Alliums!!!

All gardeners and gardens live in the future and perhaps this one more than most because it is so large and so new.  But the sight of these Alliums in the perennial border is starting to give some definition to the border.Alliums April 2016 2

Last fall I planted 150 Allium aflatunense and I think just about all of them came up.  They are scattered among the hundreds of perennials I planted – and more to come – but it will be a few years before they give the effect they should:  a perennial border with Alliums rather than an Allium border.

The perennials and grasses that will be 3’ – 5’ tall are 3” tall.  So at the moment the Alliums aren’t exactly scattered “among” anything.

They need the perennials to give structure to the design.  And they need the perennials to cover their dying leaves of course.

It is so nice to look out and see them.

Witch Hazel is smarter than I am

When this Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia “ Jelena”) bloomed late last fall during an early frost, I figured it was done blooming.  Too bad;  I so look forward to its bloom in mid-winter.

Hamamelis Jan 2016Well, this is what happened in January.  It bloomed again.  As did the nearby “Arnold’s Promise”.

Now they are both leafing out and growing (at their usual snail’s pace) and seeming quite happy.

As am I.

Baby pussywillows outlined with frost

I put in 10” dormant pussywillows, Salix gracilistyla ‘Mt Aso’ — 20 of them — in the spring, hoping they would take…then hoping they would grow to their 5’ tall height… then hoping they would form the beautiful rose-red pussies.

Well I got two out of three of my wishes.

They almost all took, grew new branches, new leaves – and now – pussies for winter.  Salix mt. asa pussy rimmed with frost dec 2015They are only about 18” tall so far, but I assume they have nice roots and next year should start making some height.

So I will have my “river” of pussywillows for summer leaves and winter color, and then I will interplant with Siberian Irises for spring bloom.  Yum.

Apricot rose and butter wall: A luscious new climbing rose has come to live at Timshala

A couple of weeks ago I came across a description of a new climbing rose in American Nurseryman.   Here is the description that intrigued me.

Rosa Above and Beyond in American Nurseryman Sept 2015.

I got some more information from David Zlesak, the breeder, and this week – one arrived!  Thank you so much David.

It is a big plant – expected to be about 14’ x 14 ‘, so I’m having it go on the only wall big enough to hold it, fortunately facing South-East.

Rosa Above and BeyondThe dark apricot rose should look wonderful against the butter-colored concrete.

Irrigation and dry wells and flooding and Oh My!

This season’s rains have drowned some plants, most small and easily replaceable, but some – see the sad, brown Pine in the background – not so easy.

The solution seems to be to dig some dry wells (8 of them!), and have the water collect in them to release slowly rather than flooding.

We actually did have some dry wells done when we were first grading the site, but in this year’s amazing rains they were inadequate.  Also, while they worked well to remove excess water from large areas, what we have now is some more localized flooding.

And (sigh)we also discovered that some of the irrigation heads were wrongly identified.  So we needed to re-do the irrigation plan, accurately locate every head and correctly name its zone.  That way, in the future, when I need to irrigate a particular area, with new plantings, say, or water-loving plants, I won’t be watering the wrong things.

So…some rented survey equipment, a brief class in using it, and a couple of days of “Run Zone One”  “Mark each head on the plan.”  “Run Zone Two.”  “Mark each head on the plan.”  Etc.

Surveyers 20150815_095345The Master Surveyor had help from his long-nosed furry Trainee Surveyor, and now every head, every valve – and incidentally, every tree and shrub – is now in the right place on the plans.

I’ve never planted this plant before. Isn’t that great!

I enjoy working with plants that are totally familiar.  I can recognize them at any stage of their growth, I know how fast they grow, what they combine well with, what conditions they require – everything.

But do I want only to use those plants?  Of course not.  Using plants that were not familiar is how the plants that are familiar got that way.

Whenever I design a garden I try to use about 10% of plants I’m not familiar with.  (With my clients’ knowledge, of course.  They usually accept my disclosure when I’m going through the plant list with them.)

I’m not coming from total ignorance.  I do a lot of research, formerly using my rather vast library, now more on the internet.  But I do know, in an abstract kind of way, what the new (to me) plants will do.  I have to say though, that all the research in the world is not the same as seeing and living with a plant, live and in person and hands on.

So here at Timshala, I’ve been putting in several unfamiliar plants – with full approval from my client (that would be me).

I had never planted Bald Cypress before. Taxodium

Or Golden Rain Tree. Kohlreuteria

Or Aronia brilliantissima. Aronia brilliantissima fall color

Or Viburnum pragense. Viburnum pragense

These are all plants that are being recommended to me as being suitable for the soil and climate here.  And not surprisingly, they are doing beautifully.

And next time I use them, they will no longer be on the list of “Never used that before”.   They will  have become familiar and  I will have to find other plants for the next “Unfamiliars’  list.  Yeah!!!

Driveway trees are blooming

One of the most important parts of the design is the entrance, the trees lining the driveway on the way to the house.  They lead the eye…and the car…and the mind.  And, especially when underplanted with large shrubs, slightly screen the garden from view so the garden beyond becomes a series of surprises.

I started out wanting Hawthornes, a life-long dream, but was persuaded not to use them as they are subject to, and co-host, Cedar-Hawthorne disease and the co-host Red Cedars are native here and  ubiquitous.  So I spent a lot of time trying to find my next choice, the single-flowering Cherry, Sargent Cherry, Prunus sargentii.  However it does not seem to be available here and I’m told that Cherries generally don’t do well in this climate.

Finally, after a lot of anguish (yes, this is the kind of thing that gives a garden designer sleepless nights!)  and a lot of suggestions from a lot of people, one suggestion “took”.  Dennis Patton, the always helpful Horticulture Agent at Johnson County Extension (www.johnson.ksu.edu) suggested Kohlreuteria, the Golden Rain Tree.  Kohlreuteria June 2015. full tree in bloom

It is the right size.  Has a handsome shape.  Beautiful yellow flowers drop to the ground like “rain” – therefore the Golden Rain Tree — leaving straw colored seedheads that persist.  And it is likely to be successful here; it actually likes the soil and climate.

We put in twelve of them last month and so far ten are blooming and beginning to do their job.

The Importance of Motion

I have been watching people walk along the driveway, now (as of a few days ago) lined on both sides with a dozen Kohlreuteria – Golden Rain Trees.  The trees are about 6’ to 8’ tall now, nowhere near their future majestic 20’ -25’.  And yet, one can see that the visitors are aware of the driveway in a way they weren’t before the trees went in.  They, and I also,  walk more deliberately, more experiencing of the driveway and its goal: the house at the end.  The house is no less visible than it was a week ago.  But here is the difference: now it isn’t just ‘over there’; the approach itself has become a sensory and visual experience.

Almost everyone who now visits and strolls through the garden “gets it” this way in some sense.  It is still very raw; there are now lots of baby trees and shrubs everywhere, but they truly are babies.  It will be several years before the actual spaces created by the plantings start to take shape.

The woodland will be defined by the shade created by large trees and the layers of understory trees and shrubs and groundcovers.  The orchard trees will be their own space, with a low-growing colorful grassy area defining that space.  And so on, for each of the areas we have planned.

And yet, visitors already seem to experience those spaces and shapes, which will actually come later.

Here is what I think is the reason:  the one thing is complete is the paths.  And in a sense I think this – motion — is the essence of what makes the garden a garden.   This is probably true for every garden.

In a garden, motion is the interplay between plants and us.  The plantings define the spaces; the paths and openings help define the plantings.

Motion takes place at many levels.  We have the driveway;  the major 4’wide walking paths; the large stepping stone paths; the mown paths through grasses and meadows.  A different kind of level is within the plantings themselves.  Even where we don’t actually walk, we can create a sense of motion with plantings that move the eye.

For example, you don’t actually step through a “trail” of Hostas winding through a large bed of ferns – but your eye does.  The pop of red from poppies waving in a distant meadow causes you to change the focus of your vision to the meadow, another kind of motion.  I think of these as mental motion.

And I think this is why so many people are enjoying the garden, immature though it is.