NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

A Gardening Journal


Good Together: Allée of 'Limelight' Tree Hydrangeas

Creating structural garden components of living plants, not hardscape, requires boundless optimism, diligence, and patience: The constituent plants of a hedge, arch, pergola, allée, or backdrop screen aren't available full-size, and will assume their mature forms only after years or, even, decades. And all the while, only by dint of partnership with their human stewards.

Hydrangea paniculata Limelight Fagus grandifolia Taxodium distichum Cascade Falls both Picea glauca conica Buxus sempervirens Vardar Valley 122217 320

Someday, this allée of tree hydrangeas will canopy the central walkway. Right now, I'm grateful, simply, that their heads of dried-in-place flowers are high enough to be visible. Give me five or ten years, and all the "hortitecture" composing this view will be finally, and fully, formed.

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The Curtain of Weeping Bald Cypress

Any plant in a starring location must command it—and with style. On both counts, this young, weeping form of bald cypress, Cascade Falls, has a bright future. 

Taxodium distichum Cascade Falls 1108117 320 

Unusual for a star, it also has a prosaic function: curtaining off an extension of one of the garden's cross-axes that (long story) must cut through a giant brush pile before resuming its cartesian course.

 

Only for state occasions do I cleave through the pile, then draw back the taxodium curtain to reveal the full view down the vista. The other 363 days of the year, the "folds" of the curtain must once again fall straight down.

 

Cascade Falls is the tree for the job—I mean, the role—of its lifetime.

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Foxtail Lilies, Below Ground & Above

One of the counter-intuitive delights of plants—so much of whose growth is, necessarily, above-ground—is that what’s below ground is sometimes startlingly visual. Roots of yellow root are—you guessed it—yellow. Chrome yellow. Feeder roots of lotus form a starburst of white filaments, each with a pink tip.

 

But here's the rub: Such shows are on display only when the plants are bare-root. Keep that lotus out of water for more than minutes, and it will begin to wilt. For the day? It could die outright.

 

Happily, some plants are marketed as dormant tubers, rhizomes, corms, and bulbs that tolerate being out of the ground and fully visible for weeks or even months. And a few of those normally-hidden structures are stunners.

 

Take so-called foxtail lilies, named for their vulpine flower spikes in spring. Their curious roots evoke starfish, spiders, and octopusses.

Eremurus hybrids fingers close up 120717 320

An octopus lily when you plant it, and a foxtail lily when it flowers: Under any name, in any season, it's essential.

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Durably Deciduous: 'Winter Beauty' Honeysuckle

Winter Beauty honeysuckle is one of my garden's most hardworking shrubs: fragrant flowers in late winter, purple bark on the new stems in summer, colorful bark on the older stems all winter and, perhaps closest to my heart, the ability to be trained into espaliers as well as standards and coppices.

 

Here's yet another talent: The foliage doesn't check out when fall frosts begin. 

Lonicera x purpusii Winter Beauty overall vertical 112017 320

Instead, the greenery persists into the first snows—sometimes as far into December that the calendar says that winter itself is here. True, that's not evergreen, but it's not nothing at a time when so many other plants retreat to the ground, or whose branches have become completely bare. What about calling Winter Beauty "defiantly deciduous?"

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Castor Aralia, More Spiky than Ever

Six years ago, my castor aralia had just three stems. Now there are a dozen or so. They'll remain leafless until new foliage emerges in spring, so their freakish thorniness is in full reveal.

Kalopanax septimlobus var. maximowiczii 113017 base of trunks 320

For me, even one viciously thorny branch that is naked from November through April is one kind of heaven. More please!  

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Leatherleaf Viburnums

Viburnums lack the colorful flowers of rhododendrons and roses but, especially in climate zone 6 and colder, are far more useful. But being thought of as merely functional would be to damn them with faint praise.

 

Thankfully, it's possible to look beyond those other shrubs' flowers. Actually, it's a relief to do so: it frees you to appreciate the rest of the world of shrubbery on its own terms. 

 

Such as viburnums. Below, a so-called leatherleaf viburnum. 

 Viburnum rhytidophyllum Green Trump 112017 overall 320

Leather-leaf?

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