Monday, May 11, 2009

Mitchell's Plants

Today is the day to celebrate those things in the garden that are there because Mitchell loves them. He is first and foremost a fan of foliage that is anything except green! He loves coleus and crotan and all those red/brown plants, so over the years we have worked them into the landscape as fillers. Fortunately, they are lovely with the blues, purples and pinks that I love so much. And then there are a variety of plants that he just likes.

Like the little dogwood in the front yard. It is currently growing in what we call the "boomerang". When we first moved in we planted a weeping cherry tree in the front corner of the yard. He watered it devotedly as it got sicker and sicker. Finally after a full summer of dying, it was gone. When we pulled it out we discovered that it was sitting in the equivalent of a terra cotta bowl filled with water. That was how we learned that it's impossible to plant anything in our yard without first amending the dirt - and I do mean amend! We decided that we needed the equivalent of a raised bed, but we did not want the obvious raised border. So, we got a load of topsoil delivered and shaped it into a boomerang and left it higher than the yard. We amended the heck out of it and over the years it has sunk some into the yard, but remains an excellent place to plant. Last fall we moved a small dogwood there. It had been growing too close to the house, so we took a chance and dug it up. We watered loyally over the winter and it is growing like topsy this spring. I believe it will be a keeper.

Mitchell's red tree tho is a beautiful plum [Thundercloud] that shades the back deck. After the disaster of the weeping cherry we got another load of topsoil and dumped it on the west side of the deck before we planted another tree. The plum was the tree equivalent of a 98-pound weakling when we planted it - about five feet tall with skinny little no-nothing twig branches. Today it is 25 feet tall and shades the entire deck all summer. Mitchell has kept it well pruned, so it has a beautiful vase shape and when it blooms it is covered with tiny pink flowers. It's truly a gem.

Underneath is a field of Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow' - another non-green plant. It actually changes from more greenish to more redish over the growing season, and blooms with a pretty purple flower on a stalk in the spring - like now. In addition to the field under this tree, we have used it wherever we need a little filler, like around the pond. It is helping to fill in among the stones that surround the pond. It likes a bit of shade, so it has not done as well as other ground covers in some of our sunnier spots.

Around the side is a Japanese maple. In twenty years it will be stunning! Since we bought it, it has filled out and now has a lovely fountain shape and the leaves are that beautiful red that one expects, but there are two things that we did not know about Japanese maples when we added it. First, they grow incredibly slowly - like an inch a year or less. Ours is still less than three feet tall, so we have lots of shrubs that would kick it's derrierre in a fight, and 2) in our climate it turns green! Apparently it is not fond of our hot, humid summers, so by August every year it is a lovely green maple! Then from November to June it's red again, before starting its color change. We love it, but will probably not live to see it full grown.

I've mentioned the Harry Lauter's walking stick [Corylus avellana 'Contorta'] before, but it is another of Mitchell's interesting choices. In the summer it is a pretty screen of bright green leaves - like now - but in the winter it is one of the most interesting specimens in the garden. It loses its leaves, but keeps its catkins all winter among its twisted branches. It's large enough now that I could use some of its branches for flower arrangements, but I have not touched it yet. I think it is about three-quarters full grown. The birds love it and so do we.

Finally, I always make him at least one planter with shade plants including coleus. Am running a bit behind this summer, and do not really have the planters done yet, so that is yet to come. We have a bench in the shady part of the garden that nicely holds two or three large pots, and I like to put a variety of coleus there along with some annual flowers. From that garden bench one can see both down the side - the bowling alley - to the street and back up the hill to the main garden. It's a lovely place to read.

So Mitchell, it's all about your plants today - happy anniversary!

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