April 17, 2018

Hellebore Roundup for GBBD

Other plants than hellebores are blooming in my garden, including small bulbs like windflower anemones and scilla, but hellebores like 'Kingston Cardinal,' above, have the largest presence.

I now have about fifty hellebore plants, thanks to division and seedlings.  The 'Golden Lotus' plant above was carefully cut into three divisions with a serrated kitchen knife and replanted in other areas. 

This double white was a seedling that matches my 'Sparkling Diamond,' so that's what I'm calling it.  The original plant was attached by a black fungus last spring and hasn't fully recovered, though it sent up one bloom stalk this year.

This seedling seems to be a mix of red 'Velvet Lips' and 'Pink Tea Cup,' and I'm proudly calling it 'Strawberry Freckles.' 

'Velvet Lips' also produced three true-to-form seedlings that bloomed for the first time this spring.  I cut apart my other plants and now have eight plants in total, six of which are planted in the northwest corner. 

This unnamed white hellebore was also divided into three plants and transplanted around the east back bed.   

Some of my large plants didn't bloom well this spring after their buds began growing during a warm spell in February (we reached 60 degrees F one day), then the temperature plummeted to zero the next week and turned the buds to mush.  This 'Golden Lotus' was one of the heavily hit plants, but the leaves are growing well so it should recover for next year.

'Jade Tiger' also lost its flower buds to the cold snap, but its leaves are beautiful on their own.  They'll lighten to green later in the seasons.

A few newly planted hellebores are blooming, including 'Sweetheart Ruffles' above.

One bloom stalk on a baby 'Molly's White' is blooming.  The leave are supposed to be frosted with silver, so I'm looking forward to seeing them.  None of my baby 'Wedding Series' hellebores bloomed this spring, but there is a tiny bud on one of my newly planted 'Madame Lemmonier' plants. 

'Amber Gem' bloomed for the first time, and it's not quite the color I imagined.  That happens sometimes with seed-propagated hellebores, though the tissue-propagated plants are all identical.

And 'Pink Tea Cup' is still going strong in the front yard.  It will be several years before all my baby plants and small divisions reach this size, but then the early spring show will be wonderful.  As much as I love spring bulbs, they don't stay in bloom for very long.  It's very nice to have hellebores that bloom for several months each year. 
I'm a little late for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (though I got my taxes done on time!), but thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens Blog for reminding us to take stock of our flowers each month.

April 13, 2018

Privacy in Suburbia

In my last post I wrote about using columnar shrubs and trees for privacy.  I want to continue on that topic since privacy in the yard has been on my mind a lot lately.  At this time of year I want to be outside working in the garden, but I feel very exposed since the trees haven't leafed out yet.  I have mentioned before that I can see parts of sixty-three houses from various points in my backyard.  This is the view of my NW corner from my bedroom window, and you can see quite a few of the neighboring homes in the scene.  I'm usually careful to crop the photo of this view, but here is the full disclosure.  However, the columnar Norway spruce at left will eventually block the view of Santa (from my previous post) on the neighboring rooftop.  Supposedly it can reach 20' tall and 5-6' wide in ten years.  Grow, baby, grow!

From ground level, one neighboring home is still very apparent at this time of year.  Thankfully these neighbors have planted quite a few trees in their yard to help screen the view.  When my columnar Norway spruce and their blue spruce (to the right of this shot) are mature, they will block part of the view between our houses year-round.  The thicket of deciduous branches at center will get thicker as time goes by and eventually provide decent screening.

The view of the same area from another angle features another neighboring home.  Again, my thicket of deciduous branches ('Royal Raindrops' crabapple trees) and two maples planted over the fence will block more of the view in coming years.  These neighbors have an oak tree planted in their yard that will also contribute to the thicket of branches in ensuing winters.  Slowly, this view will be mostly blocked.

The winter screening in my NE corner (viewed from my window) isn't going to get much better than this.  The honey locust trees leaf out late and drop their leaves early.  Their branches will thicken somewhat, but not enough to really block the view of the neighboring white house and the items that are usually stored on their back deck.  That house had a flowering plum tree planted in their neighboring corner when I planned my landscape, but the tree has since died.

Now that my backyard garden has year-round interest, I like looking out my window every morning and evening.  In winter the snow makes a lovely addition to the bare branches, evergreens and boulders.  I'd like the view to include fewer neighboring houses so I can focus on what's happening in my yard.

Here is the NE corner from ground level.  The trees across the fence are mostly quaking aspens, which leaf out early and drop their leaves later than my honey locusts.  On a side note, our new bench swing is wonderful to sit on but is shockingly bright white.  Hopefully it will get a little dirty in time and blend better with our dirty white fence, ha.

This shot of the NE corner from farther back inspires me with how much screening a thicket of bare branches (lilac, crabapple and honey locust) can provide.

In the very corner of my NE area, a 'Shasta' doublefile viburnum is filling the space as it matures.  A 'Shademaster' honey locust is planted eleven feet from the corner, and three 'Green Mountain' boxwoods are growing on either side of the viburnum.

There is not enough space to plant evergreens (columnar Norway spruce or even Arborvitaes) unless I rip out the viburnum.  I don't have another spot in the yard with enough space for that large shrub (10-12' wide at maturity), and I'd be sad to lose it completely.  But dogwood trees are understory trees in the forest.  They grow underneath other trees and close together.  I'm tossing around the idea of snugging two 'Starlight' dogwoods on either side of the viburnum, next to the boxwoods.  I'd have to plant them right next to the fence and plan to prune off lower branches to leave room for the viburnum and fence.  But eventually the thicket of branches above the fence would provide more screening for this area, plus the dogwoods would bloom and leaf out a month before the honey locust.  I could increase my dogwood total to seven trees, which is always a good thing.  Would I rather have this corner a little crowded but more private?  Yes.  Do I mind pruning?  No.  Hmm, this idea has merit.  I'm going to mull it over a little more.

I'll finish with this shot of the SE corner of my yard.  A dogwood planted across the fence in my front yard will someday screen the neighboring windows a little better.  Building privacy with trees in a climate with a short growing season requires patience.  I wish I had done a better job of planning for privacy a decade ago, but better late than never, eh? 

April 7, 2018

Columnar Trees and Shrubs for Privacy

Since my lot is only a quarter of an acre, I have planted many columnar plants (and placed my basalt column, above) to add height without taking up too much space on the ground.  And since we can see parts of sixty-three neighboring homes from various points in our backyard, I use columnar plants to add privacy.  There is an ever-growing list of columnar plants available, especially for milder climates than mine.  Monrovia's website plant finder (under Advanced Filter, Growth Habit) allows you to search for columnar plants for your hardiness zone.

I planted columnar 'Spring Snow' crabapples (20-25' T x 15-20' W) on the east and west sides of the backyard to screen the view of the neighbors while leaving sunny beds where my flowers can grow.  In addition to their oval crown, these trees have beautiful, sweet smelling white flowers in spring and no messy fruit.  Unfortunately, here in Spokane we have a long season where these trees are leafless and don't provide much screening.
Although I love my eight 'Spring Snow' crabapple trees, my local nurseryman - whose nursery has been open as long as I've been alive, so he knows a lot - told me that these trees are falling out of favor with growers because they are susceptible to fire blight.  This fungal disease can strike in spring and causes twigs and leaves to look as if they've been burned black.  Infected trees should be sprayed immediately with a fire blight-rated pesticide, and infected parts should be pruned out, wrapped in plastic and put into the trash to avoid spreading more spores.  I haven't had a problem with this, fingers crossed.

Recently my husband caught this photo of Santa laying eggs in our neighbor's yard.  We endured this view for several weeks from our bedroom window before Santa left his eggs behind and went to rest for a few months.  As my trees and our neighbors' trees grow, this scene will be blocked during the growing season, but I wish I had planted more tall evergreens to cover it year-round.

Two years ago, I talked my husband into pulling out some boxwood shrubs and planting two columnar Norway spruce trees (Picea abies 'Cupressina').  These columnar trees are said to reach thirty feet tall and five to six feet wide at maturity.  Both are strategically planted to block views of the neighbors - especially their windows - when they reach full size.

The spruces have put on decent growth each year, and they'd surely grow more quickly in climates with a longer growing season.  I can think of several spots where I'd like to plant more of them, but that would require removing other beautiful plants.  It's so hard to balance functional evergreens with favorite beautiful plants.

This photo includes the young columnar spruces plus 'Green Tower' boxwoods (9' T x 2' W) and 'Fine Line' buckthorns (7' T x 2-3' W).  I have ten of the GT boxwoods and seven of the FL buckthorns planted around the yard.  Both shrubs are easy to prune to the height and width you desire, and they can be planted singly or in a row to create a hedge.  Some types of buckthorn are invasive, but FL is not.

This GT boxwood in the front yard greets visitors as they come to the front yard.  Kind of like a plant butler.  I should call it Jeeves.

A 'Caesar's Brother' Siberian iris at center is columnar in spring and vase shaped later in the growing season.  Many grasses have a lovely columnar form, like 'Karl Forster' feather reed grass, but I avoid ornamental grasses since they give me a rash and make me sneeze.  To the right of the photo above, two of my 'Fine Line' buckthorns add height to the bed.  This spring I decided they were too tall, and it was quick work to trim two feet of height off the top.

Last year I found room for a fifth dogwood - wish I had room for a dozen more - and planted this columnar 'Starlight' tree (Cornus kousa x nuttallii) at the corner of the dining room addition.  It's reported to bloom heavily and grow vigorously to a height of thirty feet and width of twenty feet.  Yes, it's obviously going to require pruning in this spot.  Good thing I took a pruning class in college.  Eventually it will give late afternoon and evening shade to the patio in midsummer.

At right is a columnar apple tree from White Flower Farm.  I don't grow a lot of food, but I had the idea that a columnar apple would be fun.  We'll see how it works out.  Meanwhile, the upright shape is lovely.

If you live in a crowded suburban neighborhood like mine, screening views is important even if you don't have a large yard.  Columnar plants - especially evergreens - are a good option for creating privacy without taking up too much room.  Please learn from my mistake and plan for privacy so you don't have to look at your neighbors' junk or allow them to peer at you through second story windows.  Let Santa lay his eggs in private.

April 2, 2018

The Usual Suspects of Early Spring

There aren't that many choices for flowers in early spring, but after a dark winter these hardy little bloomers never feel boring to me.  Above is a group of 'Ruby Giant' crocus.  The contrast between the orange stamens, silvery violet inside, and magenta-violet outside is really lovely if you lean down to see it better.

These little guys make a nice S-shape in the west backyard bed.  They're leading us on to sunshine and blue skies.

If yellow sun and blue skies aren't willing to show up, 'Harmony' dwarf iris will play the understudy.  It's hard to capture the true blue color, but it's vibrant and yummy.

Pale blue glory of the snow (Chionodoxa) contrasts with reddish-yellow 'Angelina' sedum in the background.

'Pink Giant' chionodoxa are so softly colored that I never seem to get a good photograph of them, but they're lovely in concert with the 'Grand Maitre' cocus.

More 'Grand Maitre' crocus emerge from woolly thyme with deep red peony stems in the background.

This 'Pink Teacup' hellebore plant is so cheerful that it deserves a spot in this post as well as the last one.  It will still be blooming in May when the little bulbs are long gone.

All of these cute mini bulb blooms combined with boxwood leaves from a protected corner to make this happy Easter centerpiece.  The crystal basket came from my gardener grandmother who passed away several years ago, and this was the first time I'd used it.