Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thinking . . part one: Driveway

It's been cold again, in the twenties F each day. No snow cover since it all melted when the one-day warm front came through at the very end of January. I've been staying inside thinking.

I'm ready to plan the garden for spring. I'm ready to order plants and seeds and maybe some containers. Ready to move things around that I already have.

But I've been thinking . . .

I don't just want to add plants. I really want to solve some problems and make designs work.

So here's part one: the driveway and edge of the gravel area.

1. The gravel garden needs shade. The umbrella shades a single chair, but I'd like a tree in the spot to the left of the inkberries, shading the whole area. The star magnolia to the far left (off camera) will get big and spreading, and the sourwood to the right anchors that spot next to the right-side inkberries.

But the gap next to the left-side inkberries, looking out to the stand of pines in the neighbor's yard needs something. And I need to bring out the outer edge of that narrow border for a rounder shape anyway.  Put a tree there.

I had all kinds of ideas in mind, new trees I could plant.

But how about I use a tree I have? How about I move the new sweetgum to that empty spot?

I wanted a shade tree at the north end of the Drive By Garden to shade the driveway apron a little, and make a terminus at that end of the garden. But now I actually think the Cornus mas is going to do that.  I didn't think it would ever be big enough, but it will be the anchor and shade I need.  I don't need the big sweetgum there.

The little Cornus mas looks like this now but it is growing fast, and I am pruning up the lower limbs.

But it will soon look like this and deserves its own spot at the end of this garden, not crowded under another large tree.
from Name That Plant blog

I had thought it would do well as an understory tree below the sweetgum, but that seems like too much.

The sweet gum is small enough to move.  It struggled with leaf scorch in last summer's heat, but I hope that was transplant difficulty, and that it comes back ok this spring. I think the bright white edged leaves will look good against the far backdrop of somber green pines in the neighbor's yard.

And it is a narrower tree, at least while young. A drama point without being another flowery tree (I had considered fringe tree, or Okame cherry for that spot but with six flowering cherries and pears in sight in the neighbor's yard I don't want more.)

So, no new trees to solve the problem of shade in the gravel garden, use the sweetgum I have.


2. The Drive By garden needs height and screening at the back edge. I want something to distract from the unattractive side of the neighbor's house. I can't screen out the whole thing, but some height is needed here.

The Tardiva hydrangeas will get taller but I need something narrow and tall right behind them. There's a Mariesii doublefile viburnum to the left and behind the hydrangeas, but that will add horizontal mass, not much vertical.

In this instance, I am thinking of a new tree, an upright Parrotia persica 'Vanessa'.

Very narrow although not really fastigate. Trouble free, beautiful tree, I can get a 5 gallon at Broken Arrow. It fits the kinda woodsy look of this strip, and is related to witch hazels. It is reputed to hold its leaves into winter, which drives me crazy, but would be okay along the back of this garden (not out in front in the front yard, though.)
from Learn2Grow - Plant profile
And in fall (from Dave's Garden forum):

Originally I was thinking of an evergreen southern magnolia -- a "Bracken's Brown Beauty'.  They are hardy here, Lee May and others are growing this beautiful tree successfully, although it is at the far end of its hardiness tolerance. In the first years it will defoliate in winter until roots establish.

It is narrow and evergreen and dramatic, but I suspect it will be more open, like the sweetbay magnolia.
from http://www.supersodtrees.com

I can get one from Broken Arrow, or Kevin at Silver Spring will order one.  With the hydrangeas in front, the doublefile viburnum to the side, and the big Norway maple at the far end, there will be multiple layers as everything matures.

But which tall, narrow tree for that spot? The Persian ironwood or the southern magnolia? I think the Parrotia would be more trouble free, more in keeping with the look of the plantings there, letting the Elizabeth magnolia be the one "exotic" point.  The magnolia would offer winter screening, though.

Thinking . . .