Posts Tagged ‘Tree’

Small Trees for the Sunny Garden

Icon Written by Wayne on June 1, 2011 – 12:01 am

When we purchased the property we had approximately an acre of open east facing hillside for sunny gardening. The rest was shade on three sides by very large Red Oaks and a rather boring under story of a, elm/ash/maple mix. We knew our sunny gardening was going to be very limited,

So what was the first thing we did after moving in? We started planting trees! Sounds crazy but what would a garden be without trees? We did not plant just any old trees thought after all, we did not need or want anymore shade. At least not more then was absolutely necessary.

To add color and four season interest, our first addition was a beautiful Concolor Fir ‘Abies concolor’, with its striking shades of blue and green. This was quickly followed by the graceful White Pine ‘Pinus strobus’ and a majestic Douglas Fir ‘Pseudotsuga menziesii. Many other more demur conifers quickly followed. We might have made a few plants mad but the birds and other wildlife loved us.

We next planted several slow growing small to medium size trees such as the striking Chionanthus virginicus ‘Fringe Tree’ and Cladrastis lutea ‘Yellowwood,’ an interesting medium sized tree with an oval crown. As our focal point we choose the Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Halka’ Thornless Honeylocust with its numerous small leaflets, round wide-spreading growth, and open crown provides only light shade while adding form and texture.

For our final selections we choose several mid-size flowering fruit bearing trees again for their multi-seasonal color and fruit. Our first choice was Malus Hybrid ‘Donald Wyman’
crabapple with its abundance of white flowers followed by shinny bright red fruit. Next we added Prunus armeniaca ‘Sungold’ apricot for its early spring masses of white or pink flowers covering the bare trees.

You just have to have a few trees in the sunny border garden. In our case we need the color and height that only trees provide. These are ones that worked for us but feel free to experiment just do not be afraid to add shade to the sunny border.

Tips of the Month

Here are a few other trees you may wish to consider:

  • Pyrus calleryana ‘Callery Pear’ grand white flowers in early spring offer outstanding beauty.
  • Prunus incisa ‘Snow Cloud’ Cherry is a three-season wonder with myriad pink flowers in spring, gorgeous foliage all summer, and black fruits in fall as foliage turns yellow.
  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Ogon’ Gold Dawn Redwood’s golden foligae really brigthens up the garden.
  • Zelkova serrata ‘Green Vase’ Japanese Zelkova is a underused specimen tree.
  • Pyrus ussuriensis ‘McDermand’ Ussurian Pear develops into a dense, round-headed small to medium sized tree with an excellent spring floral display.

Flower of the Month


Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Rotundiloba’

Sweetgum has long been recognized as a superb deciduous shade tree for its rapid growth, handsome foliage, and excellent fall color. Fall color varies annually but is always outstanding, often including yellow, red, and purple all on the same tree. Easily grown in any moisture-retentive soil, Rotundiloba withstands stress and urban pollution.

Web Site of the Month

Forest Farm

They are a nursery for the home gardener offering an extensive collection of rare and unusual shade trees, flowering trees and shrubs, conifers and evergreens. We have always found this on-line site to be very helpful and informative.

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Trees We Wish We Had

Icon Written by Wayne on November 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

We have never seen a tree that we did not like. There is probably one out there but we have yet to find it. We continually see trees that we “ just have to have” in our garden which leads us into this months Yard Talk. Since we cannot physically grow all of these trees lets at least talk about the ones we wish we had.

303Cinnamomum camphora ”Camphor Tree or Gum Camphor” is a dense broad leaved evergreen that is capable of growing 50-150 feet tall and spreading twice that wide with a trunk up to 15 feet in diameter. Camphor is widely planted as a shade tree, screen, or windbreak and is a sturdy storm resistant tree. The shiny foliage is made up of alternate 1-4 inch oval leaves dangling from long petioles. Each leaf has three distinct yellowish veins. The outer margins of the leaves tend to be somewhat wavy and turn upward. The new foliage starts out a rusty burgundy color, but the leaves soon turn dark green on the upper sides and paler green underneath. Camphor tree can be readily identified by the distinctive odor of a crushed leaf. Camphor tree also is a larval food source for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly. Unfortunately, these desirable traits are offset by the tree’s invasiveness and damaging effects on wildlife and natural communities. It has been shown to cause sterility in birds.

177Laburnum watereri ‘Vossii’ Golden Chain Tree has 18-24 inch racemes of golden yellow flowers, resembling Wisteria, transform this Golden Chain Tree into a sparkling cascade. This is one of the best choices for smaller gardens. Magnificent in bloom and handsome all season long with its smooth, bright green bark and lower leaf foliage, this cultivar was selected for its dense habit and extra long flower clusters. Vossii is easily grown in a sheltered position with afternoon shade and well-drained soil. This tree dislikes fertilizer, generating its own nitrogen, and it will do well in poor, dry soil. Do not plant where young children can eat the poisonous seeds.

king palmArchontophoenix cunninghamiana ‘King Palm’ has a dramatic effect on large gardens with its single trunk, pinnate frond leaf type 8 – 10 feet in size. Green above gray beneath, each frond is attached to long trunk shaft with dead fronds dropping off on their own.
The base of the petioles form a greenish-yellow to brown crown-shaft that the leaves rarely droop below. The trunk is smooth and ringed with noticeable leaf scars. Flowers are formed below the crown-shaft with the creamy flower stalks holding mauve flowers. The round green fruit, about 1/2 inch in diameter, turn bright red at maturity. There is often a noticeable bulge in the crown-shaft before the flowers emerge which gives the tree a “pregnant” look.

Some trees we just must dream about! In retrospect we guess this is what makes visiting other parts of the country so much more special.

Tips of the Month

Following are some things to consider when choosing a tree for your home.

  • Choose a location, be sure that the location you choose has plenty of room for the tree’s roots to grow.
  • Do you want fine leaves, such as on willow trees or do you prefer bold, broad leaves, such as on maple trees?
  • While fast-growing shade trees deliver shade quickly, shade trees that grow more slowly may last quite a bit longer.
  • Flower and fruit-bearing trees provide beauty, they also require more maintenance.
  • If you prefer a low-maintenance tree, choose one accordingly.
  • Consider buying an older tree, and then transplant it to your yard.
  • Will leaves need to be raked and disposed of?
  • Where and at what time of day will the shade be cast?
  • Are there any obstructions overhead that your trees grow into?
  • How does the location of your tree affect the energy needs of surrounding buildings? Does it provide a windbreak or sun block to reduce energy needs?

What size of tree, shape of the mature canopy, and any other implications for your site all require research on your part before you commit to a variety of tree. Take your time for you are choosing a living plant and making a long term commitment. If you select wrong, you are spelling doom for a living organism.

Flower of the Month


Samanea saman Monkey Pod Tree or Raintree

It is a fast-growing tree that has been introduced to many tropical countries throughout the world from its native habitats in Central America and northern South America. Although generally planted as a shade tree and ornamental, it has been naturalized in many countries and is greatly valued in pastures as shade for cattle. A spreading crown, when grown in the open characterizes this beautiful tree, it forms a long, relatively straight stem when closely spaced. Its wood is highly valued in some locations for carvings and furniture.

Web Site of the Month

The Greenwood Nursery Internet Store

They are part of a family owned and operated wholesale nursery and plant farm. They are located in middle Tennessee in the small city of McMinnville. It all started almost thirty years ago when they planted their first seeds and shrub cuttings. Today, Greenwood Nursery is still dedicated to servicing the needs of their clients. Not only do they ship to their customers, Greenwood Nursery is also a plant fulfillment center for major catalog houses. With resources across the country, we can locate just about any plant material.

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Growing Palm Trees Indoors

Icon Written by Wayne on March 1, 2009 – 1:25 pm

I love Palm trees! Big ones, little ones, fat ones, skinny ones, it makes no difference to me I like them all. This makes no since to me as up until a few years ago I never had even seen one except in picture books or movies. Being a northern boy I should love Oak/Beech/Maple forests or at least White Pine stands.

I was in seventh heaven when a local community started planting full size Queen Palms during the Summer months along their parkways. Unfortunately, this was short lived as they soon discovered that the cost of leasing the trees was just too much. Personally I thought it was worth every penny.

Now the only way I can ever see a live palm tree everyday is by growing them indoors. Several years ago this would not have been a problem as we had a tropical greenhouse. Unfortunately, we now live in a home with forced air heat, air conditioning, and surrounded by a mature hardwood forest. Not the most ideal environment for a tropical palm.

So what do palms want? The answer to this question is easy, “Palms want to be in Florida, Hawaii, or Any Place Warm”, just like me. Since my wife says this is impossible we can start by putting in humidifiers, setting up fans throughout the house, and maintaining a constant warm temperature. Also, choose locations in the home with the most light exposure and consider supplementing with artificial lights. Group the palms together in pebble trays will also help.

You should select species that are easier to grow indoors such as the Sago Palm. The Sago Palm is a long-lived exotic palm that tolerates neglect but thrives with attention. Sago Palms will grow in almost any soi,l although they prefer soil that is well drained and rich in humus. It adapts to indirect light or full sun and has a wide temperature range from 15 to 120 degrees. A slow growth rate allows indoor specimen’s to remain in the same container indefinitely.

 Generally, palms should be treated as a cactus and watered when almost dry. Unlike most plants which can wilt when dry or turn yellow from lack of fertilizer, Cycads give little indication of when to water or feed. If the plant is receiving morning or afternoon sun or temperatures are warm, Sagos may need to be watered at least weekly. Plants grown in low light or cool temperatures may need watered every few weeks or so.  We generally water a plant twice.  The first time wets the soil, the second watering a few minutes later soaks the soil. 

Palms are ideal to plant inside apartments, where space, lighting and fresh air is limited. You can breathe the fresh, clean air in a confined apartment room, when you plant a palm to freshen the air and add aesthetic enjoyment to your living area. The same can be true of the home, it only requires a little more work. But what is work for the palm lover that cannot live in Hawaii or Florida year round?


Tips of the Month

1. Keep palms relatively moist, in spring and summer, or when temperatures are warm and days are longer, water them as soon as their soil feels dry a little below the surface. Allow the soil to get slightly drier in winter.

2. It is important that potting soil drains well and containers you use have functioning drain holes..

3. Fertilize lightly from late winter through early autumn, the time when houseplants are likely to grow most actively.

 4. A build-up of fertilizer salts in the soil results in brown tips and edges, especially if you allow the soil to get too dry between waterings. If you’re unsure about fertilizing, error on the side of too little rather than too much. 

5. Keep palm fronds clean as Spider Mites are attracted to dusty foliage and can balloon into a serious problem, particularly in winter when relative humidity is low indoors.

6. Palm roots will often die if cut or torn, so be careful not to injure roots.

7. Palms have the ability to sprout new roots from the sides of their trunks so it is better to plant them a little bit deeper then most plants.

8. Palms are commonly fertilized with a palm special fertilizer that contains trace element supplements.  If palm special fertilizer is not available, composted manure makes a good, readily available substitute.

9. The only pruning that most palms need is occasional removal of dead fronds. The growing bud of a palm should not be pruned. Palm trunks cannot grow new buds and pruning the bud could result in death to the palm.



Flower of the Month

Canary Island Palm

Canary Island Palm


Phoenix canariensis ‘Canary Island Date Palm / Pineapple Palm’ or Feather Palm

It is a large, stately palm often reaches a size too massive for most residential landscapes but, fortunately, it is very slow-growing and will take a considerable amount of time to reach its 50 to 60-foot- height. It is most impressive with its single, upright, thick trunk topped with a crown of 8 to 15-foot-long, stiff leaves with extremely sharp spines at their bases. The stalks of inconspicuous flowers are replaced with clusters of one-inch-diameter, orange-yellow, date-like, ornamental fruits which ripen in early summer. The trunk can reach a diameter of four feet and is covered with an attractive, diamond-shaped pattern from old leaf scars. Moderate growth, single trunk


Featured Web Site

One of our favorite Winter time botanical gardens is the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens ( located right in downtown Sarasota, Florida ( . Named after Marie Selby who donated her Sarasota Bay home and grounds “to provide enjoyment for all who visit the Gardens” it is a great place to get some quiet time and enjoy the natural beauty of Sarasota.

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Monkey Pod Tree

Icon Written by Geoff on October 1, 2008 – 2:55 am

One of our favorite trees is one we cannot even grow. I guess that only makes sense as I usually want the unattainable. Like that old Hoosier saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other-side of the road.” I fell in love with Queen Palms in Florida and Monkey Pods in Hawaii, now all I can do is “Stare across the road” and dream. As you can see in the picture we took outside of Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Monkey Pod is a large graceful tree with wide spreading branches. It just seems to shout, “Come sit under me”!

This native of Mexico was introduced into Hawaii in 1847, when Peter A. Brinsmade a businessman returned to Hawaii with two seeds, both of which germinated. One of the seedlings was planted in downtown Honolulu, the other at Koloa on the island of Kauai.

Monkey-pod is a fast-growing tree that while generally planted as a shade tree and ornamental has been naturalized in many of the islands. It is greatly valued in pastures as shade for cattle on Kauai. While it has spreading crown when planted in the open, it forms a long, relatively straight stem when closely spaced. Its wood is widely used for carvings and furniture. We, also saw many beautiful bowls and dishes carved from the wood of the Monkey Pod.

Actually the Monkey Pod has many names from the Saman of Latin America, to the Mimosa of the Philippines. Somehow we just feel that the name Monkey pod just fits this tree. You just expect any minute to see monkeys swinging through the branches. Of course we never did but, it would have been nice to have seen a few! In retrospect, I guess there are not too many free ranging monkeys in Hawaii, just mina birds and chickens.

The Monkey Tree is said to have medicinal and even magical powers. We, in fact, observed that grass growing under the Monkey Pods was always greener, even in times of drought. Native Hawaiians believe that the trees actually produces rain at night. The unbelievers say that ” the shading effect of the crown, the addition of nitrogen to the soil by decomposition of litter from this leguminous tree, and possibly, the sticky droppings of cicada insects in the trees all contribute to this phenomenon Habitat.” They probably do not believe in the Tooth Fairy either!

Monkey-pod grows where the annual rainfall ranges from 50 to 150 inches. They attain their best growth on deep alluvial soils that are well drained and neutral to slightly acid in reaction. It can, however, grow well on a wide variety of soils when planted and can withstand seasonal flooding. Monkey-pod is frequently found on old home sites near streams in the forests of Hawaii where it is usually associated with mangos and guava. It is, however, very intolerant of frost which means no Monkey Pod our present gardens. I wonder where we could move our gardens to that would be more Monkey Pod friendly?

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Viburnums in the Landscape

Icon Written by Geoff on August 1, 2008 – 10:18 am

Without a doubt our overall favorite shrub is the viburnum. This versatile genus of shrubs can be used anywhere in the garden. We know this is a very bold statement to make but it is true! Besides having attractive foliage and growth habits, they offer bright colorful very fragrant flowers. Many boast of colorful fruits and stunning fall foliage. In addition, the fruits are appealing to birds and other wildlife. Whenever we need a shrub for a problem area we turn to the viburnum.

The viburnums are one of the most versatile group of shrubs for use by the urban gardener, particularly for those with little time to spare. One of the best features of the viburnums, in fact, is that they require little, if any maintenance. Those that are native to North America are especially adaptable and forgiving if neglected. Most viburnums will adapt to many soil and light conditions. They are also very drought tolerant and will grow in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 9.

Among their best characteristics are their varying growth habits, ranging in size from 2 to 30 feet. Most viburnums also have a full spreading habit, excellent for filling in bare spots. Viburnums can be used in many landscape situations. The smaller forms are excellent for planting close to buildings, and the larger forms provide good specimen and screen planting. Some viburnums are even evergreen or semi-evergreen in colder climates offering four season appeal.

Viburnum flowers range from creamy white to pink. The buds, often shaped like small nuts, are attractive as well. The flowers are borne in clusters, ranging from a rounded snowball shape to a flat lace form. The large, white snowball or semi-snowball clusters of florets are especially attractive when used as cut flowers. Most viburnums have very fragrant flowers which are especially suited for use along walks, and patios where their smell can be richly appreciated.

Most viburnums have very attractive Fall color from purplish red to brilliant autumn bronze. Their fruit is very showy, from mid-night blue to colorful scarlet red. Fruit will often persist through the Winter months, a god send for early migrating birds.

In addition to the aesthetic features, viburnums, are resistant to serious pests. Even deer seem to leave this alone. They require little pruning, although we do occasionally remove any dead wood. They will grow in either sun or shade, however, flowering and fruiting will be more profuse in a sunny situation. Use them in the background, foreground, or mix through the garden at will. We have never seen a bad looking viburnum. This shrub brings out the best in any location.

Tips: Viburnums

While it is very hard for us to select our favorite viburnum the following varieties have preformed well in our gardens:

  1. Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Shasta’ is an elegant improved version of the standard Doublefile Viburnums, smaller and more floriferous. A nice deciduous shrub that has deep green leaves that displays a excellent fall color. Large white flowers followed by bright red berries. Great mid sized plant for groupings or background plantings.
  2. Viburnum cassinoides ‘Chesapeake’ was introduced in 1981 by Dr. Egolf and the US National Arboretum. The flowers are pink in bud, open white, with ever so slight fragrance. This shrub grows six feet high and eight feet wide. Leaves are semi-evergreen, lustrous dark green and wavy, with flat leaves.
  3. Viburnum trilobum ‘Onondaga’ is found in low moist places along forest edges throughout the northeastern United States. This versatile plant prefers moist, well drained soils but does fine in poorly drained and drier soils. This round topped, dense shrub, 6 to 12 feet high has clusters of lacy white flowers in the Spring.
  4. Viburnum dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge’ an exciting new find from Winterthur Gardens with large yellow berries enhanced by the red fall color of the foliage are a show-stopper. It has large leaves, dense growing habit to 5 to 6 inch and white flowers in late spring.
  5. Viburnum lantana ‘Mohican’ A USDA introduction carefully selected for its 6 to 8 feet compact growth habit, thick lustrous deep green foliage and the persistent fall display of its orange-red berries that retain their showy color for more than a month.
  6. Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’ is another select specimen shrub introduced by Winterthur Gardens in Delaware. This outstanding Viburnum offers handsome, glossy-green foliage that transforms to deep reddish-purple hues in fall. Cymes of creamy-white flowers in late spring yield clusters of green. Maple-shaped leaves turn purplish red in fall.
  7. Viburnum prunifolium ‘Blachaw’ is easily grown in average, dry to medium wet, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Tolerates drought. Blackhaw is usually grown as a large, upright, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub with an irregular crown, but it also may be grown as a small, single trunk tree. Flowers give way in autumn to blue-black, berry-like drupes which often persist into winter and are quite attractive to birds and wildlife.

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Hazelnuts for the Home Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on July 1, 2007 – 7:34 pm

The Corrals or hazelnut, a member of the Birch family, unlike it’s cousins is a very under used tree in the home garden. This shade tolerant deciduous shrub or small tree deserves much better. Many of this species have large rich purple leaves and colorful catkins. One variety, Corrals avellana or more commonly known as Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick is particularly worth planting. With it’s curled and twisted stems and leaves, it makes a fine specimen plant. 

Hazelnuts or filberts are large, deciduous shrub from 3 to 15 feet tall. It has a straight trunk with spreading, ascending branches, and can form dense thickets. The leaves are 3 to 5 inches long, broadly ovate, accumulate, slightly lobed with doubly serrate margins. Their foliage is particularly beautiful with the sun shining through the leaves. 

In nature the hazelnut grows along streams, hedgerows, meadows, roadsides, woodlands, and forest margins. It likes rich, moist, well-drained soils and is shade tolerant. It usually grows as an understory tree often competing with the alders and witchhazels for dominance. 

The roots typically grow in the upper six inches of soil. Some of the smaller roots run vertically toward the surface and branch profusely into very fine laterals. The large, woody rhizomes give rise to new shoots 1 to 2 feet from the parent plant. 

The leaves, twigs, and catkins of hazelnut are browsed by deer and moose. The nuts are eaten by small mammals, northern bobwhite, ruffed grouse and other large birds, and beaver eat the bark. Seed dispersal is chiefly by mammals or birds although the most important mode of reproduction of American hazel is from it’s rhizomes. 

The flowers of Corrals are formed in the summer and open the following spring, before the leaves emerge. The male catkins are 8 inches long, straight, slender, and regularly spaced along the upper stem. The female flowers are tiny, almost completely enclosed by bracts near the end of the twigs. 

By late summer or early fall, the fertilized flowers develop into clusters of 1-12 round to oval nuts, resembling an acorn . The pericarp is hard, loosely covering the smooth to shriveled kernel. Nuts are surrounded by a green, leafy husk , and abscise from the base of the husk in late august. However, the husk does not release the nut until 6 weeks later when it dries and opens. It begins producing nuts after the first year, and produces good crops every two to three years. 

Commercially, hazelnuts are allowed to fall naturally to the ground as they mature, then mechanically swept into windrows, where large vacuums sweep them up. Nuts are gathered two or three times during the season. Once the nuts are collected from the orchard, they are washed and then dropped into large bins where forced-air heaters begin the drying process. Once dried they are separated into various sizes for bagging and distribution. Hazelnuts have been cultivated commercially for nut production since 1798. 

The sweet nuts may be eaten raw or ground and made into a cake like bread. We often use filberts in place of walnuts or pecans in our Christmas cookies. The nuts were used by Native Americans to flavor soups. American hazel has a fairly high protein and energy value. 

Historically, nuts were associated with the occult, and said to possess mystic powers. Nuts were burned by priests to enhance clairvoyance, used by herbalists for various remedies, and used in marriage ceremonies as a symbol of fertility. 

The wood of the hazelnut has little commercial value, although it is often used by the home hobbyist in making country crafts. Once filbert wood was used for “divining rods” and “witching rods” which helped locate water and underground minerals. 

In Europe, the hazelnut has been used for centuries as a garden shrub, mostly as hedges or in background screening. With the exception of Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick and for commercial cultivation, America has shown little interest in this fine shrub. Fortunately, this is changing and other filberts are finding their way in the home garden around the country.

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The Common, Uncommonly Elder

Icon Written by Geoff on October 1, 2005 – 7:27 pm

I hate to think how often I have found myself in trouble overlooking the obvious. For example, my wife just this morning wore a new dress, which naturally I overlooked, like I usually do, on such occasions. We are all guilty of this from time to time. It is not that we do not see the object but rather our mind just does not recognize what we see. 

This was brought to my attention recently after reading an article on Sambucus canadensis or the common elder. I made the mistake of saying to my wife that this was a wonderful small tree which we should plant in that open area down by the creek or maybe under the white ash behind the south gardens. She just kind of looked at me like I had lost my mind before finally asking , “What are you planning on doing with the ones already growing there”? I quickly retired to other parts of the house. 

I was so use to seeing this plant, I fail to see it’s beauty like my wife in her new dress. The elder, often referred to as the blue elderberry, desert elder, European elder, swamp elder, or common elderberry is anything but common. The Sambucus canadensis and four of it’s cousins are small trees or large shrubs found along many creek banks and forest edges. Sambucus make lovely garden ornamentals particularly where a naturalized grouping is desired. 

Flowers are borne in large panicles resembling the flowers of Queen Ann’s lace, in early summer. The fruits ripen in late fall and are prized by birds, which eat them throughout the winter. Seeds germinate in Spring, with new shoots growing rapidly, up to 18 inches per year. Deer and woodchucks like the tender new shoots of the elder. 

While not commercially important, the berries do make excellent pie, jam and wine. The flowers are edible, often used in fritters or in fresh salads. Leaves of the elder are toxic, and care must be taken not to include leaves when picking fruits or flowers. Native Americans dried the fruits, pulverized them and made pemmican by mixing with animal fat. 

The tough easy to grow, elderberry definitely deserves a spot in the garden. We are starting to see wonderful selections available, particularly through specialty mail order nurseries such as Roslyn Nursery (http://www and Forest Farms ( The new cultivars are drawing attention to this plant especially with some of the flashier variegated varieties. Some of the ones we like best are: 

Sambucus caerulea
– Blue Elderberry is spectacular with its waxy blue fruit clusters borne on this 6-12 foot native shrub tree whose large flat clusters of creamy-white flowers precede clusters heavy fruit. 

Sambucus canadensis
– Golden Elderberry is a vigorous large shrub growing 10-12 feet which looks good throughout the growing season with bright yellow to yellow-green foliage and black berries. 

Sambucus nigra
– Marginata Elderberry is very handsome in flower and fruit, while the creamy-white margins of its compound leaves in combination with its large clusters of white flowers and the shiny black berries is spectacular. This 6-8 foot shrub is ideal for the border or wild garden. 

Sambucus nigra laciniata
– Cut leaf Elderberry is a 6-8 foot shrub that has leaves elegantly cut into fine lobes, large heads of small creamy flowers. The Cut leaf really stands out in the garden as a specimen plant. 

Sambucus nigra
– Guincho Purple has leaves which open green, turn quickly to a rich wine-pruple, a lovely contrast with its mounds of pink-tinted flowers borne on purple stems. 

Sambucus racemosa
– The Red Elderberry produces great pyramidal clusters of foamy white flowers followed by bright-red berries in the Fall. A very ornamental 3-12 foot shrub. 

Now that I know what I am seeing I will make sure I take time to appreciate my elders. They really are a very useful shrub for the home gardener. I also plan on trying some of the other varieties this Spring if for no other reason then to see if my wife notices.

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The Best of the Best in On-Line Nurseries

Icon Written by Geoff on March 1, 2005 – 6:25 pm

There are thousands of online nurseries out there today. The number is growing by leaps and bounds as companies discover the profit from web site sales. Unfortunately, this does not mean all of these sites are good or even close to it. In fact, many are just down right poor, offering little service and misnamed inferior plants. 

In this month’s Yard Talk we are going to discuss online nurseries which we feel are not just good but excellent, thus they are the Best of the Best. To make our list they must consistently supply plants which are strong, vigorous growers as represented. Their plants should be healthy, strong, and above average in size, truly specimens of their species. We expect plants to be protected during shipment, while bare root plants are acceptable, potted plants should be the norm. Shipments should be made on time and in the manner specified. All orders should be acknowledge and any back orders brought to our attention promptly. 

The following nurseries are ones which have met or exceeded our expectations: 

Edmunds’ Roses – (
A site is about modern roses with excellent graphics and a wealth of information. An essential place to visit for those of us into new roses. 

The Antique Rose Emporium – (
Is an excellent source for old garden and antique roses. This is their 22nd year of offering our vigorous, easy to grow, fragrant and long-lived roses. Their site has loads of useful information on growing roses. 

Spring Valley – (
Specializes in winter hardy Old Garden, Climbing and Shrub roses. They offer roses in the following classes: Centifolia, Climbers, Gallica, Hybrid Rugosa, Shrub and Species. These include many of the newer Shrubs and Hybrid Rugosas developed in Germany and Canada. 

Aesthetic Gardens – (
Offer rare and unusual trees and shrubs. They have no catalog nor physical gardens to visit. The material has been collected and grown in the Northwest in Oregon and Washington. If you are looking for that special, hard to find specimen, this is the place. 

Roslyn Nursery – (
Is a unique nursery specializing in rare and exotic varieties of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, trees, ground cover and other ornamental plants. A very good source for Japanese Maples and Ferns. Also for those in the warmer zones they offer a selection of Camellias. 

Clematis Speciality Nursery – (
Is a small nursery specializing in all types of clematis. Clematis Speciality Nursery is particularly interested in small-flowered species and hybrids that are so easy and rewarding to grow. Their aim is also to introduce new but proven varieties of both small and large-flowered clematis 

Franklin Hill Garden – (
Offers enticing selections of annual and perennial flower varieties, natives, exotics, heirlooms, cottage garden favorites, and a few modern hybrids. Franklin Hills goal is to help us rediscover forgotten old favorites as well as find a few new treasures. 

Wildseed Farms – (
Offers for sale over 70 species of wildflower seed, and wildflower seed mixes. Their catalog is an invaluable resource for anyone who would like to join the growing community of enthusiasts who support Mother Nature by planting wildflowers. They offer useful information on such diverse subjects as starting a no mow lawn to plants for clay soils. 

Seeds of Change – (
Is an all organic, 100 % Certified source for over 1500 different varieties of heirloom seeds. Their mission is to seek out traditional varieties, many of which are in danger of being lost. The site offers a lot of information for the organic gardener 

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs – (
Are third generation bulb growers, developing many unusual and speciality bulbs on their farm in Virginia. We cannot say enough about this nursery, we have never had a problem with them and all bulbs have outperformed our expectations. 

Plant Delights Nursery – (
Is a nursery specializing in unusual perennials. They feature a wide variety of native perennials, as well as their Asian counterparts. Genera of special focus include amorphophallus, arisaema, asarum, ferns, hardy palms, helleborus, heuchera, hosta, lobelia, ornamental grasses, pulmonaria, tiarella, and verbena…to mention but a few. 

Naylor Creek Nursery – (
Offer a wonderful selection of unique or hard to find perennials. We were impressed with their wide selection of hostas, pulmonarias, and epimediums, some only recently offered. We have acquired some of our best hostas from these people. 

Heronswood – (
Is a speciality nursery located in Washington State. A site to visit if you can find it no where else, a very wide selection of hard to find or specimen plants.

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Large Evergreens for the Landscape

Icon Written by Geoff on February 1, 2004 – 7:35 pm

We chose our family homesite because of it’s outstanding woodland setting. A meandering creek, majestic oaks and stately sycamores surrounding the home were hard to beat. “Buy Me!”the towering American Elm in the front lawn cried out. 

Unfortunately, all was not perfect, not a single conifer adorned the landscape. This was not only unusual, as evergreens have unlimited use in the home landscape, but intolerable. We immediately set out to correct the problem. Now all we had to do was decide on what evergreens to use. With hundreds of conifer species available this was not an easy decision. Should we start with small, intermediate, large, or some combinations of all? 

Since the area was so big and open, we decided to start with large evergreens. the American Conifer Society, considers large conifers to be ones with over twelve inches of growth a year. This somewhat helped us narrow our selection. Since we were on a tight budget, we chose balled and burlaped trees from 36-48 inches tall. 

We next decided to plant a mixture of conifers, blending various textures, shapes and color. We also selected evergreens which were low maintenance and rapid growing. Priority was given to evergreens offering shelter for birds and wildlife. 

While conifers also work well as hedges, screens, and windbreak plants, this was not a factor in our selection as we were looking for a more natural look. We also wanted plantings to quickly blend in with the existing trees and shrubs. To be honest we choose to ignore or at least push the limits, on some of the cultural requirements. Visual effects won out over soil conditions and sunlight requirements. 

Fifteen years later, we can finally say that we made the right choices. We now have a very balanced landscape, one with four season appeal. This is not to say we are not making changes or additions, after all, this is what gardening is all about. 

Here are the evergreens we choose and recommend for the home landscaper looking to add immediate impact to their gardens: 

Abies concolor ‘Concolor’
– The Rocky Mountain White Fir needles are longer than most fir trees, averaging 2-3 inches in length and are quite soft while retaining a reasonable amount of stiffness. The broken needles and tree have a distinctive fragrance that is most frequently described as a mix of evergreen and citrus scents. 

Abies fraseri ‘Fraser Fir’
– The species is sometimes called Southern balsam or Southern balsam fir. Locally Fraser fir is known as “She balsam” because of the resin filled blisters on the tree’s trunk. Red spruce, often associated with Fraser fir, is called “He balsam” and lacks the distinctive blisters. Fraser fir is a uniformly pyramid-shaped tree.

Picea abies ‘Acrocona’
– Norway Spruce is a large conifer that is well adapted to much of the upper midwest. It is faster growing than many of the other spruces. It has a pyramidal form, developing long, pendulous branchlets with age. On older specimens, the lateral branches arise horizontally from the trunk, droop slightly and then have a slight upward curve near the tips.

Pinus strobus ‘Eastern White Pine’
– Eastern White Pine is an excellent ornamental conifer and is also an important timber species. When well established, it has a rapid growth rate when young, with long distances between the lateral branches. Its form is somewhat pyramidal when young and becomes broad with age. 

Pseudotsuga menziesii ‘Douglas Fir’
– Douglas fir is a large conifer that makes an excellent landscape plant for accent and grouping. It has a dense pyramidal form. Needles are 1-1 1/2 inches long and range in color from dark green to blue-green. Cones are readily distinguished from spruce and true firs by the papery bracts extending beyond the tips of the scales.

Tsuga canadensis ‘Eastern Hemlock or Canada Hemlock’
– Eastern hemlock is a graceful pyramid shaped evergreen conifer. Young trees have a slender pointed top shoot that droops and waves in the breeze. Older trees have an irregular rounded crown. The bark is cinnamon-brown with deep ridges. 

Other trees which we added later and we also recommend are: 

Picea glauca ‘Conica’
– White Spruce is a densely pyramidal evergreen conifer. The needles are dusty green to blue green in color. This spruce is quite adaptable to difficult conditions such as heat, cold and drought. 

Picea pungens ‘Thomsen’
– Colorado Spruce is a stiffly pyramidal evergreen conifer. Horizontal branches reach to the ground, but form may become more open with age. Foliage occurs in a wide range of colors from green to silver-blue. 

Abies procera ‘Noble Fir’
– Noble Fir is one of the largest true first of Northwest Pacific coast region. Dark gray brown and smooth, becoming brown to red brown, furrowed and broken into irregular scaly plates. 

Abies concolor ‘Lowiana’
– The California White Fir is an attractive conifer and outstanding landscape plant. It has a formal pyramidal shape. Its silvery blue-green foliage makes it an ideal candidate for use as a specimen or accent plant in the landscape.

You can feel confident if you chose one or more of these evergreens they will do well in your garden. If we had to choose only one evergreen to use we would pick the Douglas Fir as it is so hardy and vigorous. Our second choice would be the Concolor Fir for it’s color and grace. Our sentimental favorite is Pinus flexilis ‘Vanerwolf’s Pyramid’, our Plant of the Month. An evergreen not listed above because it is not recommended for this area but someone forgot to tell it that. This tree has matured into a real eye catcher, we constantly get comments on it’s beauty.

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To Stake or Not to Stake

Icon Written by Geoff on August 1, 2003 – 5:41 pm

As a matter of practice, Martin’s Yard & Garden does not stake trees or shrubs that we plant. We are often asked by our customers why we do not recommend staking. The answer is quite simple: staking, in most cases, is unnecessary and downright harmful! 

Staking produces a tree that is unnaturally tall and slender, like the spindly trees one sees growing under a mature forest canopy. Unlike their forest cousins, the landscape tree does not have the advantage of having other plants to protect it from Mother Nature. Trees unsupported in the landscape are forced to withstand nature’s winds, they develop a stronger, thicker trunks and a denser growth habit. 

Studies of unstaked trees also show that they have a better developed root system. Even after a year’s growth, you can pull a staked tree out of the ground without much effort. Unless you are planning to move your trees around like chess pieces, this is not a desirable feature in the urban landscape. 

Another danger of staking is the potential damage which can be caused by the ties. Ties which are not removed or loosened as the trunk grows will restrict the growth and cause girdling. Even stretch ties can cause damage. We constantly replace dead trees because of this cruel and senseless oversight. 

The tie or stake may also damage the trunk by rubbing against the bark. While this may not kill the tree outright, the open wound leaves the tree defenseless against an invasion of diseases, insects, and fungus. 

Also, the installed price of trees may increase from 15 to 30 percent because of staking. We always explain to our customers the cost of the procedure weighed against the benefits is very marginal. 

While staking or guying every tree is unnecessary and often times terminal there are a few times newly transplanted trees need additional support. For instance, in open areas, exposed to high prolonged winds. Another good use is when planting in shallow loose soils, over hardpan or bedrock. Stakes also act as barriers protecting trees from mowers and other equipment that could cause trunk injury. 

Unfortunately, we sometimes stake trees just because the customer likes the braced-tree appearance. In these cases we always make it a point to set up a time to comeback and remove all staking materials. 

If in doubt, do not stake or guy a tree. If you feel you absolutely must stake by all means do it correctly. Also, make it a point to remove the staking completely as soon as possible. Remember more trees are harmed by staking than not.

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