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Archive for October, 2011

Tour of English Gardens with Erica Glasener

Monday, October 31st, 2011

For those of you that plan ahead, there are still spaces left for the tour of English Gardens I am leading May 19-27, 2012.  For details check out the new updated link

Rosa 'Penelope' (Hybrid Musk)

Fall-Fruits, Foliage and Other reasons to love the season

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Hovenia dulcis fruits

Back in September, I noticed across from my daughter’s school a tree with odd looking fruits.  When I got closer I recognized it as the Japanese raisin tree, Hovenia dulcis.  I first encountered this tree when I worked at the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College.  The fruits- actually the fleshy branches are (according to Michael Dirr, chewed by the Japanese and Chinese and are “actually not bad tasting.”  I have nibbled on them and found the taste unremarkable.  Still, I am drawn to their curious look.  Native to China, this unusual exotic makes a good medium size shade tree (up to 30’ tall) and is hardy to Zone 5. 

Taxodium distichum -immature cones

Some of my best plant sitings happen when I walk our dog in my neighborhood.  Recently I noticed a group of bald cypress loaded with 1” green cones.  I will have to check back as they should be mature (brown and looking more like cones) in a year.  What’s surprising about this tree is how adaptable it is.  Native to swamps bald cypress, Taxodium distchum will also grow in full sun and in a well drained soil.  In mid- October the foliage is just beginning to turn orange, brown and red. This deciduous conifer is known for its “knees” which only occur when they grow in or near water.  I have fond memories of canoeing at Trap pond in October when the trees were completely russet color.  Located in  Laurel,  Delaware this pond is home to “the northernmost stand of natural bald cypress in the United States.”  There’s something magical and mysterious about these trees that appeals to me at every season. 

Aesculus parviflora foliage in October

Some trees like Cercidiphyllum japonicum , also known as katsuratree  offer their own special brand of fragrance when the leaves begin to change color in the fall- shades of yellow, red and orange.  On a recent trip to Seattle, I was at Lakewold Gardens touring the collection and wham, that welcome scent of burning sugar or cotton candy, you decide, hit me before I saw all the leaves on the ground and realized it was the now leafless katsuratree  that was responsible. 

With ample moisture and space this tree can become quite large.  One of my favorite specimens is located at Dumbarton Oaks, a public garden in Georgetown, a neighborhood in Washington, DC. 

Cercidiphyllum japonicum at Dumbarton Oaks

As a group many magnolias offer colorful and fragrant flowers in spring.  But there are also those with interesting fruits and foliage.  One of my favorites, Magnolia macrophylla (big flowers, big leaves) offers its own form of fall interest when the leaves turn yellow and then drop to the ground, exposing silver undersides.   Even the ordinary Magnolia grandiflora displays colorful fruits in October.  Great for decorations if you get to them before the critters do. 

Magnolia grandifolora fruit in October

A trio that caught my attention last fall at the Atlanta Botanical Garden includes our native dogwood, Cornus florida, a red  maple and Stewartia pseudocamellia.

Cornus kousa fruits in October

Cornus florida fruits are red and shiny but not very large.  This is not the case with Cornus kousa, which produces fruits that look like large raspberries.  They are edible but probably appreciated more by squirrels and birds. 

Fall foliage

Heptacodium miconioides in Fall

These are just a few of the gems that add interest and color to one of my favorite seasons in the garden.

Dirr’s Encylopedia of Trees and Shrubs- book review

Friday, October 14th, 2011

When it comes to ornamental trees and shrubs, Michael A. Dirr’s books have long been the go-to references for gardeners across the United States.  My copy (the 1990 edition) of the Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture and Propagation  is tattered and both the front and back cover are missing (it was a hardcover so you know it’s been used) but it is still invaluable when I want to confirm the identity of a plant.  The one thing it doesn’t have is color photos.  Now, seasoned gardeners, landscape professionals including nursery and garden center personnel, designers, architects and enthusiastic beginners need look no further.  Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs (2011) is chock full of more than 3,500 photographs of specimens and cultivars in 380 genera, building on previous books he has written , this one is comprehensive and includes his recommendations for the best introductions (both native and exotic, evergreen and deciduous) of the past 10 to 15 years.    

Oxydendrum arboreum in November

As with his other books (including more recent titles on the subjects of viburnums and hydrangeas) this one covers the best of the best, including both familiar and more obscure selections.    Starting with the A’s (who knew there were so many selections of Abelia)  and continuing through the alphabet, the enticing photographs of flowers, foliage, fall color and bark of numerous trees, shrubs and even vines are sure to boost plant sales everywhere.   I already have a list started of plants I would like to add to my garden.  I was glad too that with some plants like Elaeagnus umbellata, autumn-olive, he stresses the fact that this species is invasive and can become a pernicious pest.  The good news is that once gardeners know this they can choose other more desirable options , of which he offers plenty.  For certain genera like Magnolias (I counted at least 18 different species and many more cultivars) his list is comprehensive including Magnolia sieboldii which I have long admired for its fragrance and odd fruits but never grown .

Magnolia sieboldii fruits, October

A bonus is the section at the back of the book called Selecting Plants for Specific Characteristics or Purposes- with lists of plants for flower color, flowering sequence, fragrant flowers and fruit.  

 The recipient of prestigious awards, Dirr was a  professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia for nearly three decades. Worth noting too, is the fact that  he grows or has grown many of the plants he writes about.

Fortunately for the rest of us, his passion for plants continues and this book is bound to gain him even more fans. 

Ginkgo biloba, Camellia and hollies

photos on this blog are by author Erica Glasener

Tree Sale and Festival – Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Chimonanthus praecox 'Grandiflorus'

Fall is for planting and on Saturday, October 8, Trees Atlanta will hold its 12th Annual Tree Sale at their hedadquarters located at 225 Chester Ave., Atlanta, GA 30316, offering gardeners an opportunity to choose from 200 species of trees, shrubs and “tree-friendly vines.”  This tree sale is a great source of unusual and hard to find plants for  gardeners.

Acer griseum

It’s hard to know where to begin with recommendations.  So, I will start with the A’s.  Acer griseum, paperbark maple, offers striking cinnamon bark that curls and peels, becoming showier with age.    Its handsome foliage is a rich green that often turns shades of red, yellow and orange in autumn.  I have seen beautiful mature specimens in several Atlanta area gardens as well as in Pennsylvania and  Washington state.  Asimina triloba, paw paw, is a native that you don’t find offered at most nurseries.  I can think of at least three reasons why this tree is garden worthy including its dramatic foliage, tasty fruits and that fact that it is a host plant for the  Zebra Swallowtail butterfly.

A winter bloomer with fragrant flowers, Chimonanthus praecox, also known as wintersweet, is  hardy from Zone 6 to 9 and easy to grow.  Pruning should be done after it blooms, as flowers occur on second year wood. 

For early spring bloom, you may be tempted to try the rice paper bush,  Edgeworthia chrysantha

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Hollies are a good choice for an evergreen screen or hedge and Ilex ‘Carolina #2’ is a choice cultivar of our native American holly, Ilex opaca

For tough sites, Eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana offers a conifer that is hard to beat. 

There are a variety of magnolias being offered including selections of yellow flowering magnolias like Magnolia ‘Sunsation’ which is hardy from Zone  5 to 9.  The base of the flower is purple and the tepals are described as soft canary yellow.

A tree that I often recommend is our native black gum or tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica.  Trees Atlanta is offering two different selections including ‘Wildfire’ for its consistently colorful fall foliage and ‘Zydeco’ for its twisty growth.

Ginkgo biloba in November

These are just a few of my favorites.  For a complete list of offerings be sure to visit

Trees Atlanta is a nationally recognized citizens group that protects and improves Atlanta’s urban forest by planting, conserving and educating.  For more information about Trees Atlanta and the12th Annual Trees Atlanta Tree Sale, call 404-522-4097.