Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Brick Circle and Other Oddities

It's been beautiful for days. Very cold nights, cool sunny days, lots of fall color in the hills and in my garden. I got some of my fall tasks done.

I planted the 'Bartzella' peony in the middle of the open lawn where several gardens encircle an open area. But a single plant in the middle of the lawn looked forlorn, so I got the box of floor tiles that was left over from our porch renovation and made a brick circle.

I like it. The flat tiles are simply laid on the mulch. Next spring, after the peony is settled in and if the thin faux brick tiles survive frost and winter freezes without cracking, I'll expand the circle a bit and put down some stone dust to lay the tiles in permanently. This is just a trial.

I know it looks silly out there in the wide open lawn, but it does hint at a focal point among several adjacent gardens. Once the peony gains size, and once it is in bloom, it will have a real presence and anchor that open spot. When the peony is larger, the circle will need to be larger also.

For those of you who shrug and doubt, here is a reminder -- 'Bartzella' has big blowzy yellow blooms and it is a rounded, fluffy looking shrub-type intersectional peony. I think it will look nice in its brick circle.

With this success checked off the fall to-do list, I turned my attention to the 'Jackmanii' clematis that was overwhelming the iron tower in the Blueberry Garden. It dug up easily, and I moved it to the back of the berm, to climb the river birch there.

This isn't going to work at all. The clematis rootball was large, and the hole to put it in at the base of the river birch was sort of nonexistent, so it isn't really planted as much as just laid on top of the soil, resting against the trunk of the tree. Soil piled against a tree trunk is not good for the tree. This isn't going to work.

I added some rocks to hold the soil around the rootball from washing down. The bigger issue is how to get the tendrils of the clematis vine to latch on to the trunk of the tree. I'll need to come up with a system next spring -- some netting or strings, maybe. Clematis needs narrow structures to wrap around. I don't think it will wind itself around the fat trunk of the birch without help.

I moved it because it was way too big for the five foot iron tower out in the middle of the yard. It was too congested and top heavy, and its prolific purple blooms overwhelmed nearby plants. After blooming it was just a green dark mass.

My plan was to give it room to spread upward along the tall trunk of the river birch, with its flashy purple flowers contrasting with the white and pink peeling bark. It will be at a distance now, not smack in the middle of the yard. But I really have my doubts about this.

The other fall task that got done this weekend was the annual tree guard installation. I have had more young trees killed by antler rub than from weather, insects or even deer browse. The bucks come through in fall, rub their antlers on the bark of young trees, and open raw wounds on the trunks that kill the tree.

I have developed a system using plastic mesh fencing clipped on with plastic orchid clips. The mesh wraps the trunk and keeps the bucks from rubbing. It's a pain -- the plastic mesh is stiff and hard to handle, and it takes the better part of a day to wrap all the yard trees and all the saplings on the back hill. The mesh stays on from October to next spring.

The bucks scratch the forks of their antlers on slender sturdy saplings, and they seem to like smooth bark, which is why I lost a linden and a young magnolia, but they also went after a rough barked larger sassafras and they destroyed a young twiggy katsura too. So I try to cover everything, even trees I wouldn't expect them to seek out.

Just at the time my trees are at their best, gloriously showing fall color, I have to put these distracting green plastic things around them.


  1. I have peony envy now.

    With regard to the clematis, for funky spaces where I didn't want to put a nail in a tree or a fence, I just tie string around the object and then let the tail fall to the ground where I hold it in place with a rock or twig pushed in the dirt. You can then train the vine up the string, and eventually cut away the string when it's trained on the tree.

    1. Kathryn, I actually thought about a similar process with strings hanging down to the ground. I'm glad to know you've done that successfully. Thanks for the input -- let's see if I can make it work for this clematis!