Mistakes will be made, again

I should know better. I do know better, of course, but this matters little when I am blinded by enthusiasm, or occasionally lulled into an inattentive daze. This garden was begun thirty-two years ago, so there are rarely gaping holes to be filled, but the small size of gaps and the lust for new plants too often creates complications.

While a large share of errors are mine, I could not anticipate that two paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha, above) in the lower, rear garden would grow twenty feet across. References list paperbush as growing to no more than half this size, and even with a margin for error this isn’t close. I’ve lost track of everything that’s been moved or lost through the years as paperbushes grew wider, but other neighbors are now endangered, so I will be pruning in March after flowers have faded.

I notice that a ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is being swallowed by a much faster growing and wide spreading blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica). Similar conflicts over the years typically end with one tree or the other declining, with its removal necessary within a few years. I see no other answer to save the ginkgo except to enjoy it while it’s still here.

‘Spider’s Web’ fatsia must be protected when temperatures fall below ten degrees.

As winter temperatures approach, I wonder how long my luck will hold out. In recent years I’ve planted a number of questionably cold hardy shrubs, with the plan that all could be covered by baskets of leaves on short notice if nights nearing zero (Fahrenheit) are forecast. But, and this is getting to be a big but, with a handful (or two) of new marginals planted every year the task will be more time consuming, so I will be more likely to let a few slip through unprotected. Surely, this is asking for trouble.

The latest somewhat, maybe cold hardy shrub to be planted is Grevillea victorae ‘Murray Valley Queen’ (above), a winter flowering shrub native to southeast Australia. Sources in the Pacific northwest claim that it might be cold hardy (reports of hardiness to zero, but maybe only fifteen above), but if recent very mild winters are replaced by typical temperatures it will put these numbers to the test. And no, I won’t protect it with baskets of leaves that will hide the winter flowers. But, if Grevillea survives I’ll be elated, so until further notice this is not a mistake but a triumph.

The upright, but green lace leafed ‘Seriyu’ is late to turn to its autumn colors, but it is splendid once it changes. The Japanese maple is often noticed by visitors who do not expect a maple with dissected leaves so large.

In the garden’s early years two ‘Seriyu’ Japanese maples (Acer palmatum ‘Seriyu, above) were planted near the house, but inside the front walk. The idea was that both would eventually branch over the walk, and while my wife complained for several years as the walk was partially obstructed, the plan has worked splendidly in recent decades with branches now comfortably overhead shading the flagstone walk. The problem here is that once a hairbrained idea works for the best, I begin to think that every idiocy will work favorably.

The Pagoda dogwood (just behind the Golden Japanese Forest grass) has a few years to grow before any branches extend into the path, but it will, and soon thereafter a bit of pruning will be required.

This year, two Pagoda dogwoods (Cornus alternifolia, above) were planted in the rear garden with a similar thought. The tiered branches of this dogwood could work ideally with a snip here and there, and even if the paths are obstructed for a few years these are not primary routes that my wife would take much notice of. While I am quite willing to live with obstructions, there are a number of standards by which my wife determines that a mistake has been made. Certainly, this will be one, but just as certainly, it will not be the last.

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