RSS Feed

Archive for September, 2009

Fantastic Fruits for Fall

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I still remember some years back when I got the call from my daughter’s preschool letting me know that she had eaten a holly berry.  As a horticulturist I know that Ilex fruits are poisonous but unfortunately the teacher in the outdoor classroom that day had been talking about edible fruits  and did  not emphasize those that are poisonous.     After a call to the local poison control we breathed a big sigh of relief,  since it turned out that a child the size and weight of my daughter  would have had to eat 4 or more berries to cause her harm.  These days Georgia likes to graze in our garden but is much more careful and asks before she eats, whether it’s basil, parsley or mahonia berries, Mahonia bealei,  which my friend visiting from Seattle was enthusiastic about.   Personally I can’t get too excited about this mahonia as it seeds freely and pops up uninvited all over my garden.  The one mahonia I do like is Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ a hybrid introduction from ItSaul Plants with leaves that are soft to the touch and blooms in late fall.

American beautyberry

American beautyberry

While I support the concept of a sustainable landscape where one grows food to eat, in my own garden I don’t discriminate against non-edible fruits.  I seek out and grow all types of plants including those that are beautiful, useful and edible.  It’s hard for me to imagine the fall garden without the colorful but non-edible fruits  of  ornamentals like American beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, viburnums, and  winterberry, Ilex verticillata, as well as other deciduous hollies.  I consider these plants to be food for my soul.

On a recent trip to Raleigh, NC, where I visited some lovely private gardens, I was reminded that some plants like the japanese persimmon, Diospyros kaki ‘Tanenashi’ for example, produce fruits that are both ornamental and edible.  In the case of japanese persimmons the tree and the fruit make for a handsome addition to the garden.  When growing persimmons it is useful to know whether the fruits  are astringent, like our native persimmon, Diospyros virginiana,  (I love this tree for its winter silhouette and chunky bark) which means they are bitter and astringent until fully ripe and soft  or non-astringent when the fruit is crisp and sweet even before they are fully ripe.

Diospyros kaki 'Tanenashi'

Diospyros kaki 'Tanenashi'

Other edible fruits that are also ornamental include blueberries, fig trees, pomegrantes and pawpaws.   I have eaten pawpaws, Asimina triloba, (a custard like fruit that tastes like a cross of banana, strawberry and some say mango)  that were growing along the C and O canal in Maryland.  They  are hard to miss, especially in the fall when they are loaded with 2 to 6”  oblong fruits and large leaves up to 1’ long;  they tend to grow in large groups.  Reaching  20 to 30’ tall or taller at maturity, I would like to try the dwarf species, Asimina parviflora which is reported to grow 4 to 5’ tall.

Whether your garden is large or small, there are many plants that you can grow that are not only beautiful but productive too, offering ornamental and delicious fruits.

Ilex verticillata with foliage in November

Ilex verticillata with foliage in November

Erica’s pick

Japanese persimmon

 

Botanical name: Diospyros kaki

 

About the plant: Depending on the cultivar this lovely tree grows 20 to 30’ tall and produces beautiful and edible  orange to orange-red fruit in the fall.  The green foliage becomes glossy as it matures, adding to its ornamental appeal.  The leaves may turn shades of red, orange and yellow in the fall.  Non-astringent types include ‘Fuyu’ and ‘Giant Fuyu.’

Use in the garden:  A good choice for creating a tropical feel and providing colorful fall fruits and foliage.

Planting and care:  Plant persimmons in full sun or part shade in a moist, well-drained soil.

Source: Ashe-Simpson Garden Center, 4961 Peachtree Industrial Blvd, Atlanta, GA 30341

770-458-3224

Brighten Your Garden with Variegated Trees and Shrubs

Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Cornus controversa 'Variegata' and evergreens

Cornus controversa 'Variegata' and evergreens

One of the many advantages of having your own garden is that you don’t have to consult with a committee before you make any changes, move any plants or decide to rip out something that no longer pleases you.  In my case I have decided that the large variegated Fatsia ‘Spiderwort’ with its green leaves that look as though they have been dusted with white paint does not enhance my garden.   In fact, if I didn’t know better I would think that the plant was sickly.  Perhaps I’m not sophisticated enough to appreciate the unique qualities of this Fatsia but there are variegated plants that I think are garden worthy (at least for now).   Growing out by my mailbox is a group of three  Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’ with tiny leaves that are variegated yellow and green.  I have underplanted this small shrub with Sedum ‘Angelonia,’ which makes for a pleasing combination.

Lonicera nitida 'Lemon Beauty'

Lonicera nitida 'Lemon Beauty'

If I had the space I would grow the variegated dogwood, Cornus controversa ‘Variegata.’  (One of the most beautiful specimens I ever saw was growing in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.)  Its tiered branches, spreading habit  and green leaves edged in cream make for a lovely specimen or focal point especially against a backdrop of evergreens.  A variegated selection of the kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa ‘Wolf  Eyes’ offers beautiful white blooms and handsome foliage which doesn’t seem to burn in the sun.    Another large shrub or small tree that lights up the landscape with green leaves that have yellow gold margins is variegated Japanese aralia,  Aralia elata ‘Variegata.’  Growing up to 10’ tall or taller  by 6 to 10’ wide it is also suitable for growing in a large container.

Cercis canadensis 'Silver Cloud'

Cercis canadensis 'Silver Cloud'

Two trees with colorful  foliage that I discovered this spring on a visit to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland (my mother lives near the garden  so I try to visit at least once or twice a year)  are variegated eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis ‘Silver Cloud’ with white and pink variegated foliage and Zelkova serrata ‘Goshiki,’ a variegated Japanese elm with leaves that have a green center and cream around the edges.  In autumn the zelkova foliage turns shades of red and orange, adding to its beauty.

Shrubs with variegated foliage that bring brightness to the garden or containers include variegated boxwood and shrubby dogwoods like Cornus sericea ‘Hedgerows Gold.’ I plan to add this dogwood to my own garden for its golden yellow variegation and red stems in winter.

Zelkova serrata 'Goshiki'

Zelkova serrata 'Goshiki'

These are just a few of my favorite shrubs and trees with variegated foliage.  Keep in mind that a little variegation goes a long way.    There are many other ornamentals that come with various combinations of  colorful foliage  including abelias, hollies, hypericums, maples, osmanthus and weigelia.   For a large listing of plants with variegation  visit www.variegatedfoliage.com , a mail order nursery in Eastford, Connecticut.

Free workshops at Piccadilly Farms

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

September 18 & 19   Annual Conifer weekend(Lectures both days at llam)

October 10 -   Neat Plants for your Garden

October 24- Drought tolerant plants

 

Piccadilly Farms is a retail nursery located not far from Athens, Georgia.  The address which I think is great is 1971 Whippoorwill Rd., Bishop, GA 30621  The phone number is 706-769-6516 and don’t bother to look for a website,  they don’t have one.  Call ahead and plan to drive out and see their selection of conifers, hellebores, hardy ferns, shade perennials and assortment of unusual trees andshrubs.  I purchased a Styrax obassia from Sam Jones (owner) last fall and it is thriving in my garden, thanks to our rainy spring.

Erica lectures in Savannah, October 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Join Erica at the Southern Lady Celebration in Savannah, Georgia on October 10 for two different lectures.

Gardens for All Seasons

American Beautyberry

American Beautyberry

During this illustrated lecture, Erica will talk about designing a garden that offers year around beauty with examples of gardens both large and small across the US.  She will share her thoughts on what makes a garden appealing and the importance of good “bones” or structure.   She will also  highlight plants for every season with suggested  combinations including fabulous flowers, brilliant berries and striking bark.  Get a glimpse of her new garden (4 years old) and its ongoing  development.

Solving  Common Garden Dilemmas

During this problem solving session, Erica will talk about some of the common problems gardeners face such as too much shade or knowing which plants will grow in damp soil.  What about drought friendly perennials, the best shrubs and trees for fall color or squirrel proof bulbs?  These are just a few of topics she will cover.  Bring your gardening  questions and she’ll provide the answers.

Design for A Sunny Pie Shaped Garden

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
Victorian mantle against garage

Victorian mantle against garage

Atlanta Garden Designer Paula Refi did not set out to have a full sun garden.  In fact, after years of gardening in the shade she was content with her  collection of  interesting and unusual plants including those with beautiful blooms and striking foliage.   But as often happens mother nature intervened suddenly.   As the result of a storm and the loss of two mature trees,  over night her shady oasis became a hot full sun challenge.  You might think that coming up with a design for this altered space would be easy work for a designer who is used to coming up with solutions for all types of gardens, but her own property proved to be a bit more challenging.  As she put it, when you live with a garden certain ideas become ingrained and it’s hard to have a fresh eye.  Because of this, Paula spent a long time looking and thinking about what she wanted for this narrow pie shaped lot that points downhill.

Raised beds and gravel as a groundcover

Raised beds and gravel as a groundcover

The Design

When Paula finally put pen to paper she had four goals she wanted to accomplish.

  • 1. She wanted more space for seating next to the existing pond.
  • 2. Paula wanted to use the side of the garage in some way, to make it part of the garden. A chance encounter with a Victorian mantle at a junk yard presented the perfect solution. The stone used for the hearth is the same type used for the dry stack walls. She also added a window sash, with mirrored glass. She calls this her humorous take on the outdoor living room trend that many designers have incorporated into their gardens.
  • 3. In her shade garden Paula had one large bed. With her new sunny growing conditions she decided to have two raised beds which would give her an opportunity to grow more of her favorite and unusual plants.
  • 4. Paula also wanted to hide the derelict rental property which borders one side of her garden. She is encouraged an excited by how quickly the dogwood, Cornus ‘Venus’ is growing. She believes that this hybrid between Cornus kousa and Cornus nuttallii is a choice ornamental tree.
Victorian mantle against garage

Victorian mantle against garage

Paula’s graceful sloping pie shaped garden now features raised beds with a combination of unusual plants like a hardy selection of pittosporum called Pittosporum heterophyllus ‘Variegata,’ a golden leaved mock orange called Philadelphus coronarius ‘Ogon’ and lots of herbs such as rosemary and creeping thyme which she appreciates both for their sweet scents and the different roles they play such as screening and ground covers.  A large existing camellia that is at least 35 years old  has been limbed up  while a  mass of azaleas and anise, Illicium parviflorum provide evergreen anchors.  With the exception of one small patch of turf at the top of the hill, pea gravel makes for a low maintenance groundcover.  On one side of the garden Paula added  two stone steps, leaving the other without steps  to allow easy access with a wheelbarrow.

Seating in Paula's Garden

Seating in Paula's Garden

With her innovative approach to a challenging site, Paula has created a lovely garden that offers opportunities to grow a variety of plants as well as spaces for entertaining or just sitting and relaxing.