I look forward to the warmth of spring, now just a few days (or weeks) off, with more anticipation than most years. A newly planted redbud (in December), a one of a kind variegated sport (below) of the superb, yellow leafed ‘Rising Sun’, will flower (as redbuds do) in early April. Yellow and green mottled foliage will follow, the reason for my affection for the tree and still a ways off by the start of May, but the culmination of planning since I spotted the redbud in midsummer in a tree grower’s field in the North Carolina mountains. There are few plants in our gardens that are truly unique. This one is, though it is not likely to stand out to anyone but me amongst other splendidly colored redbuds.
The redbud is substantial in size, rising far over head, and with a sturdy trunk and full, rounded head that will fit nicely into this thirty-two year old, mature garden. I will occasionally plant a smaller tree, but I have only so many years left, and I am far too impatient to wait (except for the Wheel and Korean Sweetheart trees, see below).
Trees of similar girth will be required for two other areas, one where a variegated ‘Silver Cloud’ redbud (above) leaned and pulled from the ground, and finally was chopped out after prolonged debate. A second ‘Silver Cloud’ resides ten paces away, so with one still on hand I am less disheartened by the loss. Instead of replacing the redbud with a small ‘Orange Dream’ Japanese maple that has grown in a pot on the patio for several years, a much larger, but similarly leafed ‘Orange Flame’ will be planted in close proximity to the redbud’s stump. A simple path of stepping stones will be arranged so that the maple’s coloring might be enjoyed close up.
A pink flowered ‘Satomi’ Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’) suffers in the shade between two tall magnolias, the pale yellow flowered ‘Elizabeth’ and the prized Bigleaf. Again, I debate the removal of this dogwood that assuredly is inevitable at some point. Several live branches remain that flower far overhead, but this time seems ideal to replace it with a reasonably sized ‘Wolf Eyes’ dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’, below) with variegated foliage that will brighten this shaded spot, though it will be positioned to gain slightly more sunlight than the unfortunate ‘Satomi’. The wide spreading ‘Wolf Eyes’ will perfectly fill the understory beneath the magnolias.
I look forward to growth from two small trees planted a year ago. The evergreen Wheel tree (Trochodendron aralioides) is slow, but with any growth it will begin to rise above neighboring shrubs. This tree is a long term project, as I’ve assured my wife that it will be many years before the view from the kitchen window is again spoiled. I would happily be called a liar if the Wheel tree should jump unexpectedly in size.
The Korean Sweetheart tree (Euscaphis japonica) beside the small greenhouse grew from a twig to thigh high a year ago, and though I was greatly concerned that it held leaves into December, the tree appears in fine health. Fertilizer is rarely applied to this lawn or garden, but here will be an exception as I am most anxious for this small tree to gain several notches. And, perhaps there will be a few blooms that I can look forward to.
Many newer additions to the garden will be remembered only when they first appear. Several orchids were planted, and others transplanted into more shade, so I wait anxiously to see if this relocation is a success. I vaguely recall planting spring flowering bulbs and other somethings, and certainly I look forward to their appearance.
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Schwedler maples were a priority for me this year. I grafted a few scion onto common Norway maple saplings. Although I am not so keen on bronzed foliage of other species, and dislike the ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud, I happen to like the Schwedler maple because I grew up with it. It occurred to me that I should also like the ‘Princeton Gold’ and ‘Drumondii’ Norway maple, but have not been sufficiently impressed to grow either for my own garden . . . although I would be pleased to add some to the landscapes at work! Isn’t it interesting that redbud has similar cultivars with gold (although mottled) and variegated foliage, as well as ‘Forest Pansy’?
Crimson King maple was once popular locally, but it is so slow in our summer heat and humidity that tree growers have given up on it. In fact, it is not the daytime heat, but with high humidity nighttime temperatures do not cool enough, so heat stresses are not eased. Long ago I planted the variegated Eskimo Sunset maple, but it didn’t budge over two or three years so I finally dug it out. Norway maples are particularly a problem for us.
Forest Pansy redbud fades badly for us in summer, though more recent introductions promise not to. There is a huge difference between Forest Pansy or Rising Sun in the rich soils and cooler nighttime temperatures of the mountains of North Carolina where many of of our trees come from, and in our clay soils.
How odd. I thought that Crimson King was only a dud here. A neighbor planted one two years ago. I was not aware that it was available in nurseries anymore. Predictably, it is not doing well. Even if it did well, I think I would still prefer the Schwedler maple. Crimson King is just so dark! I believe that Forest Farm Nursery grew ‘Eskimo Sunset’. The name is familiar. Are Norway maples a problem because they dislike the climate, or because the straight species naturalized there?
‘Forest Pansy’ became too popular too suddenly. It now seems to be cheap and common to me. I was never so keen on the foliar color anyway. It stays rather dark, but not in a good way.
The straight species of Norway grows well, but it is a problem with seeding. However, the main reason the green leafed Norway is rarely planted is because everyone wants the red autumn colored Acer rubrum.
Actually, even here, the red maple is a more practical tree. It was unpopular here for a long time because some of us believed that it needed more chill to color well. Eventually, we started planting it because it is a practical tree even if it doesn’t color well. As it turns out, it colors just fine! The roots are more complaisant than those of the Norway maples.
The straight species of Norway maple was never popular here, partly because even the most popular maples are not overly popular, and partly because the cultivars were preferred. In more recent history, I believe that its bad reputation preceded it. I have seen only a few in the Santa Clara Valley, where the chaparral climate will not allow them to naturalize outside of landscaped areas. However, some were planted at one of the cabins at work. I do not know their history, or where they came from, but they are ours now. Even though we are just a few miles from the Santa Clara Valley, the climate here is completely different. Since a few saplings of Norway maple grew near the originals, I am now concerned that they could potentially escape into the forest. I am in no hurry to remove the originals, but will be watching them and any babies that might appear. I used the saplings as understock for grafting Schwedler maples. The finished product may not be so great (they were high bud grafted just because it was easy.), but they can provide me with cuttings later.