape.

Daphne odora “Marginata”

Talk about smells!  This is one of the strongest smelling plants I know of.  You can smell its sweet fragrance all over the front yard, even out to the driveway and up on the front porch.  It got a bit clobbered by the big snow last month and I had to do some major corrective pruning, but it came out fine and is blooming as beautifully as it always does. The smell is truly intoxicating, especially when you stick your nose deep into a flower cluster!

Rhododendron “Cilpinense Pink”

This is one of my favorite Rhodies, and the first to bloom in our garden.  The lovely light lavender rose flowers are blooming profusely now, and contrast nicely with the blue Lawson Cypress next to it.  Last year there was a deep freeze when the buds were still closed and it killed them all, so we had no blooms whatsoever.  I covered it with a burlap sack when we had cold weather this year and it did fine.

There are more plants slowly coming into bloom but I wanted to share a few of these early ones for those of you still snowed in and waiting for signs of spring.  We’re lucky here in Seattle to have such a mild climate where Rhodies and other Heather family members can thrive and give us such stunning blooms each spring.  The winter was generally kind to us and we were even able to do some gardening during the easier times.  But the snow was hard on many of our plants.  Thankfully they seem to be coming back well, and will bloom as the spring and summer progress.

Hope you enjoyed this little touch of early spring!

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