So it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything here. Spring for any garden designer is busy along with the time spent on one’s own garden getting ready for a tour. So there has really been no Spring break,
We’ve had a pretty good spring so far in Durham. We haven’t hit 90 degrees yet which is a little unusual and have had many days below 80, also unusual. We’ve also had a bit more rain than normal so everything is growing very well. Some years it seems that spring is only 2 weeks long because we go from cold to hot in a very short time.
Spring is also a time for historic home tours in Durham and I’ve made it around to my share this spring. Of course, many times I am more interested in the gardens than the houses but no one really needs to know that. Preservation Durham’s home tour party was held at a home with an extensive garden on a corner lot. This allows the garden to become sort of a public garden. Nothing like touring someone’s garden other than your own to put your plant identification skills to the test. Truth be told, I have a couple of plants in my native garden that I have forgotten what they are. Nothing wrong with discreetly leaving a plant tag near the base of a plant to remind yourself later what it is. I’ve spent some time recently tagging some of the larger trees and shrubs with aluminum plant tags that hang by thin wires. These can be moved easily as the plant grows to allow you to find it later. I went through a pack of 50 of these tags and had to order another 50. Perennials are not conducive to this technique so I’ll have to either remember them or do the tag in the ground thing.
I have shown the garden to more people this spring than probably the past four years combined. I’ve always told my customers that most gardens really seem to come into their own on the third year. This has held true for Jaliya’s garden. Of course, I know what is left in my mind to be done at a later date but new people to the garden do not know. Seeing a garden in this stage followed by pointing to the jungle in the back yard next door let’s them know that they too can have a beautiful garden in just a couple years time. My own back yard looked just like the one next door when I moved in.
It will take some time for the trees and shrubs to reach their prime. That is where perennials do such a good job in creating interest in a garden. Too many landscapes focus only on trees and shrubs and are missing out. Or they will throw in a few daylilies or some other common tough perennial and stop there. We’ve talked before about the five design functions of plants and these pictures help to bear that out. The perennials give a lot of interest to the garden while the larger plants grow. In five years, this garden will look so much different because the shrubs will be showing their form and the trees will change the sun/shade patterns. But that is the fun of garden design. You have an idea in your mind of what you want to create. You then go to work and let nature bring it to fruition. A garden is never really done. It just grows and develops along with you.
Many people today are concerned about where their food comes from and whether or not it has been sprayed with chemicals. One of the best ways to do this is to grow your own food. A long term investment in your food supply is to plant dwarf fruit trees.
With Spring having arrived here in Durham, NC, dwarf fruit trees are also blooming right now. The added bonus of spring flowers is a hint of juicy goodness later in the year. The following is the fruit trees I have in my garden.
I have two dwarf apple trees. I planted two because I have heard that apples must cross-pollinate. My trees are young therefore I have not had any fruit on them yet. Apple trees would prefer a little cooler weather than we have in this area. However, since I only planted them for my consumption and any friends I might share with, that does not concern me. If I was trying to sell enough to make a living on them then that might be an issue.
I have a dwarf peach tree called Belle of Georgia. Peach tree buds can often get nipped by late freezes in this area but last year I had a great little crop of peaches. I had so many peaches that a large limb in the tree was broken by the weight. I learned my lesson there and will go into pruning fruit trees a little later in this post.
In the native garden, I have a native plum. these are naturally small trees and the plums are also small. However, they are great to snack on while enjoying the garden. I cooked some of them down into a plum sauce which was very good on baked pork chops and even some baked chicken. New trees easily pop up around the parent plant allowing you to dig them up to share. They also seem to have a tendency to send up new shoots from the roots. These must be removed if you don’t want a thicket of plum.
I also have a native cherry. It has bloomed great this year. Last year I don’t remember how much it flowered but I do know I had very few cherries on it. We will see how they do this yer. I have been told that cherries also would do better in a little cooler climate as well. My view is the same as it is with the apples.
One tree that I also have but will not be dwarf is a pear tree. This tree has already produced quite a few pears. However, I still haven’t eaten one because it seems the squirrels know exactly when to pick every last one off the tree before I can get them. It’s tempting to sit out there with a BB gun and reduce the squirrel population so I can enjoy some pears.
Another native fruit tree that I have but you don’t see a lot of is the PawPaw tree. This is also known as the Hoosier Banana because the fruit is said to taste somewhat like a banana. These trees look a little tropical with their large leaves. Pawpaws can grow into large colonies. However for fruiting, you need to have trees from different colonies.
The way to prune fruit trees except for the last two on this list is to prune any limbs which are growing straight up and let the tree grow wide. This helps to make it easier to pick the fruit. You also want to prune branches back so they are stubby. This allows the structure of the tree to be strong enough to support the weight of the fruit. It also helps the fruit that does develop to be fewer yet larger. Generally prune the tree to be open and sturdy. It does no good to let the tree go big if it can’t support the fruit and you end up losing some due
to broken limbs.
So it’s been a few days since I have posted here. With warm weather, seems everyone is now thinking spring and interested in working in the garden or calling me to work on designing their garden. Not complaining at all. I’ve taken advantage of the warm weather and breaks from work to tend to Jaliya’s garden and the garden near the house. Winter weeds are always a problem this time of year as they grow like crazy ready to go to seed. This means hand pulling them before they do so hopefully next years crop is smaller. I used last fall’s leaves to cover a lot of the area not heavily planted so that has saved a lot of labor. But areas that are not quite covered with plants still allow weeds to pop up. Also while cutting back the native ornamental grasses, tree seedlings are exposed. These must be removed since I am not trying to re-create a forest. Everything goes into the compost bin except for the wisteria seeds I still find lying on the ground. These go directly into the trashcan as I do not want even one to sprout. I spent way too much time removing wisteria to create the garden to let it take back over. Unfortunately their is still wisteria next door and the seeds somehow still end up in my yard from the wind.
Late winter in Durham can have a lot of bloom if the right plants are planted. The Camellias are blooming strong as is the daphne and mahonia. Bulbs are blooming everywhere with daffodils and narcissus being the most common. Hyacinths are small but noticeable by their sweet fragrance. Corylopsis, spirea, forsythia are also blooming ahead of their leaves.Crimson Candles CamelliaCorylopsis Golden Spring
The Yoshino Cherry is blooming a little early this year. Macon Ga, where I used to live has a big cherry blossom festival every spring so I had to have one in my yard as a way to remember that city. They say they have over 300,000 Yoshino Cherries planted along the streets there. It is quite a sight to see.
Saturday I took time away from official work to go buy plants for my garden. The North Carolina Botanical Garden sell native plants daily that they have propagated on location. It is always tough to walk out of there without buying too many plants. However, I was able to obtain some new species for the memorial garden. One of the problems I am finding is trying to find the room for some plants. This is where the concept of plant layering comes in. Small plants under medium size plants under even larger plants. However, since the garden is still only about 4 years old, the separation of plants by size is not easily done while some of the larger plants have a lot of growing to still do. But as the saying goes, a “garden is never really finished.”
Walking through my garden on a warm day, I am finding blooming plants that already give hints of what is to come once spring is here. These are what is currently blooming.
The crocus have already bloomed and are fading away. The Camellia ‘Crimson Candles’ is in full bloom. This is an interesting camellia in the way it grows in a open yet narrow habit. The buds show a lot of color long before they actually open. Both the Lenten Rose and the Bird’s foot hellebore are also blooming near them. The Winter Daphne and Leatherleaf Mahonia bloom with their wonderful fragrance filling up the area. Both of these plants are musts for late winter fragrance in the garden. The fragrant tea olive is showing signs of blooming any day now. It too is a very nicely scented plant. One often smells it long before you see the flowers as the flowers are quite small.
In the native garden, the Carolina Jessamine is blooming and it too is fragrant. It is climbing up the arbor leading into the garden which means you get it’s wonderful smell every time you enter the garden while it is in bloom. The native Spring Beauties are also in bloom and the phlox “emerald blue’ is showing some flowers. The phlox makes a great evergreen ground cover. When it is in full flower, you don’t even see the leaves. The witchhazel is wrapping up it’s bloom season while the columbine looks to be ready to pop any day now. I have also seen the Virginia Bluebells poking up so I am looking for their blooms before long. The native violets are also blooming. It is still early in the native garden.
Back up around the house, the Daphne genkwa is just starting to flower. I also have a dwarf forsythia and the Kumson forsythia, both of which are in bloom. Kramer’s Rote heather has been in bloom for a couple of weeks now. The focal of the front garden is the Weeping Cherry Plum which has started to bloom and should be in full flower within a couple of days.
All said, it is an exciting time for a gardener with the glory of spring just around the corner.
One very common and popular tree that is planted around here is the Bradford Pear. Bradford Pears look like the perfect tree or how man would design a tree if he could. They are very symmetrical trees. They grow very dense making them great screens. They bloom very early in spring and leaf out early as well. They have red fall color and around here are the last trees to still have leaves, often late into December.
So all of that sounds pretty good but many of those same characteristics are also part of their problems. Let’s go through these in reverse. I don’t know about you, but when I rake up leaves, I’d like to know I am done. However, most of the time, the Bradford’s leaves don’t even start to fall while the other trees are dropping their leaves. So it is one more round of leaf clean up late into December right while you are getting ready for the Christmas holidays. Like there is not enough to do then.
The bloom very early and sometimes cold weather will turn the blooms brown. Not all that attractive. The flowers in my opinion stink, kinda like old fish. Yet often you see them planted near a front walkway.
They grow very dense. Visually I find them to look very heavy. No light gets to the ground underneath them making it hard for anything else to grow under them. Many homeowners also don’t prune the lower branches while they are young which compounds the problems. The lowest branches should be kept above head height.
Now what could be possibly wrong with the symmetry. Aside from my general views on symmetry in the garden that I talked about in a earlier post, what happens when you lose a major limb? Bradford pears are fast growing. Any wood that grows fast generally is weaker wood. The dense symmetrical form comes from branches growing at tight angles to each other. As these branches grow, they actually push against each other. Add wind or ice, or both and the tree splits. A few years ago here in Durham NC, we had an early December ice storm. The trees still had leaves on them. I saw Bradford tree after Bradford tree damaged. Most of them looked like Godzilla had stepped on them. Every limb was laying on the ground radiating out from the trunk like spokes on a wheel. The trunks were sticking up 4-5 feet in the air. I took pictures of them which unfortunately I no longer can locate. (The pic I have attached I stole from the web). As I took those pictures, I also took a picture of a Southern Magnolia, which of course had leaves since they are evergreen. There was only one small limb lying on the ground under it. It had ice on it just as the Bradfords did. In fact the ice storm was so bad that most of the city was without power for nearly a week. When people said that the Bradfords were only damaged because they still had leaves on them, I just showed them the picture of the Magnolia.
Even if the whole tree is not damaged completely in a storm, if it loses a major branch it still looks very bad. A strongly symmetrical tree looks lie a big bite was taken out of it for a long time afterward.
Guess how many Bradford Pears I have planted in my career. ONE! That one was a replacement for a Bradford that had been damaged in an ice storm and the homeowner insisted that another one be planted in it’s place. I’m sure that in the 20 years since it was planted, it has been damaged from ice as well.