Posts Tagged ‘Pruning’

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,



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,



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.


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.


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.


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!


Arborizing a Red Twig Dogwood

As any of you who have grown this plant knows, it tends to want to become a 10-15 foot ball. I’m trying something different. I’m training it up to become a tree. I got the idea at the NW Flower and Garden Show a couple of years ago with a yellow twig one and it caught my imagination. And since I had a wet space for a small tree but not a ball, I decided to try to see if I could train it up to become that small tree.

This can be done with many plants that are often at that middle range between real trees and large shrubs. I’ve seen this done well with lilacs, and laurels, strawberry trees and even some rhodies. If it gets too big to be a shrub for you, you might consider making it a tree instead. It exposes the inner bark which can be wonderful. Many shrubby trees have nice bark… like this dogwood that is bright red in the winter.

So often I think people think in terms of cutting Back a plant, cutting it Down in effect. Sometimes it’s good to look up and see what can happen in that piece of sky above the plant. Maybe you can make use of it to increase your garden “airprint” as well as its footprint. It makes your garden bigger even if it’s not… Something we smallholders have to keep in mind…

I’ve put these pictures in chronological order and you can see how insanely fast this thing grows. I  was shocked. I planted it in April of 2011 as the first couple of pictures show. Even there you can see the difference in just 3 weeks of growth. The next one is in July and it’s grown a lot by then. I’m beginning to be amazed…

Here it’s the spring of March in 2012. Then March again and later on in June. The next one is of the tree in fall in November after losing its leaves. You can see that I’ve done some removal of branches I didn’t want but I haven’t taken off everything. I just want to be careful. I sometimes have a tendency to prune too heavily and that’s not always wise…

The next shot, in March of 2013, is one of the whole north side fence area. It shows you how huge that dogwood has gotten in context with the other plants. You can see how big the Scotch Pine Inverleith has grown well here and the choke cherry near the dogwood too has done well. But the dogwood is the standout. I am truly amazed by now!!

The remaining shots are all during this last year. I guess I decided to shoot it often. I pruned it heavily at first and then let it go where it wanted except for pruning off some suckers that I knew I wouldn’t want. I established a good framework with the 6 branches I had in the first year. And I waited to prune it this year till all those gorgeous colored leaves had fallen. Patience has its rewards…

The next shot shows you the same line of the north side back fence that I showed you above. But here it’s taken in late October of this year and you can barely make out the branches of the dogwood high above the ones of the Taxodium and the choke cherry. It’s much taller than they are.

The last shot shows you the tree as it is today, actually this morning since I took this just now. I pruned it a bit after it lost its leaves so it has the structure I hope will work for it for now at least. I have no idea what will come in the years ahead. I’m envisioning a round headed tree about 10-12 feet tall and the same across, but up high.

It’ll compete with the Taxodium and the Cryptomeria perhaps, but I think they’ll do alright together. I’ll try to help them along to do that. They both grow much slower than the dogwood does, tho both do pretty well. They can hold their own I believe, with some careful pruning to make sure the dogwood doesn’t shade them out too much.

So this is it. I let the dogwood grow a lot and then pruned it to shape it and removed the suckers and crossing branches I knew I didn’t want early on. I’ve kept to that practice since the first year or so and pruned off things I thought were in the way of the framework developing into a tree like structure. It’s different I’ll admit. But I like it, and I think it’ll work really fine… 😉

Making trees from shrubs,


BTW: In actual specific fact this tree is a Conus sericea “Baileyi”, or Bailey’s Red Twig Dogwood, a cultivar selected for it’s lack of suckers (Ha!) and it’s intense red colors in the winter (Yeah!). The species may in fact get somewhat larger and I’ve seen them at 20 feet or more in the wilds. Just so ya know…

Plant Amnesty Says: Stop Topping Trees

PlantAmnesty bumpersticker

This is a blatant promotion of a non-profit organization here in Seattle that I think more people should be aware of. I’ve been a member for a few years and have deep respect for their work. They’ve literally changed the way people see Trees and plants in this area and show statistics of some of those changes here in this Info. kit I’ve copied from their website, (with permission I might add). The words are theirs, but they could just as well be mine. Please think about what they are saying and consider contacting them about joining them or starting a similar group in your area. The world needs its Trees and needs them to be healthy and well pruned. It’s all about pruning to Plant Amnesty and they deserve a lot of support. I’m just trying to do my share here.

A Stand for Trees.

“We promise that when we take what we want from Nature, that we will do so selectively and with respect. Always we will preserve the health and integrity of the whole, be it a plant, a rainforest, or a planet.” Cass Turnbull, Founder, PlantAmnesty.

PlantAmnesty Mission Statement
To end the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs caused by mal-pruning (and other common forms of plant mis-management).

Most people take it for granted that trees and plants are being maintained properly, or that it’s not really a major issue. But think of the green infrastructure of our city — improper pruning and tree topping add up to an expensive waste of resources, and many trees and plants pay for these mistakes with their lives.

PlantAmnesty was founded in 1987 to “stop the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs.” The nonprofit group uses a unique blend of humor and controversy to raise public awareness of “Crimes Against Nature” committed in our own backyards. PlantAmnesty vows to end Crimes Against Nature. After alerting the public to this problem, our volunteers provide readily accessible and accurate information, materials and services.

PlantAmnesty’s solutions to plant abuse and neglect include garden renovation workshops, classes, videos, a referral service and volunteer pruning and tree projects throughout the community. Several grants have allowed our group to produce and distribute thousands of Pruning Guides, Saving Trees and Views pamphlets, tree biology quizzes for local students, tree planting guides and locally-produced public service announcements.

A serious “Crime Against Nature” is the misguided practice of topping trees. One of PlantAmnesty’s major efforts over the past two decades has been to stop this “torture and mutilation.” Why doesn’t topping work? Topping actually increases a tree’s growth rate rather than slowing it, and this makes it an expensive choice. It’s also ugly. But mostly it’s dangerous because it rots, starves and weakens a tree. Topping trees can also decrease property values for a homeowner and the entire neighborhood.

PlantAmnesty’s media campaign works. In the Seattle 1990 edition of the yellow pages, 17 of the 28 businesses with display ads advertised topping as a service. That’s 61%. In 1998 that number was 10/22 or 45%. In 2001 it was 8/34 or 23%. In 2003 only 3 in 36 advertised topping – a mere 8%!

Heritage Tree Program: Since there is little legal protection for trees in Seattle, PlantAmnesty decided to identify and celebrate the City’s special trees.
Funding for the Seattle Heritage Tree program was originally supplied by a grant from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the USDA Forest Service. Additional support has been provided from time to time by various departments of the City of Seattle. In-kind volunteer services are provided by PlantAmnesty arborists and members of the Heritage Tree Committee. In 1999 the City of Seattle became an official partner of the program, providing staff support and the Heritage Tree web site at:

Raise Awareness of the Problem.
Provide Solutions (referral service, education, volunteer pruning and care).
Engender Respect for Plants.
We Affirm:
That our organization is inclusive, tolerant and based on grassroots collective action.
That our educational materials are clear, current and technically accurate.
That we will maintain a sense of humor and good-will being outspoken on the issues.

PlantAmnesty has more than 1000 members in 31 states and four countries. We are part of a growing movement to lead society out of the dark ages of landscape care.
PlantAmnesty members share a common bond of caring about green things, and they know that an immense amount of damage is done to our landscapes as a simple result of widespread ignorance.

PlantAmnesty provides these valuable services to the community:
• Alerting the public to Crimes Against Nature with a media campaign that employs humor, education and controversy to raise public awareness. We average one million readers – viewers – listeners per year.
• Educational materials and literature including “how-to” guides, videos, pruning topics, articles, essays and slide shows. We average 300 free DVDs and videos, 6,000 free pruning guides and $3,000 worth of literature are distributed annually.
• Pruning classes, lectures, and hands-on lessons, workshops and demonstrations. Average 50 classes and 2,000 people taught annually.
• Professional arborist and gardener donated work days.
• Web Site:
Password Library available to members.
• Seattle Heritage Tree Program.
• Master Pruner Program.
• Nasty Letter Writer.
• Thousands of calls and requests for information answered by our office staff and volunteers.
• Educational display booths and speakers bureau.
• Gardener and Arborist referrals made through our free Referral Service.

PlantAmensty engenders respect for our urban ecology by speaking out on behalf of the urban forest. We have fun while we try to change the world, because we take our mission, but not ourselves, seriously.

Volunteers are the heart of most any non-profit organization, PlantAmnesty included. Our members spend countless hours providing much-needed services and education to the public. Volunteers participate in events such as the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, PlantAmnesty’s Fall FUN(d)raiser, Master Gardener’s Plant Sale and the International Society of Arboriculture’s annual conference. PlantAmnesty always needs people to speak on behalf of trees, and serve on our committees. PlantAmnesty staffs educational booths with volunteers, always pairing up a veteran with a newcomer. We also encourage members to come to Volunteer Yard Renovations. These group projects allow professional gardeners the opportunity to share tricks of the trade, tool information, and to get to know others of their kind. Novices get the opportunity to learn how to weed and prune from more experienced members. And besides, everybody feels great after saving a needy and deserving landscape from years of neglect.
Volunteers are invited to serve on these PlantAmnesty committees:
• Heritage Tree
• Education & Advocacy
• Tree Programs
• Financial Development
• Events (Fall Plant Sale)

Awards: Seattle’s Friend of the Trees Award, International Society of Arboriculture’s Gold Leaf Award, National Arbor Day Foundation’s Education Award.
PlantAmnesty is a federally approved 501 C-3 non-profit organization. As such, donations are tax deductible. Our Federal EIN Number is 91-1393557

P.O. Box 15377
Seattle, WA 98115-0377
Tel: 206-783-9813
Fax: 206-529-8023

Back to me again. I hope this has been a fun read for you. It always is for me and I get inspired just reading about their work as well as doing it in my own ways of educating people about how to prune correctly or choose the right plants to put in our yards and gardens. It’s a mission for some of us and has been for me my whole life as a gardener and landscaper, since I was in my teens even. I never did like topped trees and now I understand a lot more about why I didn’t and don’t. Please think about your choices when you prune your trees and shrubs. It can make or break your garden and leave horrid scars that last for years and may never be overcome. I’ve seen too much of it and if I seem a bit over zealous, well, it’s because I am 😉

Happy and Safe Pruning to you all,


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