I am a failure. I see grand, wide spreading displays of snowdrops or crocus in gardens, then compare my sad and paltry few. (I make only cursory mention of common, “can’t fail” perennials that have died three or more times.)The verdict is clear. I am not growing these properly, or I’ve planted far too few. Probably both, but of course, most of us cannot have it all. Perhaps having several splendid successes excuses the few miserable failures. I hope so, and though I am discouraged when I fall short, I quickly move on as the few scattered crocuses fade and the next bloom happily distracts me.Japanese Umbrella Pine

I am quite pleased to have rescued a Japanese Umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) from the garden center’s scrap heap. Needles were a bit off color from the winter, but it was discarded because burlap had rotted and soil had fallen off the root ball, leaving roots bare for some extended period. I would not have attempted the rescue a month ago, when the pine could be dead and not realize its fate until warmer temperatures arrived. But, there has been just enough warmth that I expect the pine has emerged from dormancy, and while its survival is not a done deal, I now accept the risk.

Temporary fillers will be planted around the base of the new Japanese Umbrella pine until it fills the space. Umbrella pines are a little slow getting started, but the two already in the garden have grown over twenty feet tall.

Certainly, another Umbrella pine in the garden is not needed, which my wife made very clear when I mistakenly informed her a day earlier (some things are best kept quiet until the Umbrella pine is in the ground). There are two large ones in other parts of the garden, where one cannot be seen with the other, and with no ideal spots, the pine was planted so that it obscures the open view to the koi pond. I claim the view was already mostly blocked, though not in winter, and how could I not take advantage to obtain this treasure?

And yes, the planting did involve removing a bit of the lawn, which has clearly been prohibited (by my wife), but sometimes good sense must prevail over rigid dictates. The Umbrella pine is worth the risk. I’m sure there will be more than one discussion about this.

Several of the small collection of Lily of the valley shrubs (Pieris japonica, above, sometimes confusingly referred to as andromeda) have no flower buds this year, while others are at peak bloom. The few that are more shaded are variable, blooms one year with few or none the next with no obvious changes to explain why. One ‘Cavatine’ pieris has not flowered for several years, but it will in the next few weeks.

The best of the bunch to my thinking is ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ (above), a tall grower that is at least eight feet tall now. It’s dark green foliage is most resistant to lacebugs in sun or shade, and it seemingly tolerates clay soil better than others. The abundant, red flower buds are attractive through the winter, then open in early to mid March. After flowering, new growth is deep red, not as deep as ‘Katsura’, but ‘Dorothy’ is a heavy bloomer and a vigorous grower, and one of the great pleasures of spring that distracts from the disappointment of the tiny patch of crocuses.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Bill Mcdonald says:

    For the life of me, I cannot grow foxglove or creeping Phlox!

    1. Dave says:

      I have little doubt I’m plugging perennials into less than ideal conditions. When possible, I plant one in varying degrees of sun exposure and soil moisture so that one has a chance to thrive even if the other doesn’t.

  2. Jean L Gudaitis says:

    I love snowdrops but they fail to thrive or even return. I have heavy clay and I am facing a creek, so I think wet rot is the culprit. But thanks for making my day, Dave! If YOU can’t grow them I don’t feel so bad now LOL

  3. tonytomeo says:

    Uh . . . maybe they just don’t like it there. duh. That is why I dislike growing hellebores so, even though clients want them. They are never happy here. I do not grow Dutch crocus anymore. Actually, there are too many things that I can not grow well to list. It is just how the climate is. Furthermore, the apples that do so well here do not do so well in the Santa Clara Valley, just a few miles away. The apricots that do so well there are rather pathetic here.

  4. Anne Kelly says:

    Thanks Dave, great fun to see a little wider photo of your garden and get a better idea of what the big view is. Thanks again!

    1. Dave says:

      Today, the wide view is not much to look at, but every spring day it gets closer.

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