Posts Tagged ‘Personal Gardens’

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,



Good Luck Charm

I’ve heard that in Japan it is considered  good luck if you plant a Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) like this one next to  your  doorway and it grows up above the top of your door frame.  This bamboo –  (not a real bamboo – it’s in the Barberry family, with Oregon Grape, Barberries and other Mahonias) –  is 11 feet tall, one of the tallest I’ve ever seen.  The door is on a porch that is 4 feet high – so the plant is 7 feet tall at the porch level and is just above the doorway.   Since we have such good luck here in this home we figure this may be a true thing.  Might as well be, eh?  Good luck is always welcome…

However lucky they are, the berries are unfortunately not good luck for the birds.  They’re poisonous to them, and to us as well, so don’t eat them or expect the birds to.  They know what they doing!   They’re so pretty on the plant anyway, who would want to remove them?  Except maybe to bring them indoors to brighten up your living room with a floral display!

Good luck to you and yours,


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,


NW Flower and Garden Festival

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

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

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

Happy Viewing,


Winter Foliage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colorfully good wishes,  Steve

Hummer Heaven

This is a Mahonia x media “Charity” and it’s a haven for the hummingbirds.  In the middle of Winter it’s hard for the little guys to find good food, but this is one place they can always get it.  It’s not uncommon to see several of them at one time on this bush.  Later on the flowers will turn into blue berries that are treats for other birds. All in all it’s a good plant for the bird lovers among us, tho it’s not so friendly to people.  It lives along a path to the greenhouse with the ferns and you have to be careful or it’ll stick you badly.  Still it’s so beautiful that it’s worth the risk.  It grows pretty fast too.  It’s been in the yard for about 6 years and is 8′ tall.  It’s in the Berberidaceae family, and is related to the barberries, various Oregon grapes and the nandinas.  It’s a cool family with lots of colorful plants and many of them have good food for the birds as well.  Check it out and enjoy!

Building a Walkway

We’ve been slogging thru the wet grass and mud for years now to get from the house and garage to the greenhouse.  So we decided it was time to build a new path to it so we don’t get so wet and yucky.  It was a big project but Louie and I work well together and it only took a few hours, over several days that is.  It was actually kind of fun, once we got everything straightened out so the lines were clear from the old walk to the new one.  Lining it up was crucial to making it look good and a part of the whole.  It worked out just as we’d hoped.  Here it is in various stages of construction:

These are the materials we used.  We had 34 exposed aggregate stones that each weigh about 40 pounds, so just with the stones we moved some 1400 pounds. But before we put down the stones we had to spread 20 sacks of gravel at 100 pounds a sack, or a ton of gravel.   Then we put down 10 100 pound sacks of sand for another 1/2 ton.  So all together we moved close to 2 1/2 tons of material to construct this thing.  And that doesn’t count all the soil we moved!  No wonder it was tiring!

Here it is in an early stage of work when we have the grass out and the gravel just begun.  You can see the old walkway we started from that is the same style of bricks.  We wanted a consistent look to it so we used the  same materials.  We put down about 3-4″ of gravel and 2″ of sand to make the bed for the stones.

We ran all the dirt thru a screen we’d devised earlier just for that purpose.  It sifts out the stones and the grass.  We  compost the grass and toss the stones under the deck.  But the soil we used in the garden to increase the level with a few inches of new soil.  In order to fit it all in there we raised the sides of the beds of the garden about 6″ to allow for the new soil.  We’ll have to mix in compost to make the garden rich again and will do so once the current crop of kale and mustard greens, and the last of the tomatoes, are gone.

Here you can see the gravel starting to be spread on the path.  You can see one of the stones set here to get a feel for the level.  Once the gravel is at the right depth we added the sand to bring the depth up and to even it all so that it can be exactly the same level as the current walkway.  We did OK at that so the line is straight and the path is on an even grade and has no bumps or low spaces in it.  Next we put down the stones to finish it off.

Here is the actual walk set in place.  We threw a bunch of sand down over it to fill in the cracks and make it all solid.   We had to cut some of the stones to fit with the step of the greenhouse.  We had a diamond masonry blade to use to cut the stone.  It did a great job as long as we wore masks to keep the stone dust out of our noses and dripped some water on the blade to keep the dust down and the blade cool.   We just used our circular saw we already had and have used for many previous projects.

Here I am sweeping the sand over the walk to get it into all the cracks.  It took awhile and then we let it settle for a day or so before watering it in and getting it all smooth and nice.  The sand makes it all look like a solid path.  You can see we did a pretty good job of cutting the lawn back to the edge of the stones so that the grass will grow back even and make it all feel like it’s been there for awhile, which it does today as I write this.

Here it is all finished and ready to use.  You can see it’s much lighter than the old one, but then the ‘old’ one was put in new just a few years ago to match what we had then.  It’s weathering well and looking as good as the original old stone we reused in that first project.  The new stone will weather just as well and look consistent in time.  This is being so useful to us already as we go back and forth to the garage and the greenhouse.  We can stay dry now and have a clean path to walk on so we don’t track mud into the house.

This was a relatively big project but we got it done despite the hard work.  It’s not that difficult to do if you want a walk like this.  It was work of course and you have to have a good eye for the lines so it comes out straight and level.  But that difficulty is OK when you consider that you’ve made it yourself and can be proud of your work.  It’s worth it to have done it ourselves.  We’re glad we put it in despite all the work, and you will be too if you decide to try this.

Happy building!


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