Some things are worth waiting for

First off, my apologies for my long absence. After a number of life-changing events,  I believe I have returned to the place where I may resume my humble addition to the gardening world.

In my absense, I find the world of gardening has not slowed down at all and there are a great number of exciting new plants that I will want to share with you here in my blog. Of course, there are new conifers to admire and covet, as well as further additions to the hardy Jack Frost® and Pacific Rim® maples to share.

This post, I find that I am driven to present a new dwarf Hinoki Cypress that was first introduced by my friends at Iseli Nursery a few years ago. I call it “new” since it is still relatively unknown and is certainly worthy of greater attention.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Thoweil'
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweil’

Many gardeners are familiar with the standard Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) for its rich green color and somewhat feathery or lacy foliage. It can be grown as a stately single specimen or utilized in pairs or groups for a formal garden appeal. This Japanese forest tree became popular in western gardens well over one hundred years ago and has been the parent to thousands of dwarf, colorful and very unique new cultivars. Some of my very favorite dwarf conifers have their parentage in Chamaecyparis obtusa and were selected as unusual seedling offspring or witch’s broom mutations and then propagated, creating generations of identical clones with the special characteristics of their unique parents.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweil’ was named by the late Ed Rezek, an east coast conifer aficionado, in honor of two Dutch plants-men, Thom Delange and Weil Linnsen, hence, “ThoWeil.”

With so many dwarf and unusual cultivars of Hinoki Cypress already in cultivation and in the trade, one may wonder why we would need another variation. This, of course, is a very valid point and something the creative minds at Iseli are always considering when they choose to produce a new plant. “What makes this one different or better than the many other selections already on the market?”

In the case of ‘Thoweil’, it fulfills a need in today’s gardens where other conifers simply do not. Many people love the look—the stately upright habit—of the standard Hinoki Cypress. It is a beautiful tree. These days, most of us simply do not have the room in our gardens to enjoy it in its peak of beauty, nor do we tend to have ancestors living in our same estate for generations to enjoy the trees that we plant (and certainly few have any idea what trees their great-grand parents may have planted – or even where they may have lived).

With ‘Thoweil’ and its slow, yet vigorous growth rate, not only may we enjoy a beautiful garden tree in our own lifetime, but we may enjoy the fact that it is scaled perfectly in our smaller, 21st century gardens. But that’s not all! ‘Thoweil’ has a growth habit that can be encouraged to grow as either a unique sculptural form, or as a formal form, with just a little directional pruning of branches when the tree is young.

Its rich, dark green, small, densely formed foliage fills out its branches covering the plant and filling in its space. Some branches may be allowed to grow outward in naturally erratic directions to bring the overall tree into a natural sculptural form. If desired, the erratic branches may be trimmed to encourage the tree into a narrow form. Either way, the tree is also a slow enough grower, that it could even be enjoyed on the deck or patio for many years in a decorative container.

At first look, the prospective gardener may think this is just another Hinoki, but when one looks beyond a first glance, one may see the beauty and real treasure that ‘Thoweil’ could be in today’s gardens.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

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The dream becomes reality

Over the past several years I have mentioned in these pages a line of new, hybrid, hardy Asian maples being developed by my friends at Iseli Nursery. I have heard from some of you in the comments here, or in other social media, how excited you are to be able to add this kind of elegant beauty to your colder, northern climates. I know some of you managed to get your hands on very early releases of North Wind® and you have had great success with these superb garden trees.

Jack Frost® logoThe Jack Frost® collection is a series of hybrid cultivars selected for their beauty as well as their ability to withstand the harsh winters of our colder North American regions where, until now, trees of this elegance were non-existent.

The dream began back in the 1990s when Iseli Nursery initiated their research with the Korean maple, Acer pseudosieboldianum. Their hybrid program began in 1997 when they worked to specifically cross pollinate cultivars of Japanese maple, Acer palmatum with older specimens of the Korean maples. 1998 was the year that seedlings began to be selected and numbered for evaluation. This process continues even as selected cultivars begin to make it to market through local independent garden retailers.

Acer x pseudosieboldianum North Wind®('IslNW')
North Wind® explodes into a blaze of autumn color.

I spent some time on the phone with my good friend, Alan Craig, one of Iseli Nursery’s reps in the Midwest. He was one of the first to plant and evaluate these new Jack Frost®  maples in his own Zone 4 garden. Mr. Craig received plants in 2007 and they hardly had time to become established in his eastern Iowa garden when the arctic cold-snap of 2009 hit. That year was possibly the coldest on record in the area with winter temperature as low as -32°F. Imagine his excitement when he found his North Wind® to come through that winter without a blemish! The following spring brought a full and beautiful foliar display and the tree continues to thrive in both the summer heat and humidity as well as the typical frigid winter season.

Acer x pseudosieboldianum North Wind®('IslNW')
Green summer foliage is highlighted with bright red samaras through the “green” season.

One observation that Mr. Craig mentioned about North Wind’s® hardiness that is particularly useful and important is they “are less prone to surprise cold snaps in fall and spring” during a time when potentially soft, end-of-season or early-season growth stems could be damaged.

I have heard that Japanese Beetle can be troublesome in the Midwest. Mr. Craig noted that although he has seen Japanese Beetle in his area, he has never seen any on his North Wind® maple. He is quick to admit that his observation is certainly not hard science, it is simply his experience to date. Certainly something to keep in mind!

Click an image below for a larger view.

Acer x pseudosieboldianum North Wind®(‘IslNW’) is the flagship in Iseli’s Jack Frost® collection of hardy Asian maples. Other new introductions include Arctic Jade® which is another upright grower with large green leaves that turn to rich reds, orange and purple in autumn, and the first weeping, lace-leaf form to be introduced, Ice Dragon®. Both of these selections are also tested cold hardy to Zone 4! I will provide more information regarding these two selections in a future blog post.

Ed-
Conifer Lover (and maples too)

Ps, I have been assured that all of these exciting, new, Jack Frost®  maples will be making their way into more and more independent garden centers through 2017/18 and beyond!

Pps, Thanks to Alan Craig for sharing the photos of North Wind® in his eastern Iowa garden.

Slow and steady as she goes

This summer has been one of the most consistently wonderful weather-wise in my memory. I do have faint memories of when I was a young fella, swimming almost daily in our neighbor’s pool from at least early July through the Labor Day weekend – and that was way back in the early 1960s. I didn’t care much for the cold water of an unheated pool, so at least one summer, way back when, must have been similar to this year with day after day of sunny and warm weather.

Summer-Garden-82016_5008
Even a small garden space has room for a path through beds filled with dwarf conifers and other exciting plants.

Our spring began on time this year and we have enjoyed bumper crops in our raised bed vegetable garden. I’ll even be harvesting a water melon soon (which is very rare in this area – at least for me)! With great crops of peas, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, basil and tomatoes, we have enjoyed heart-healthy eating all summer.

Our deck is alive with over 30 dwarf conifer and flower-filled containers. These warm summer evenings have been enjoyed snuggled with my beloved wife as we have listened to frogs, crickets and the occasional coyote serenade the otherwise quiet evenings, gazing at the stars or reading our books.

Summer-Garden-82016_6057
A beautiful way to fill a corner with tons of color and excitement!

New construction of the larger garden has been very slow this season and I have achieved far less than I had hoped early on. But, life happens and I have found it to be much less stressful to go with the flow of what life presents to you rather than insist on being the one in control. Steadily working through the challenges as they arise, we have made some strides in achieving our garden transforming goals. Not rushing into some of my landscape projects has allowed me to get to know the property a little more and I have made adjustments to my original plans.

Summer-Garden-82016_5588
Wouldn’t this be a great view right off your back patio or deck? Who needs lawn grass? It’s just something you have to mow and water all summer long!

In the meantime, we have enjoyed visiting other gardens and absorbed all kinds of ideas and inspiration to apply to our new garden space. Please enjoy these inspirational photos from the display gardens at Iseli Nursery!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Not your mama’s hedgerow

Over my years of gardening, I have been inspired by all different kinds of tremendous garden designs. Many have had a lasting impact on me, while others have faded away like so many memories do over time. I love large garden spaces that present the opportunity to create smaller, more intimate garden rooms to enjoy while strolling through the garden or when available, being able to stop and dwell in a “private” space which is enclosed by all kinds of plants. I try to keep mental notes of those inspirational settings so that I can draw from them to implement similar concepts in the gardens I design.

Picea-abies-Pendula-screen
Picea abies ‘Pendula’ may be easily trained to provide an excellent, low-maintenance screen.

When we arrived at our little lot, the 30 year-old fence showed signs of haphazard repair, barely helping the fence to stand and with the first big windstorm, down came sections that had not yet been patched together. Fortunately, we were prepared and had already scheduled the old, rotting fence to be removed and an nice chain-link fence to be put in its place. Of course we lost any privacy the old fence provided, but my strategy is to utilize a number of great conifers (and other exciting plants) to create natural screening that will grow and eventually offer complete privacy to our back-yard space.

Picea-pungens-The-Blues
Picea pungens ‘The Blues’ is pliable when young and can be trained for height, breadth or however you might desire.

To achieve this goal, I have an overall strategy that will utilize a number of different selections, planted in layers, beginning near the fence and then working inward toward areas that will feature smaller, more ornamental plants, vegetables and herbs. I have already planned the placement of “rooms” that will be considered more private than others and will require planting combinations that will fill in quickly to provide the desired screening effect as soon as possible.

My first strategy is to plant an initial layer that will block eye-level views into our garden from the adjacent city park. My desire is that this outer layer will be as low-maintenance as possible. I have no desire to spend the final years of my life shearing large hedges to contain them and keep them looking tidy. I’ll be using a combination of groups of weeping conifers for this Fence Layer of the screen.

Thuja-occidentalis-Jantar
The super bright color of Thuja occidentalis ‘Jantar’ can brighten most any space.

Picea abies ‘Pendula’ can be commonly found in many garden centers around the USA. What I love about using this selection as a screen is that it has a perfect curtain-like effect. Similar to the example photo above from the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden, I’ll be staking my plants to a height of about seven feet, along my five foot chain-link fence. As the trees grow, I’ll spread side branches along the top of the fence and their lateral branches will fall and eventually cover the fence from tree to tree. I will also take side branches at about the six foot mark and train them loosely from tree to tree for a softly sweeping effect. At the top, once I no longer train the central leader up the stake, it will simply flop over creating a rounded top. Planting several of these in a line along the fence will create a very attractive, first level of screening.

Tsuga-heterophylla-Thorsens-Weeping
A finer textured option for garden screening, Tsuga heterophylla ‘Thorsen’s Weeping’ may be trained along fence or even to cover a gazebo to provide privacy and shade.

I don’t intend to simply plant a row of Weeping Norway spruce along the entire length of my fence – that would be terribly monotonous. My plan is to use the same technique with conifers of different colors or textures depending on what “room” of the garden they are screening. In a more shaded area, I’ll use the shade tolerant, Tsuga heterophylla ‘Thorsen’s Weeping’ with very much the same technique of training. To brighten a smaller space, I may use Picea pungens ‘The Blues’, which has a very similar growth habit but its bright silvery, powder blue color will reflect light. To really brighten a space, a hedge of Thuja occidentalis ‘Jantar’PP#22296 could be used. I may plant a row along the north side of my vegetable garden to reflect more light into the space for those sun-loving plants.

Remember, the weeping plants I’ve mentioned today are just the first layer of screening that I will be using in my new garden. I’ll also consider mixing a row of a combination of these plants (or others) for a beautiful non-conventional screen. Imagine the color of ‘Jantar’ placed between a pair of ‘The Blues’ and continuing that effect for 30 feet or more. Stay tuned to learn more of my strategy to screen my garden for privacy – and for fun!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

What day is this?

What day is this—Thursday, June 2nd—how is this possible? This has been one of those years that has seemed to fly by at some kind of unnaturally fast pace. It has been one of the most pleasant springs, weather-wise, in my memory. We have had a perfect balance of sunny, dry, nice days and days fill with soaking rains so that the garden I planted weeks ago is growing happily. I also re-potted several of my small, grafted plants and they now have a prominent place filling the deck. All these plants – from dwarf conifers to herbs and veggies to flowers – have brought life to the otherwise plain and empty deck. With this nice weather we are finding the deck a very pleasant place to spend the evenings with our favorite books.

Even with all the great weather, I have made very little progress breaking new ground in the garden transformation. I do have some areas delineated for new beds and the larger veggie garden, but keeping up with life’s routines has prevented me from getting some bigger chores done.

Acer shirasawanum Autumn Moon_3619
Looking more like October than June, the fresh, new, spring foliage of ‘Autumn Moon’ might fool you into double-checking your calendar.

I have had time to dream about new plants for the garden and in a recent visit to the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden, I found another tree that I simply must make room for.

Who doesn’t love autumn foliage color? Autumn is possibly my favorite season (right after spring and summer) and I certainly intend to plant the new garden with opportunities for great color during that season! But why wait for great color?

Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’ begins the spring season with a spectacular flush of autumn color that persists all through the summer and until leaf drop sometime in November! This tidy tree is perfect for the smaller garden and is a gem in a container on the patio or deck. I think this one might be just the right size to fit in my smaller front yard where it can tease the neighbors with its special color for seven or eight months every year.

I hope to get my mind back on my larger garden project at hand as well as return to more regular blogging in the weeks and months to come. Last time I promised to talk about different screening plants and that will have to wait until next time…

Ed-
Conifer Lover