A Gardening Journal


Fabulous in the Fall: Weeping Dwarf Siberian Elm

Gardens are the result of countless choices made day by day and decade by decade. Which plants? How to handle them? What layout of beds, pathways, and grass? When to switch to Plans B, C, and D?

 

The weeping habit of this dwarf Siberian elm is so intense that I couldn't resist the project of growing it long-term in a container. Not this cracked black nursery pot, mind you. Nor would the ultimate habit be the current weeping-just-on-this-side one.

Ulmus pumila Dwarf Weeper overall 120316 320

What with brittle wood and insect-ruined foliage, Siberian elms are bad actors when planted as street trees and windbreaks. No one should plant their full-sized forms and, to my knowledge, there are none locally. So perhaps a crazy little potted specimen could escape the bugs, while showcasing the quirky features. Many choices will be made along the way.

Read more: Fabulous in the Fall: Weeping Dwarf Siberian Elm


Fabulous in the Fall: Variegated Shrub-Mint

Fall foliage is so much the province of woody plants that we're shocked—shocked!—that there are even a few slaggards. Perennials are the yin to this yang: only a few provide a credible show of fall foliage. Below, a vivid mash-up of prairie dock (the huge still-green leaves) and variegated shrub-mint. Spring and summer, the leaves of the latter were green splashed with white. For fall, most of that green has been ditched for pink and dark purple that would make any coleus proud.

Silphium terebinthenaceum Leucosceptrum japonicum Mountain Madness 101716 320

Even as this perennial's foliage shouts that fall is here, its spikes of fluffy white flowers continue to develop, seemingly, in merry defiance. Like the prairie dock leaves, the shrub-mint flowers remain center stage regardless of merely cool weather; only serious frost brings their curtains down.

Read more: Fabulous in the Fall: Variegated Shrub-Mint


Gold-leaved Pheasant Berry

Leycesteria formosa has always been a bit of a taunt for we gardeners where the plant isn't reliably hardy. In winter, the green stems are supposed to be leafless, but bamboo-like. In September and October, graceful pendulous racemes of white flowers emerge from prominent burgundy bracts—and are succeeded in almost too a cooperative haste by round fruits the color, shine, and size of chocolate-covered raisins.

 

A cultivar whose new foliage was butter yellow has emerged, making the taunt too strong: I simply had to grow this shrub, and Golden Lanterns was the chosen form.

Leycesteria formosa Golden Lanterns flowers fingers 101016 320

Before attempting establishment directly in the garden, I wanted to enjoy this shrub as "conservatory" specimen by growing it year to year in a container that's overwintered in the greenhouse. This report is eighteen months and counting.

Read more: Gold-leaved Pheasant Berry


Good Together: 'Sticks on Fire' Euphorbia & 'Vancouver Centennial' Geranium

Last month I introduced a seasonal combination of tender plants—lion's ears and savitzii parlor maples—that remained colorful, durable, textural, and well-behaved over the long hot summer. But the fuzzy orange flowers of the lion's ears didn't really have much to chat about with the white-variegated foliage of the parlor maples. Yes, the two contrasted spectacularly, but they didn't converse. I extracted the parlor maples to grow on as a pure colony.

 

Here's a warm-weather combo that deals from the other side of the deck: Vancouver Centennial geraniums and Sticks on Fire euphorbias. Both trumpet lime green and terracotta. Both are low and bushy. Both bask in blazing sun and tending-to-dry soil. About the only place they do contrast—and how—is in texture.

 

Euphorbia tirucali Sticks on Fire Pelargonium x hortorum Vancouver Centennial 101916 overall 320

If this geranium-euphorbia pairing tolerates overwintering in my greenhouse, I'll welcome this container's return as-is to the garden come summer.

Read more: Good Together: 'Sticks on Fire' Euphorbia & 'Vancouver Centennial' Geranium


Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Hardy Oranges in Fruit

Hardy orange is almost too interesting a tree, mounting a different, striking, and often unique display each season: spring flowers, summer foliage, fall fruit and foliage—and then, in winter, the green bark of bare young twigs and horrifyingly fierce thorns. No other plant hardy to Zone 6 has a stronger claim to the most interesting month after month, decade after decade.

Poncirus trifoliata fruits stems green foliage 102816 320

As above, the fruit of free-range trees is profuse. Hardy orange can also be pruned into a hedge or topiary, adding sharp geometry to the show. The trade-off is a reduced display of flowers and fruit. Hardy orange demands to be grown at least twice. Just one is not enough.

Read more: Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Hardy Oranges in Fruit

 
 
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