May 29, 2013

Shrubs With Feathery Foliage

I was calling this the seventy shrub spring - enjoying the alliteration - but we've planted over eighty by now.  Included in that number are some with feathery leaves that sway in the breeze and add movement to the view, even when birds and butterflies aren't around.  Above is a shot of newly emerging leaves on one of the two 'Sutherland Gold' elderberries (Sambucus, 6-10' tall/wide, full or partial sun) we planted by the swing set.  You can see the new foliage is copper before it brightens to gold. 

I also found room for a 'Black Lace' elderberry (Sambucus, 6-8' tall/wide, full sun), which fits its name well.  Finely dissected new leaves are greenish before darkening to almost black.  The color is darkest with sull sun and stays more green in partial shade.

In addition to the showy leaves, this shrub makes pinkish flower heads in spring that ripen into berries later in the year. 

'Fine Line' buckthorn (Rhamnus, 5-7' tall, 2-3' wide, full sun) is a newer introduction from Monrovia.  It's such an interesting shrub.  Here are the emerging leaves . . .

 . . . and here is what it looks like right now, a month later.  This shrub is supposed to turn showy gold in fall before loosing its leaves.  I suspect it's one of those super-sturdy, drought-tolerant, hard-to-kill shrubs that make life easier for gardeners.  This cultivar doesn't reseed and become invasive like its relatives.

Other gardeners rave about 'Ogon' Spirea (3-5' tall/wide, full sun), even though it gets leggy after a few years and needs to be sheared back occasionally.  So I made room for three on the east side of the home.  Its bright lime-gold leaves brighten the area, and its leaves are supposed to hang on for a long time in the fall before it goes dormant for winter.  Small white flowers bloom in early spring before it leafs out.

We also planted a dwarf Arctic willow (Salix 'Nana', 5-7' tall/wide, full sun).  'We' meaning I picked it out and bought it, then my husband pickaxed a hole in the rocky soil.  Thanks honey.  Its blue-green leaves will provide a contrast in texture to the giant leaves of an 'Empress Wu' hosta planted nearby, and it can be sheared back annually to produce new branches that hold their maroon coloring through the winter. 
After spending many, many hours researching shrubs to find the best ones for my garden, I'm planning to write more about the ones I picked.  Stay tuned for posts about viburnums, hydrangeas and a few others. 

May 23, 2013

Front Yard Spring 2013: Tulips, Phlox and Lots of Green

I finally made it out to the front yard to take some spring photos while the last of the tulips were blooming.  A couple of weeks earlier we had drifts of  'Jap Groot' (soft yellow) and 'Salmon Impression' (soft pink) tulips in bloom, and it looked perky and cheerful.  It has been fun to change to a cool color scheme with late-blooming white 'Maureen' tulips, lavender phlox and lots of spring green.

Here is a shot of the east side of the front.  I'll be happy to get the stakes off the two 'Heartthrob' Korean dogwoods that we planted a year ago, but we've had other trees start to lean so I'm leaving them on a while longer.  I splurged on these large trees and am very happy to see them leafing out nicely this spring.

Here is the little dogwood that was dug up for a couple of weeks along with the fence so the landscapers could access the backyard.  It's doing OK right now, so I've just got to keep its roots moist this summer and I think it'll survive.

This 'Walker's Low' catmint (Nepeta) at the corner of the driveway is always the first one to bloom.  The heat bouncing off the garage wall and the concrete drive speed it up.  The bumblebees love it.

The clumps of 'Emerald Blue' creeping phlox are blooming all around the front.  I'm not sure if I like the blob look, but I'm not sure how else to arrange them.  The 'Eglantyne' english rose on the right of the photo is very lush after getting half a bag of mushroom compost dumped around it a month or two ago.

I planted little clusters of these dwarf blue iris around the yard.  They're cute when you notice them but they don't have a big impact overall.

Here is another view of the west side of the driveway.  Some things are filling in nicely, which helps me be patient with the plants that are still small, which includes every plant in the backyard.

The 'Maureen' tulips are tall and ethereal and lovely.  At first I thought I had planted some double peach 'Menton Exotic' tulips and was disappointed with the white.  Then a few days later I decided it was the better choice.  This shot also shows my 'Abraham Darby' english rose, which should eventually grow to five feet tall.  I'm looking forward to sitting at my computer in the front room and looking out the window to see this big rosebush instead of the street.  It's just got a few more feet to go. 

These photos are actually a week old and the last of the tulips blew apart yesterday.  Too bad, but these ones are supposed to perennialize reasonably well so they should bloom again next spring.

And here is a final view showing the west garden.  The little purple spots are 'Accent Blue' rock cress (Aubrieta), which bloom for a long time each spring.  The 'Kwanzan' cherry tree near the top of the photo got frosted last month and didn't produce any flowers this year.  But it looks otherwise healthy so I won't complain too much.  All in all it's a lovely spring around here.

May 12, 2013

Backyard Landscaping: As Good as it Gets Spring 2013

After dividing and transplanting perennials like crazy and spreading fifteen cubic yards of bark, the backyard is about as good as it's going to get this spring.  Here is the view from the west side of the front yard through the gate into the back.  Come take a tour of the newly completed (well, mostly) project.

First we'll see a couple of views from the upper floor windows.  For before-the-project photos of this view, see my previous post here.  This shot shows the northwest corner of the backyard.  It still needs six more 'Invincibelle Spirit' hydrangeas and a bunch of beautiful blue hostas.  I should be able to find and plant the hydrangeas soon, but the hostas will have to wait until the trees fill out and provide more shade.

Here is a view of the northeast corner with my daughter enjoying the new swing set.  You can swing really high.  The structure dwarfs my little honey locust trees, but it will look better in a few years when the trees outgrow it and the surrounding shrubs fill in.

Here is the view from just inside the west gate looking north. 

If you pivot to the right a little, you can see the northeast corner from ground level.  That corner looks very empty because I still need to buy and plant six 'Little Lime' hydrangeas over there.  The contorted filbert in the center of the photo will eventually grow to obscure the view.  This will provide a sense of mystery because you won't be able to see everything at once.  Supposedly that will make you want to keep walking . . . .

Here is the view if you walk to the northwest corner and look east.  Lots of little shrubs and perennials waiting to fill in. 

If you get to the northeast corner behind the swing set and turn back, here is the view of the northwest corner. 

And here is the view from the northeast corner looking south. 

If you take a few steps toward the south and then turn right, here is another view of the northwest corner and the main sunny garden. 

A few steps farther and a glance backward will show you this view.  Eventually the 'Shasta' doublefile viburnum should fill the entire corner. 

Here is the view of the path that extends down the east side of the home.  The white garden surrounds the intersection of the two paths.  The Adirondack chairs have the best view of the main sunny garden.

If you sit in one of the chairs, here is the view.  Not very impressive until the perennials and shrubs fill in.  I'm unsure if my 'William Shakespeare 2000' english roses - planted smack dab in the center - are ever going to recover from transplant shock and put out any more leaves.  Thankfully you can't see their sickly stickly forms clearly from this far away.

Walking down the east path gives this view.  The columnar 'Green Tower' boxwood marks the transition between the white garden and the true blue/lavender/mauve/lime garden.  Can you tell I love these GT shrubs? 

Here is the view if you walk all the way south to the southeast corner of the fence and turn back.  There are lots of perennials that should fill in eventually so that little to no bark is visible.  In a couple of years, of course.

And here's one last view from the patio looking toward the east.  The fountain is empty because my toddler likes to dump it over and I've given up on refilling it this summer.  My urns on the patio are still waiting to be planted, and I haven't even started planting bits of groundcover into the cracks between the flagstone.  All in good time.  Even though there is plenty of planting and growing still to do, it's fun to see the big changes that have been accomplished within the past month.  Check out the past few posts to see the process.

May 6, 2013

Shrubs for Winter Interest in Zone 5

Spokane has such long winters that evergreens and other interesting winter elements are an especially important part of good landscape design.  I started my backyard design by making sure there were evergreen elements (evergreen shrubs or perennials, boulders, etc.)  in every area of the garden.  My front yard has evolved to this point and it works well.  Above is one of the three 'Helsinki University' rhododendrons that I planted in the east backyard garden area.  Rhodies and other acid-loving broad leaved evergreens are no brainers in areas with acidic soil (like Seattle or much of the Eastern US), but they require extra care in Spokane's more alkaline soil.  So I'm only doing three of them.

Here is a photo of the new leaves growing on my rhodies.  I incorporated a lot of acidic peat moss into the planting holes and will spread acidic fertilizer around them each year.  On the east side of the home the rhodies are sheltered from wind and intense afternoon sun, which should cut down on windburn and sunburn.  I also made sure they are in areas that do not have drainage problems, since rhodies hate having soggy roots.  'Helsinki University' is hardy down to zone 4, so it shouldn't have a problem surviving our zone 5 winters.  Hopefully I can nurture these babies into healthy shrubs that reach their full size of 4-6' tall by 3-4' wide. 

The main evergreen structure in my backyard will come from three types of boxwoods.  Above you can see 'Green Velvet' boxwoods (3-4' Tall & Wide) at the Spokane LDS temple - there are two rows of dwarf red-twigged dogwoods in front and the boxwoods are in the middle.  I have planted eleven in my backyard.  Obviously these roundy-moundy shrubs just blend into the landscape during the summer, but in the winter they will keep my garden beds from looking completely bare.  Six groups of three 'Green Mountain' boxwoods (5'T x 3'W) are spaced along the fence line of my backyard.  These oval shrubs will cut down on glare from the white fence in winter and will provide a nice backdrop in summer for flowers and interesting foliage on other plants. 

The final type of boxwood in my backyard is the columnar 'Green Tower' (9'T x 2'W - above).  Some people use these to make a hedge, but I've placed them singly and in pairs in spots where their columnar form will make a statement all year.  There are two of these in my front yard, which helps to link the front and back yards together.   I also have four 'Wee Willie' boxwoods (2'T & 2'W) in the west front yard.  These further connect the different areas.

Another evergreen shrub that links my front and back yards is 'Otto Luyken' laurel (3-4'T x 4-6'W).  The photo above is from the LDS temple in Richland, WA.  I have five of these in different areas of the front yard and five more planted around the backyard.  They tolerate sun or mostly shady conditions and will blend into the landscape in summer but provide a different texture and darker leaf color than all the boxwoods in winter.  It's very convenient that they tolerate different lighting conditions, as they'll grow fine in the sun while my trees are small but continue to do well as the trees mature and cast more shade.  Hellebores are an evergreen perennial that I planned to use heavily around the backyard for winter interest, but they do not tolerate sun so I'll have to wait a few years to plant them in many places. 

Not all shrubs with winter interest are evergreen.  I was very excited to find space for a contorted filbert (Corylus avellana 'Contorta', 8'T x 8'W), also known as Harry Lauder's walking stick.  This shrub forms corkscrew limbs that are hidden by its leaves in the summer but are revealed in winter. 

My shrub is very small, but here is a mature version at the Northwest Garden Nursery in Oregon.  Beautiful, especially with the moss covering the lower branches.  By including all of these shrubs plus boulders and eventually the hellebores, my backyard should retain some structure and interest all year.