Saturday, September 14, 2013

Roots All The Way To China

Love the blue plumbago in a pot by the deck
Wait a few days and the weather changes. We went from hot and sticky to cool yesterday, and chilly today, barely in the 60s and partly cloudy.

The cool weather got me back on track doing chores in the garden. I moved two blueberries in the meadow over to where the other four were planted, so now all of them are in a small stand in one place.

Digging, moving, filling with dirt -- feels good again!

Then I decided to dig up a few of the salix yezoalpina on the east side. Maybe put them in pots until I could figure out what to do with them. They get so browned and crisp and look so bad all season, that I knew I needed to move them somewhere else and start over with another groundcover along the east side.

So I stood over the patch, shovel in hand, and thought "I hope they're easy enough to pop out of the soil. Probably have shallow roots, that's why they don't get enough moisture here. I'll just wiggle one up out of the dirt."

Ha. Not. The roots go down to China. They spread enormously, running out four or five feet. The main plants developed fat, iron hard roots that all bound together into an impenetrable trunk. It was a difficult, shoulder wrenching, body damaging job to wrestle those plants out.

Obviously there was no way to save any to put in a pot or move elsewhere. They were ripped, torn, hacked out and manhandled.
(Honestly, that Dawn viburnum looks ridiculous, all splayed out and waving about. Sheeesh.)

The soil all along here was surprisingly dry and fine, despite 3/4 of an inch of rain the other day. Everywhere else the garden is wet, but as I tore the alpine willows out, I found very dry, loose dirt.

Do the willows drink it all up and still suffer? They look so bad all summer, once spring goes by.

Initially I had high hopes for this plant. The leaves were glossy green and interesting, and the plants spread out easily.

They had funny fuzzy blooms, and the first fall they turned a buttery yellow color. Perfect groundcover for this spot.

In spring they covered all the bare ground under the goofy looking Dawn viburnum with rich green foliage. Exactly what I wanted.

But when the weather got hot they browned badly, and never recovered when it cooled down. Last year the same thing, I kept hoping it was just a one-off from too much heat or sun. I watered them. I watched.

Ick. They stayed crisp and ugly all year, despite cooler weather and what was certainly plenty of moisture all this year.

Time to change up the area.

So I thought I could take them out and try them somewhere else, but in the process they all were sacrificed. No way to save them with those roots that reach all the way down to China.

My plan now is to put in Deutzia gracilis 'Nikko', the pretty ground covering dwarf deutzia that works so well for me in other areas. It is a dense grower so it will smother the area, it stays crisp and green and a little more elegant looking than the willows were. Really pretty white flowers in spring, and decent fall color.

Although they don't spread as quickly as the willows, they do fill out an area after several years and they seem fine in different soils, and in varying amounts of sun or shade.

In summer the deutzia is plain and green and not very noticeable, but that's fine for this area, where I just want coverage. Here it is spreading nicely under the Rose of Sharon, just to the right of the strip I want to cover, so eventually the deutzia will be all along this side of the house.

I ordered 3 from Lazy S to plant later this month and I have two rooted cuttings from my own plants. It's easy to make more too. I want to make the whole strip a little wider and let these woody ground shrubs cover it all up.

The mystery is why the soil is so dry there. Will it be ok for a big stand of dwarf deutzia? Was it the willows that were parching the area dry?