A Gardening Journal


Evergreen Barberry

One of gardening's mysteries is why the deciduous barberries—Berberis thunbergii in particular—are omnipresent even where evergreen barberries are also hardy. This is Berberis replicata, so desirable and yet so rarely planted it doesn't even have a decent common name. 

Berberis replicata fingers foliage spines 11141 320

This shrub is hardy to coastal Maine, deer-proof, with quality foliage & fragrant flowers—and it doesn't seem to self-seed. Under any name, it's essential.

Read more: Evergreen Barberry


The Best Season Ever: Meyer Lemon in Fruit

Provided you take the place of insect pollinators, Meyer lemons eagerly produce their uniquely sweet fruits even when they spend much of their lives indoors. 

Citrus x meyeri fruit hand 122817 320

Last January I was, paint brush in hand, gamely assisting with pollination of the blossoms of my pair of young trees. A year later, luscious fruits are dropping from heavy-laden branches. The crop is so precocious, so bountiful, that supportive staking seemed urgent lest the fecund branches snap. True, picking the fruit helps, too.

Read more: The Best Season Ever: Meyer Lemon in Fruit


The Best Season Ever: Planetree Bark

In January, the garden enters its most somber season. No plant is in flower, and few even have leaves, let alone ones that are still green. And yet, for some woody plants that are leafless—deciduous, in other words—the dead of winter is a peak season. These are the shrubs and trees with interesting bark. 

 

Like a plane tree. The bark of this one is typical, with large irregular patches that have flaked away to reveal deeper layers of contrasting shades.

Platanus x acerifolia Suttneri 122917 fingers exfoliated portion 122917 320

Even though the unusual foliage of this kind of plane—Suttner's variegated—make the tree worth planting for that warm-weather show alone, the leaves' size and profusion do largely obscure the bark. Winter is the bark's time to command the stage solo. 

Read more: The Best Season Ever: Planetree Bark


Good Together: 'Dragon Lady' Crossvine and 'Gold Cone' Juniper

Crossvine comes with its own suspense this far north. It can take years of attention and protection to establish a plant, and unflinching determination to try yet again after it dies. But if you can bring the vine across a threshold of age or size or volume, then the mission suddenly changes to control.  

Bignonia capreolata Dragon Lady Juniperus communis Gold Cone 010318 hand foliage 320

This one of my trials of the supposedly-hardier Dragon Lady cultivar seems to have launched—and with gusto. A protected location may have been less important than pairing with the dense, snug muffler of a Gold Cone juniper. The ultimate victory will be sheets of fiery bloom come spring; but as winter descends, sheets of nearly evergreen foliage are almost as good.

Read more: Good Together: 'Dragon Lady' Crossvine and 'Gold Cone' Juniper


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.

Read more: Good Together: Allée of 'Limelight' Tree Hydrangeas

 
 
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