Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gardening: What’s growing now?

All gardening is landscape painting. – William Kent

Woody tree peonies make their appearance in late May in Nova Scotia.
This flower is about 8" wide.
Today I thought I would take a bit of a different tact than talk about anything in specific and instead show you some of what’s happening now in my garden.

There’s been quite a change over the past two to three weeks, and I’m quite excited about what this season will bring.

I like to have both flowers and shrubs/trees in my garden. The flowers add that burst of colour we so miss during the winter months. Trees and shrubs on the other hand give structure and year-round interest. That is every bit as important as well.

So without further ado, here’s a snapshot of some of what’s happening in my garden in Nova Scotia.

The photo above is of a variegated tulip tree (Liriodendron). This is the third year for this tree in our garden. Later in the summer it will become covered in "tulip-like" blossoms. I like to have trees that deliver more than just shade – when I can. This one certainly does. It can reach a height of about 60 feet, if I remember correctly.

This is a copper beech. The leaves emerge a purple-green and then develop into a bronze-purple as they reach full size. Copper beech (Fagus sylvatica Purpurea) makes a dramatic statement wherever it's planted. An interesting fact I have found out is that the leaves do not have the same deep colour when planted in a shadier area. I have two – one in full sun and one in shade. The shade located tree is always more green than this one.

Of course for sheer impact not much rivals rhododendrons. We have several in different stages of bloom right now. Colours range from white, to apple blossom pink, magenta, deep red and even yellow. Our yellow one is still too small to bloom. But I am looking forward to subsequent years.

Nova Scotia was home to an internationally known rhododendron breeder, Captain Richard Steele, until his death a few years ago. I believe he is credited with the development of the dark red variety, as well as many others. 

Rhodos seem to like our maritime climate and do very well if placed in a good spot. They do like soil a little on the acidic side. Mulch with pine needles if yours is not.

This is an immature blossom of a Chinese wisteria. When fully developed each lilac-coloured blossom will be about 12" long and hang down among the leaves from the branches. I have two growing over the open top of a back porch. I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch with them hanging overhead.

Even though they receive a fair amount of sun these woody vines seem to be a bit fussy. I get a fair amount of winter kill every year on the smaller branches. Hopefully when they mature that will lessen. I actually planted two so if one dies I'm not completely wisteria-less.

This photo is a weeping mulberry (Morus). If you look closely you will see strange little bunches of round green stuff. These are the immature fruits. When they mature in summer they will be in clusters, close to the main branches. This tree grows to only about 10-12 feet tall and is quite ornamental. 

The berries, which resemble blackberries or raspberries, are edible. But you'll have to fight with the birds to get them.

And last, but not least, is the Solomon Seal (Polygonatum). This is actually a herbaceous perennial, meaning it dies back to ground level every year. The overall height of each stalk is about 3 feet. Each arching stalk bears clusters of sweet smelling bells that are touched with green on the petal tips.

Solomon Seal likes some shade and can be quite vigorous, but not invasive. It is very easy to dig up the roots and transplant wherever you want. I started out several years ago with just a little, but that has definitely changed.

I actually have had enough to share with several people, and it's always welcome.

So there you have a brief overview of some of what I found recently. Of course as the season goes on, more and more plants will put on their seasonal show!


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