Posts Tagged ‘Sanctuary’

Then and Now

Photo taken 11/08

I thought it might be fun to do a retrospective of the whole garden from its beginning 10 or 11 years ago to today.  This is what the front of the property along the street looked like when I first met Louie in February 2008.

Photo taken 1/20

Same scene today.

Photo taken 11/09

I didn’t have an earlier photo so this one was taken when the plants were first planted.

Photo taken 1/20

Fewer plants of some types, more of others.

Photo taken 11/08

This is the entrance to the house.  Look how small the plants are.

Photo taken 1/20

The Himalayan Sweet Box in the center scents the whole area now.  It’s grown a lot.

Photo taken 11/08

Future site of many cool herbs.  It’s so empty!

Photo taken 1/20

Now this is an herb bed!  Look at the Tuscan Blue Rosemary at the very back!

Photo taken 11/08

We had to take out this poor apple.  It was in bad health and the apples were awful.

Photo taken 1/20

Much more open now.  It’s nice to see thru it all.

Photo taken 11/08

This had grass up to the garage when we started digging.  Such rich soil!

Photo taken 1/20

Many many ferns later…  and a greenhouse at the end!

Photo taken 11/09

I didn’t have one from when this was empty, but there was grass to the fence before we dug it out.

Photo taken 1/20

This is a bit wider shot so you can see we put in a bamboo fence and many plants.

Photo taken 11/08

This is the west end of the garage before we built the greenhouse onto it.

Photo taken 1/20

Looking over the veggie garden to the greenhouse.

Photo taken 12/07

This was taken about 2 months before Louie and I met.

Photo taken 1/20

It’s a real Garden now!!  Here’s to our little Wildlife and Nature Sanctuary!

I hope you enjoyed looking at these photos as much as I enjoyed putting them all together.  I had to do a lot of searching through my photo files.  I have some 8,000 photos of the garden since 2007 so there were a lot to choose from.  I tried to take the “now” photos from about the same place the originals were taken but I didn’t always accomplish that.  I think they still get the point across.

It’s amazing to me to look at these and see just how much things have changed.  It’s possible to transform an entire yard into a beautiful garden so thoroughly.  It’s why I loved creating gardens for people in my past.  You can make such a difference with a few (OK maybe a Lot!) of plants and some time.  It’s very rewarding.  I love gardening!

Time travel has its rewards!

Steve

A Hidden Gem

This is what It looks like across the front of our property.  You can see the Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”) interspersed with Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) all across it, with Lime Marmalade Coral Bells (Heuchera “Lime Marmalade”) and Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens”) underneath it all.  Behind them (to the left) is a large solid hedge of Pyrimidal Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Pyrimidalis”).  This is all a thick screen for the little garden that lies behind it.  It’s a very private space for being right off the street.  We’ll go for a short walk thru it now.

This is what it looks like when you walk up the driveway and peek around the screen.  I’m standing on the path at the entrance to the garden.  On the left it’s framed by a Sango Kaku Japanese maple (Acer palmatum “Sango Kaku”).  Next to the maple is a small sign letting you know that this garden is a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary.  We had to show the WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife that we had food, water and shelter for the many birds who frequent our gardens.  It’s very exciting to watch them fly and listen to them sing.  We got the sign and a wall plaque for the kitchen for our $5 donation.  What a deal!

Above the sign is a Graciosa Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Graciosa”).  It’s part of a new bed of plants we put in last February to replace a lost Arborvitae killed by the snows we had then.  A sad loss, but it’s a nice garden now.  The thin purple stems next to the Graciosa are really a Twombly’s Red Sentinel Japanese maple (Acer plamatum “Twombly’s Red Sentinel”), which is supposed to be the only fastigiate (narrow and skinny) Japanese maple there is.  In the bed with it are Azaleas, Heaths, Rhododendrons, a Gardenia and a small White Cedar.

Next we’re going to be coming into the garden from the opposite end.  We’ll enter from the path from the back garden.  I usually post pictures of the back yard so I wanted to show you the front for a change.  So here we go…

This photo is taken from the path that comes from the back garden along the north side of the house.  To the left of the trunk of the Korean Butterfly maple (Acer tschonoskii ssp. Koreanum) is a long semi-deciduous hedge that screens off the north side of the yard from the neighbors and the street, especially in summer.  Combined with the Arborvitaes along the front and the conifers along the driveway it creates a nice secluded space, as you’ll see.

The narrow conifer in the right side of the frame is a Weeping White Spruce (Picea glauca “Pendula”) that will eventually get a lot taller than the house for a nice exclamation point at the corner.  On its right is a Sappho rhododendron that Louie planted over 30 years ago.  It has white blooms with a splotch of dark purple in the centers.  A very old variety.  Nice.

In the center of the photo are a couple of small dwarf conifers.  On the left is a Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Bobozam”) – the same arborvitae as the Pyrimidal in front – amazing variety, eh?  Next to it is another arborvitae – this time a cultivar of our PNW native, the Western Red Cedar.  This one is called Grune Kugel or green ball in German (Thuja plicata “Grune Kugel”).  In winter the Bowling Ball turns light green, and the Grune Kugel has red tips.

Above the conifers is a deep purple PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”).  Blooms early with light lavender blossoms all over it.  Behind it is a huge old Camellia that’s been here since the ’40’s.  It has kind of mediocre red blooms in early spring but it’s so covered with them it’s still nice.  Next to it is a small growing version of the Japanese maple called Lionshead (Acer palmatum “Shishigishara”).  Interesting crinkled leaves turn a striking orange-red in the fall.

This is your view as you turn the corner and come fully into the garden.  The Lionshead maple is much clearer here and next to and below it you can see the Waterfall dissected Japanese maple (Acer palmatum dissectum “Watefall”).  The tall tree near the center is a Red Fox Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs”).  It has purple leaves in spring that turn a nice deep blueish color for summer and yellow-orange for fall.  A unique tree that grows upward, but not out, supposedly.  To its right is another commonly planted dwarf Hinoki (Chamaecyparia obtusa “Nana Gracilis”).

Forming the screen at the end of the garden is a large blue Pfitzer juniper (Juniperus pfitzeriana “Glauca”) that Louie planted when he did the Arborvitae hedge 30 some years ago.  You can see how it merges with the Arborvitae hedge out front to form a solid screen.  Makes it very private in here.  On the low right is a Winter Daphne (Daphne odora “Marginata”).  It is one of the smelliest plants in the world.  It fills the whole garden with its intoxicating sweetness in late winter.  Wow…

You have a better view of many of the plants I’ve mentioned so far.  The Arborvitae and Katsura on the left, the Hinoki next to it, the blue Pfitzer juniper and the Daphne at the bottom.  At the back you can also see in the arms of the Oregon Green pine (Pinus nigra “Oregon Green”) sticking up.  It merges with the Pfitzer to complete the screen around the corner to the path I stood on in the first photo.  Above the Daphne and Sappho are  the arms of a species tree of the Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa).  It encloses the front porch to make a lush dark green entrance to the house.

We come full circle here to the opening on the gravel path I stood in at the start of this little tour.  You can see the blue Pfitzer at the far left with the Green Pine seeming to grow out of it.  I’ve trained the pine and the Sango Kaku maple on the right to form a cool arch you walk under to come into the garden.  I love plant arches….  I think it makes it seem a bit more mysterious to walk into a garden under an arch.   Especially in summer when the maple is in full leaf.

I think I’ve covered all the trees and shrubs you can see, with the slight exception of a couple of Rhododendrons you can barely see in the center of the photo (Rhododendron “Naselle” and Rhododendron “Sir Charles Lemon”).  The Naselle is loaded with buds for next spring but the Sir Charles won’t bloom for years they say.  It has cool leaves with indumentum on the undersides.  It’s that furry brown stuff you find on the undersides of evergreen Magnolias.  A cool feature.

This was a short tour of photos, but long on explanations.  I hope it was enjoyable for you all.  This little private garden is so secluded I was able to come out here and garden naked all summer long.  (See “World Naked Gardening Day” from last May for more on that subject…).  It was kind of fun to hang out here working and hear people talking as they walked by in the street outside the hedge.  If only they had looked behind the screen!  Privacy has all kinds of benefits…

Stay warm!

Steve

Winter Views From the Elegans

This is the Elegans.  It’s formally called Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans”, or Elegans Sugi in Japanese.  This is a photo I took from our neighbor’s yard because you can’t see this full a picture from our yard.  Too many trees in the way.  I planted it about 10 years ago from an 18″ sapling.  I’d say it’s closing in on 30′ now.  Wow.  It’s one of my favorite “pettable” trees because you can literally pet it it’s so soft and luxurious.  Not like other conifers at all – the ones that stick you so readily.

The photos in the following series form a panoramic view of the back garden from the base of the Elegans, on the other side of this photo. From there you can pretty much see the whole back garden.  It’s a comfortable, dry spot to stand at  times when there’s a little bit of drizzle like we have coming down today.  I’ll show you in the next photo.

This is where I’m standing. The trunk is angled in such a perfect way that I can lean back against it and it supports my back like a recliner.  Nice for a bad back – the gardener’s curse.  Underneath the Elegans is what’s left of the formerly large Gold Dust plant (Aucuba japonica) that I almost killed by planting the Eleagns were I did.  Silly me.  I was able to prune the Aucuba so that it now grows luxuriously on the margin of the Elegans.   It gets lots of sun and can grow tall again.

On the right is a Blue Peter rhododendron that Louie planted here some 30 years ago.  In the  spring it’s a mass of light purple flowers with darker purple centers.  A lovely older variety.  Below is the most wonderful azalea in the garden, in my opinion.  It’s a Kurume called “Ward’s Ruby” (Azalea kurume “Ward’s Ruby”).  When it blooms it’s covered with the deepest red blossoms imaginable and can be seen from the house.  It loves it here.  In fact all the Ericaceae (Heather family) thrive in the deep, wet, peaty soil we have here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  You’ll see a variety of acid loving plants here.

This is what I see when I look to my left.  The tall spindly tree on the left is a “bound” Japanese Umbrella Pine form called “Wintergreen” (Sciadopytis verticillata “Wintergreen”).  It’s bound because it was damaged in the “snopocalypse” we had in February (we don’t get much snow here so we tend to be dramatic about it when we do get it….).  I had to tie up all the branches because they were drooping so badly from the weight of the snow.  I’ll keep the ties on for a year or so and then remove them.  The branches will (hopefully) bounce back up to where they’re supposed to be.  Below it is a huge patch of Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza).  It’s a PNW native you often see on the trunks of trees in the rainforest.

Next to is is a stalwart rhodie called Anna Rose Whitney.  It’s about 6′ x 7′ now and when it blooms in spring it’s a mass of brilliant hot pink with huge trusses of 8 or 10 flowers each.  Very impressive.  The tall tree with the twisty branches to the right is a “Diana” contorted Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”).  It’s one of the handful of deciduous conifers in the world.  It has apple green needles all summer that turn a marvelous shade of deep orange before dropping in the fall.

At the bottom right is a rarely seen Alpine Yew Pine (Podocarpus alpinus “Red Tips”).  It’s from New Zealand and is related to the better known Japanese Yew Pine (Podocarpus macrophylla).  It has beautiful reddish purple tips in late spring.  It looks like a haze over the whole plant.  Above it is the trunk of the Radicans Sugi.  That’s the big dark green tree in back, behind the lamp.  It covers an edge of the little deck we built so we could hang out in the garden.  More on the Sugi in a moment.

When I turn to my right I see the Yew Pine in the foreground with the hanging light above it.  The reddish brown trunk to its left belongs to the Radicans Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Radicans”).  It’s like the Elegans in size now but is definitely not pettable.  It gets bigger too – up to 55 feet or so they say.  The tall dark shape in the background is a Weeping Giant Sequoia  (Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendulum”).  It’s grown over 35′ tall it 10 years, and is the tallest tree we’ve planted.

In the middle foreground is a Red Pygmy Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”).  Below are a couple of nice rhodies – Ken Janeck and Ramapo.  The light yellow plant is a large clump of Japanese Forest Grass (Hakanechloa macra “All Gold”).  Behind the maple is the fountain, which we keep empty in the colder times of the year.  It’s raining now so it’s full.

Going clockwise some more you can see the fountain more clearly and a fuller view of the Red Pygmy.  I’ve recently pruned it out and I’m very pleased with my efforts.   It all seems to be growing the way it wants to and should be a fine strong structure over the years to come.  I’ve been reading about Aesthetic Pruning lately.  The descriptions sound like what I’ve been doing for decades, more or less.  When I was first starting out in the landscape biz I worked with a tree pruner who did “Aesthetic and Therapeutic” pruning.  I took it to heart and have tried to emulate his practices ever since.  It’s about the health and beauty of the whole garden environment, taking all factors into consideration.  Seems like common sense to me.

On the right is a Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia Persica “Vanessa”).  I’ve trained it quite a bit to be very narrow at its base since it tends to spread out as it gets taller and we need to be able to walk around both sides of it.  It’s turned out really well and I think it will grow companionably with the big plum behind it. (You can barely see it on the right). The Ironwood turns a spectacular brilliant golden color in the fall.  You can see it shining from the back door of the house.

In this one you can see the Plum and why I need to prune the Parrotia away from it.  They have to agree to share the air space above them.  I think I did a good job of preparing them to play nice.  The small blue conifer at the bottom is a RH Montgomery blue spruce.  It wants to get bigger than it can here so I have to prune it very judiciously to keep it looking nice and healthy where it is.  We’ll see how long I can do that.  At the right is a mid-size Lily of the Valley shrub called Little Heath (Pieris japonica “Little Heath”).  It has lovely racemes of small  white bell shaped flowers in early spring.  The leaves are nicely variegated with light green and pink on the margins, especially in spring.  It’s another plant in the Heather family.

On the left is the Little Heath and in the middle is a Jade Butterflies dwarf Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”).  It’s so named because the leaves look like little butterflies.  Ginkgos are supposed to turn a spectacular shade of golden yellow in the fall. They’re known for it.  But for some odd reason ours never does this.  lt’s usually a pallid shade of yellow.  Except last year when Everything was brilliant it did what it’s supposed to do.  ???

Behind the Ginkgo is a snatch of our veggie garden, with a Spaan’s Slow Column Scots pine (Pinus sylvestnis “Spaan’s Slow Column”) at the north end of the veggies where it won’t shade them.  You can see a patch of Lacinato Kale at the back.  They’ll be in fine shape to start to grow at the very beginning of spring.  They overwinter quite well.  The blue barrels hold garden soil, compost and fertile mulch for when we need a bit of help with things.  It’s handy to keep a bit of each on hand.

This is the final shot in the panorama.  You can see the Ginkgo on the left and in the middle is the Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”).  It’s another of the few deciduous conifers that exist.   We also have a third – a dwarf Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum).  (It didn’t show up in this series of photos).  Both the Metasequoia and Ginkgo are very ancient trees, formerly found only in the fossil record.  It’s nice to have them in cultivation.  You can see the strawberry bed better here.  It’s not that big but we get quarts of berries.  Fresh fruit is so wonderful to pick and eat right out of the garden.  Above you on the right is the Elegans again.  We’re almost back where we started.

Here we are back at the trunk again.  I intentionally pruned up a hollow in this tree so we could stand under it when it rains, which it was doing just now when I took all these photos.  I didn’t plan for this to be such a wonderful viewing spot but I’m so glad I “discovered” it one day when I was perambulating the garden, which I try to do every morning.  I like to keep up on the doings of all the plants and do bits of “micro pruning” to keep everyone growing happily and harmoniously together.  It’s a magical sanctuary but it takes constant, careful work to keep it that way.  Having a spot like this where I can overlook the whole garden at once helps me get a more holistic perspective on things. It’s easier to comprehend it all as one large entity.

I hope you enjoyed these panoramic views of the garden.  It all feels so much bigger when you’re in the thick of it.

Relaxing on a rainy day,

Steve

Inside the Forest

This is the sort of photo I usually present of our garden.  It shows you the south side of the main ornamental garden, with a few marigolds and tomatoes from the veggie gardens in the foreground.  It was taken from along the fence in the back of the veggie garden.  It’s a nice colorful photo full of plants that lets you see what this whole side of the garden looks like, tho I guess this one’s a bit impressionistic, isn’t it.  Lots of colors, textures and forms all blended together.  Getting nice wide shots like this generally means shooting them from outside the garden itself.

This time I’m going to show you photos that were taken looking out from inside of the small forest we’re creating here in the rich peaty soils of our intensely planted little Nature Sanctuary.  It’s what we see when we venture off the lawn and onto the soft bark paths that wind thru the trees.  It almost feels like you’re walking in an actual forest, and it smells like it too.  Inside you’re enveloped within the lush scents of the trees and all the other amazing plants growing in here.  Many of them are taller than we are so it all feels much bigger inside it than it ever looks like from the outside.  It’s a bit different, as you’ll see.

This one was taken from a crossroads at the back of the path that leads into the south side I showed you in the last shot.  The big Elegans Sugi is on your right, and it really feels big when you stand right next to it.  The Red Pygmy maple is on the left, and standing in between them you feel enclosed in the trees’ energies.  It feels deep, calm and peaceful.

This is taken from the same spot as the last one, only now we’re looking directly under the Elegans sugi.  You can see how soft it looks.  It is.  It’s one of my main “pettable” trees because the needles won’t stick you like most other conifers will.  Being next to it you can really pet it!  It’s only been here 10 years and has grown from 18″ to over 25 feet tall in that time!

As you move back into the depths of the forest on  the same path you can see the green, white and pink variegated leaves of the Ukigumo Japanese maple on the right, with the soft droopy Elegans Sugi in the back and the deciduous Japanese Larch “Diana” on your left.  The Larch is all contorted and twists and turns around on itself.   Very cool!  The big “Blue Peter” Rhododendron in the middle has been here for well over 30 years!  The ground is covered with Kinnickinnick.

This is what you see when you turn around and look back behind you, past the Larch and towards the edge of the garden.  You can just see the Japanese Umbrella Pine on the left, with a big rhodie next to it that encloses the space nicely.  The little Licorice Fern on the lower left gives the lush feel of the PNW rain forests.  It dies back every year but returns even better.

If you stand in the same spot again and look towards the deck you’ll see our garden lamp and its wrought iron post.  The Larch is on your left and the Red Pygmy Japanese maple is on your right, with the Alpine Yew Pine in the foreground.

As you move up onto our little deck under the Larch branch you can see the bench and the light, with the fountain in the middle at the back side of the bench.  The Red Pygmy maple is right in front of you and the Bloodgood Japanese maple is the red tree on your left.  And no, we didn’t kill the deer whose horns grace our bench.  Consider it a “found” item….

This is taken from the same spot on the deck as the last shot, only looking to your left a bit.  The huge fern at the bottom left is an Alaska fern that has gotten huge in its 10 years here.  I cut it back to a foot high every spring and it grows back to this!  You can see the Bloodgood maple more clearly here.  On the left edge of the photo you can see the stairs to the house.

And finally, turning all the way to the left you can see the edge of the deck and the path leading back out of the forest to the outside again where the lawn is.  On the edge of the lawn the large conifer on the left is a 30′ tall Weeping Giant Sequoia.  It leans a bit to the neighbors – eek!  The big tree on the left is a Radicans Sugi which is now at least 25 feet tall.  You feel small next to it and can hardly see the top of it when you stand on the deck now.  All this from a 5 foot tree planted in 2013!

So did you feel the difference being inside the forest?  I hope so.  It’s so hard to convey just how cool it is to wander around under these trees and in between the shrubs.  Seeing them up close like this you get to admire all their unique foliages, forms, textures and growth habits.  You get to touch and smell them.  They become real creatures to you, not just colors and shapes you see from a distance.  It changes you to be in there.  It’s all pretty well kept and even semi formal, but it’s full of wildness too.  The plants make it so.  In just 10 years this has become a truly lovely little Nature Sanctuary and Forest.  It’s all part of our efforts to save and enhance a vibrant little part of the Natural World!  Combat Climate Change – Plant a Forest!!

Make your own little Nature Sanctuary!

Steve

Intermediate Conifers

Swane’s Golden Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens “Swane’s Golden”)

All the conifers I’m showing you today only grow 10-30 feet tall.  This particular form of the popular Italian Cypress originated in the Swane Brother’s nursery in Australia in 1946.  Since then it’s become very useful as a gold colored accent tree.  It grows at a moderate rate up to 30 feet tall, and stays narrow, so it will fit in tight spaces where the height is not a problem.  It stays this lovely golden color all year but may be slightly more colorful in summer, as many colored conifers are.

Blue Pfitzer Juniper (Juniperus chinensis “Pfitzeriana glauca”)

This is one of the most frequently planted junipers there is.  It grows 10 to 12 feet tall and spreads much wider if allowed to.  We keep ours from getting that wide or it would block our whole driveway!  I prune it back once or twice every year to keep it in bounds.  It grows with this wonderful 45 degree arching habit that makes it look pretty wild, and it is.  It’s a very vigorous and fast growing plant with a lovely blue color to it that contrasts nicely with the green ones surrounding it.

Dwarf Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret”)

This is one of my “pettable’ trees, due to its incredibly soft foliage.  It’s a unique tree – a deciduous conifer that loses all its leaves in fall after they turn a striking orange-brown.  It will supposedly grow to 20 feet or more.  Ours is already 13 1/2 feet tall after about 9 years in our garden.  It’s gotten way wider that I expected  – probably over 12 feet at this point.  The species grows in swampy areas in the SE part of the US, and puts on “knees”, or above ground roots, to help hold them up.  Ours has a couple of small raised bumps, but they’re not really knees.  Not yet anyway.

Blue Arrow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum “Blue Arrow”)

This is one of the skinniest junipers, or trees of any sort, you can find.  They grow 20-25 feet tall but only 2-3 feet wide.  It’s  considered an improved form of the popular Skyrocket juniper which is also narrow, but gets a bit wider and taller.  These  are also much bluer, which is a nice contrast to the surrounding plantings.  They’ll be a nice screen to give us more privacy.

Van den Akker Alaska Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis “Van den Akker”)

Another very narrow tree that might even be skinner than the Blue Arrows.  It grows up to 25 or 30 feet tall but barely a foot or more wide, tho it throws out side branches that are wider from time to time.  I know it’s a bit hard to see here because it’s surrounded by so many other plants.  I expect it to tower over the others in time but now it’s sort of hiding behind them.

Beanpole Hybrid Yew (Taxus x media “Beanpole”)

This is cross between the English and Japanese yews.  It combines the utility of the English yews with the greater hardiness of the Japanese species.  It will eventually grow 10 or 12 feet tall but will stay very narrow (do you sense a theme here?…).  It will only get a foot or two wide.  It’s poisonous in all its parts, especially the bright red berries it has on it now in September.  It’s growing quite fast – well over a foot a year.  It’s a lovely dark green accent for our path of conifers along the garden.

Spann’s Slow Column Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris “Spaan’s Slow Column”)

Scots pine has so many cultivars!  We have two very different ones in our small garden.  This one will stay very narrow and will only get 15 or 20 feet tall, if even that.  It grows very slowly so it’ll take it awhile to get that tall, but it puts on small cones even at this young age, which is very cool.  I like the blueish color of the needles.  Another skinny accent along the garden.

Golden Spire Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Daniellow”)

This is a beautiful golden form of our native Western Red Cedar – the tree that’s probably most symbolic of the Pacific Northwest.  The species is used by the indigenous people here to make just about everything they need – from longhouses to canoes, to clothing and hats, to ceremonial uses and even medicines.  This golden form stays this brilliant color all year long, but is brighter in the full sun it’s growing in and in the summer.  Another narrow tree, it will grow to 20 or 30 feet tall but only 3 or 4 feet wide.  The golden color is a beautiful accent among the green of the other conifers here.

Skyrocket juniper (Juniperus scopulorum “Skyrocket”)

I alluded to this tree earlier when I was talking about the Blue Arrows.  This is the original skinny juniper that was supposed to be the skinniest of them all, until the Blue Arrows came along that is.  This one is wider and taller than the Blue Arrows and grows a bit faster from my observation.  It’s a nice gray-green that sort of melds into the surrounding area and provides  a nice vertical accent by the gate here.  So far it’s thin enough that it doesn’t block the gate, and I hope it stays that way!

Oregon Green Austrian Black Pine (Pinus nigra “Oregon Green”)

I know it’s a bit confusing to call this a green pine, that is also a black pine, but that’s the way they named it.  It was “discovered” in a nursery in Oregon which accounts for the Oregon part, and of course it’s green, so I guess that’s why.   I’d have focused on the extremely white candles you see here in spring.  They open up to stiffly persistent needles that stay on the tree for years.  It has many cones which fall and line the front walk.  I love walking by it on the fallen needles and cones.

Diana Contorted Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”)

They say this tree will max out around 30 feet, but I suspect it may get even taller.  l’ve never seen a large one, only photos, so we’ll just have to wait and see.  It’s about 20 feet tall now, after 5 years growing here – once putting on 4 1/2 feet in one year!  It doesn’t have that far to go to get there.  It’s another deciduous conifer that loses all its needles after they turn a brilliant golden orange color in the fall.  It doesn’t provide much shade yet but it’s still a wonderful tree overhanging the small deck in the back of the garden. The branches all twist and twirl around themselves, thus the contorted part in the name.

Black Dragon Japanese Cedar/Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Black Dragon”)

This is one of the hundreds of cultivars of this tree, of which we have several.  It’s the national tree of Japan.  We call it Japanese Cedar but, they call it Sugi.  The species and some large cultivars are very important timber trees.  The species grows well over a hundred feet tall, and we have one cultivar that gets over 50 feet.  But this little one here only grows 10 to 20 feet tall, and it takes it some time to do that.  They call it Black Dragon for its dark needles.  It’s definitely not one of my “pettable” ones since its needles are very stiff and hard to the touch.  It grows fast in youth but it’s slowed down now to only a few inches a year.  It won’t get too wide but I’ll still need to prune it to fit in someday as it and the ones next to it grow.

These are the medium sized conifers we have growing here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  They fill a need for evergreens that don’t get too wide but still have some height to them.  They love the rich, wet, acid soils we have here in our little Greenwood peat bog – perfect for most conifers.  As you surely noticed many of these are rather skinny things, which means a lot of them can fit in the garden without taking up too much floor space.  Given the small size of our garden this is a very nice feature, and one for which I’ve specifically chosen them.  We do have some larger conifers, but I’ll wait to show them to you in a future post.  For now I hope you’ve enjoyed this presentation of the various mid-sized conifers we grow here.

Happy Autumn!

Steve

“Vanessa” Persian Ironwood

August 2015 – home from the nursery

August 2015 – Just planted

October 2015

March 2016

May 2016

November 2016

February 2017

May 2017

October 2017

February 2018

May 2018

October 2018

January 2019

May 2019

August 2019 – Today

 

The Persian Ironwood tree (Parrotia persica) is native to Iran, or Persia, as it was originally known.  This is a selected variety introduced in England in 1840.  It’s much more narrow growing than the species, which can get quite wide, tho not that tall.  They’re wonderful 4 season trees, with tiny red flowers in late winter and early spring.  Then in summer the scallop shaped leaves come out with reddish tinges on the margins and very lush growth.  By fall it turns spectacular shades of bright golden yellow, which you can see in some of these photos here.  In winter the bark is the beautiful part, turning a mottled green, cream and tan as it ages.  The form is also quite lovely in winter when you can easily see its branching patterns.

This is a relatively columnar form of this tree and is supposed to grow 20 – 40 feel tall and 10 – 20 feet wide.  I’ve pruned the base of it to keep it narrow so it will fit in between the paths where we’ve planted it.  It’s been growing by leaps and bounds every year.  You can see how large it’s gotten in just 5 growing seasons, and the summer isn’t over yet so it’s still growing now.  It’s pretty cool to see it put on 3 – 4 feet of growth each year, tho some  websites say it’s slow growing.  Not for us!  At first the foliage just flops all over itself and falls down into the paths.  But as the summer progresses the branches pull themselves back up into a more narrow form.  I had to restrain myself to keep from pruning it the first year as I watched this habit develop.  Sometimes it’s best to just wait and see what a tree will do before you lop off a branch or two.  You can’t put them back on you know…

Vanessa, which was named for a colorful species of butterfly, has received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticulture Society, and is also a Great Plant Pick chosen by the Elisabeth Miller botanical garden here in Seattle.  It’s in the same family as the witch hazels, but the flowers on this one don’t have any fragrance.  I’ve never seen a really large specimen of this tree, but I’ve seen lots of photos, and it’s really striking as it gets bigger.  As usual I didn’t really give it quite as much room as it might like so I’ll have to continue to do some aesthetic and therapeutic pruning on it as time goes on.  Right now I’m training a couple of the main trunks to head out from under the canopy of the plum next to it so it will grow up and over the plum and the two won’t fight each other as much.  It’s challenging to do this training but it’s also a lot of fun figuring out just how to get everyone here to get along with one another.

This tree likes the moist peaty soil we have in our little Nature Sanctuary here in Greenwood.  It holds the water well but also drains nicely so there’s no worry about over watering.  I also don’t have to give it nearly as much water as other gardeners here in Seattle say they need to do to establish their trees.  I have a system of counting to a certain number based on how many gallons of water the hose puts out per minute.  Yes, I measured the output of the hose to do this.  Sometimes it gets a little bit nuts to count out all the plants to be sure they get enough water.  At times I can’t seem to stop myself from counting everything I run into!  It’s useful to help the plants to establish well, but it makes me a little bit crazy… 😉

Happy gardening!

Steve

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