Archive for March, 2007

Find Your Roots | Technology

When planting near trees, it’s great if you know where the tree roots are so you can avoid doing damage to them. Many people don’t realize that the first top 6 inches of soil is where the vast majority of all tree roots are and that they generally spread out way beyond the canopy. This artist’s illustration of a real tree and it’s roots from the Morton Arboretum (in Chicago), shows the truth of the matter very plainly. An arborist from Care of Trees, shared this drawing with me. They specialize in you guessed it …


Damaging soil compaction often happens when people renovate their homes. It can’t be helped when big digging and multi-ton equipment is envolved. A “hardpan” forms at or under the surface and people see the poor water filtration symptomatically. The worst compaction happens when soil is wet and then basically squished beyond belief, expunging air from between soil particles, leaving no room for nuetrients, air and water to circulate. Everything a tree needs, except sunlight, comes from underground, so you can see why soil compaction stresses a tree. For a more in depth, but fairly understandable explanation of the topic, read University of Georgia article, Soil Compaction & Trees, Causes, Symptoms & Effects by Dr. Kim Coder.

this photo was originally uploaded by canopy photo. A professional arborist used an air spade to check this Live Oak’s roots for health and vitality.

People in this bussiness can use great technology to help you save and keep your mature trees even with major home or landscape renovation. They can help prevent soil compaction by using “protection and airation mats”, that distribute the weight of heavy equiment or top soil or even a concrete path over the top of roots, while allowing proper air and water flow; or “de-compact” soils using a tool called an “air spade” which blasts air into the soil at mach 2, lifting compacted soil. After that you can renovate the soil with appropriate organic material by “radial or vertical mulching”. I think this is fantastic.  This artical from GROUNDS MAINTENANCE by E. Thomas Smiley, explains these treatments more fully.

Corylopsis species | Winterhazel


originally uploaded by jonhues

Corylopsis species | Winterhazel

Lightest lemon yellow bell shaped blooms paired with lance shaped leaves that look like Willow leaves. Blooms in early March, tough as nails with lovely fragrance. Can be used as small tree of large shrub, different varieties have different shapes to choose from depending on what you want – vase shaped or wide spreading. Flowers happen before the leaves appear.
Needs to be planted with a bit of shelter to protect blooms from frost damage. Amend soil with peat moss or leaf mold. Plants should be pruned following flowering.
Pricey, but so much nicer than your average Forsythia. It’s good to get B&B 2″ CAL / 6′. I prefer this.
Corylopsis pauciflora | Buttercup Winterhazel vase shaped, more tree-like, nice for woodland setting and modern gardens, flowers later, maybe April
Corylopsis spicata wide spreading up to 14′, bowl shape, half as tall, pink filaments, emerging leaves have purple tint, native to Mnts of Japan
Corylopsis glabrescens most hardy

ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 5 – 8 | full sun to light shade
GROWTH RATE ….. slow to medium
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 8′-15′/7′ to 15′
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. Rounded long arching branches or more upright vase shape
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 2″-4″/1″-3 ovate, wide acuminate, slight teeth, a bit fuzzy, delicate
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. simple, alternate
LEAF COLOR ….. Deciduous | dark green, turning bright yellow to gold in fall, leaves hang on and are killed by frost
FLOWERS | long pendulous racemes of bearing multiple 1″ bell shaped lightest yellow
STEM | long rounded, zig-zag ID with full pith (Forsythia has hollow, chambered and brown)
SOIL does well in moist well drained, acid soil
Native to Japan, introduced 1905

Paghat’s Garden / Corylopsis pauciflora
MO Botanical Garden / Corylopsis glabrescens


Salix babylonica | Weeping Willow


Salix babylonica | Weeping Willow
Native to MD, a graceful woodland naturalizer, great in wet lowlands. Willows are water lovers and perfect if you have a soggy spot you’d like to plant in. It will absorb a lot. Its long yellow tendrils will touch the ground. Adaptable to almost all soil conditions and happy in sun or shade. It has a dreamy power and most people feel good when they get near one.


Tougher than Liriodendron tulipifera, but still suseptible to wind and ice storms. They grow easily by basically putting a cutting right in the ground and will rejuvinate from a stump if knocked to the ground – I have seen this happen right at the end of my street. Don’t suffer from pests.
Extract from Willow bark is one componant of aspirin. Don’t plant near underground septic tanks or pipes since willows seek out water. Dioecious, males are showy. I was advised by a great landscape contractor never to use this in residential landscape unless it is off in a field because you can’t ever get rid of them but they break often since they are week wooded. Best to put them in a view where they won’t be disturbed, but if they are it won’t matter.

Over 250 species of Salix, hard to tell apart
Salix matsudana‘Contorta’ | Dragon’s Claw (above) the name says it all, twisted branches, curly leaves
Salix caprea | Pussywillow this is only one of a few salix called “pussywillow”, some are upright, some are weeping

ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 2 – 9 | full sun to full shade
GROWTH RATE ….. fast
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 30′-40′/same
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. Large arching branches, with extremely flexible “whips” stems
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 2″-5″/ .5″-1″ spear shaped
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. simple, alternate
LEAF COLOR ….. Deciduous | light lime green or yellow
FLOWERS | in sp, male catkins white fluffy


SOIL does well in moist to wet, any type
Native MD and the rest of America
MO Botanical Garden / Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’

Brooklyn Botanic Garden / Willow Key

Camellia japonica | Camellia

‘Winter’s Beauty’ above

Camellia japonica | Camellia

Evergreen and gorgeous. Perhaps my favorite plant ever. One page cannot hold enough detail on this plant, there are countless cultivars to suit any color preference or time of year. It is said that with careful choices it is possible to have one camellia or another blooming from fall all the way through spring. The flowers are rose-like but gentler, sometimes with wonderful contrasting stamen. My family had one specimen by our garage when I was growing up in Atlanta so I’m quite naustalgic for it. Camellias can be tricky, though. I have killed several by overwatering or pruning. It is best to keep it happy by adding high organic matter and walking away. Camellias are at home in virtually any style of garden as a wonderful focal point.

Best to site in partial shade, pine shade seems to be ideal. Important to site protected from wind. In winter brush heavy snow off branches but ice doesn’t seem to damage the folliage. You can prune after flowering but I wouldn’t reccomend any more than just removing minimal dead branches. Do not overwater, in fact leave it alone unless there are long periods of drought. Plants are sensative and go into shock, basically. So just keep nicely mulched and you’ll be fine.


orignially uploaded by kaycat
Some are advertised as having a frangrance but it’s never very strong, which maybe the plant’s one weakness. But the evergreen leaves and happy blooms are so appealing to the eye, who cares. Can be trained into espalier, but must be done very carefully.

Too many cultivars to give a good accounting (over 2000). If you’re really into them, just join the Amercian Camellia Society or when you go to the nursery, tell them the color and bloom time you want and they’ll likely get it for you. I will add to this list as I try them. Here are only a few that I’ve tried…
‘April Snow’ white, semidouble, blooms in April
‘Winter’s Fire’ apricot, hardy, blooms in winter

Camellia susanqua very similar to C. japonica, but a bit smaller in general size, leaves and flowers, but quite beautiful. Tends to be a bit hardier than C. japonica and blooms as early as Sept. Plant is more open and relaxed in general and a little less formal on the whole. Good for screens and borders.

ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 7 – 9 | part to full shade
GROWTH RATE ….. slow
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 3′-15′/4′ to 10′
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. Oval overall, can be loose or full folliage dependign on the cultivar, branches are and sometime almost weep.
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 1.5″-4″ ovate, sturdy, lustrous
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. simple, alternate
LEAF COLOR ….. Evergreen | dark green, bronze a bit through the winter
FLOWERS | 1.5″ to 5″, any color except true yellow, some variegated though I’m not a fan of those since they look too stripey. single, semi and double. remove when bloom is done to refresh, can get frost bitten.

SOIL does well in moist rich oraganic, acid soil, ok in clay
Native Japan and China, cultivated 1742

VA Camellia Society

Clemson / Growing Camellias

International Camellia Society FAQs

MO Botanical Gardens / Camellia

Dave’s Garden / Camellia japonica



‘Winter’s Blush’ above

Sarcococca hookeriana var humilis | Sweetbox


Sarcococca hookeriana var humilis | Sweetbox
Evergreen groundcover, what do you know? Spreads by succors. This is a great alternative to Skimmia which also prefers shade. White blooms have a light scent but is also a heavy weight in clay. Black berries add to the year round interest.
Can shear into shape if needed.

Takes 2-3 years to establish. It just sits there in clumps looking like nothing is happening, then takes off. Buy the 2 gal pots ($20ish retail), not the little ones because they’ve already been growing for a while.


ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 6 – 8 | part to full shade
GROWTH RATE ….. slow to medium
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 12″to 24″
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. groundcover, dense (sp is large shrub but unknown in commerce)
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 2″to 3.5″/ 1″
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. simple, alternate
LEAF COLOR ….. Evergreen | dark green, turning bright yellow in fall
FLOWERS | tiny, white, frangrant (almost like grass bloom)
BERRIES | nice, round, black
SOIL does well in moist acid, loose, high organic matter, pollution and drought tollerant once established
Native Western China, introduced in 1907

Monrovia / Sweetbox

Paghat’s Garden / Sweetbox


Osmanthus heterophyllum | Holly Tea Olive


Scary ‘Goshiki’ above
Osmanthus heterophyllus | Holly Tea Olive

Wicked looking evergreen with a name that’s fun to say. Great for barriers, hedges and screens especially for that pesky neighbor you don’t like too much. Interesting in its strangess. Can distinguish it from any holly by its oposite (not alternate) leaves, but generally very similar looking to Ilex aquifolia. I like it better, especially the cultivar ‘Goshiki’ which is psychadelically speckled. Flowers are almost unseen but the fragrance is quite sweet. Not all the cultivars are so aggressive looking, some are tame.
Care-free and pest free, what could be better. Use as good alternative to Photinia.  Deer resistant!

Dioecious. Girls need boys to berry. Easily maintain a specific height with proper pruning. I’m not really into spikey plants and especially hollies, but there is a right place and time. These toughies are not cheep.


‘Gulftide’ above

‘Goshiki’ very exciting looking speckled, means 5 colored in Japanese
‘Gulftide’ standard medium green and fairly lush
‘Reptans’ has no serrations or spikes 6′to 8′ columnar – suggested alternate to Cherry Laurel
Osmanthus x fortunei Dirr says this guy has greater vigor in Southeast and can live in full sun


ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 6 – 9 | part sun to (prefers) full shade
GROWTH RATE ….. slow to medium
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 8′ to 10′ (up to 20′)/same
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. Dense, oval rounded, horizontal branches, some stems shoot up tall
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 1″to 2.5″ long, 1″ to 1.5″ wide, terminal is largest, prominant spines
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. opposite, simple
LEAF COLOR ….. Evergreen | lustrous dark green, sometimes beautiful vination or white edge
FLOWERS | fragrant white, dainty bells

SOIL does well in moist, slightly acid, very adaptable
Native to Japan, introduced in 1865 (seems like a era big on introductions)
U of DE / Osmanthus heterophyllus
look at flower images on this site

Elizabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden / Osmanthus heterophyllus
“Great Plant Picks” from Oregon


Energy Independence

Here’s another great feature from the Washington post about a town going green. They Mayor of Warrenton, VA says he’s going on a “low-carbon diet”. Let’s wish him luck.

Mahonia aquifolium | Oregon Grape Holly


Mahonia aquifolium | Oregon Grape Holly

A unique evergreen with shiny burgandy, pinatley compound leaves that look prehistoric and add great texture in the garden. Woodland naturalizing shrubs with branches that grow out in horizontal tiers. Although its leaves have an agressive appearance, learning a bit about it makes Mahonia shine in a new light. Oregon Grape Holly is more petite than its sister, Mahonia baelei but can be used in similar ways. Fragrant lemon yellow flowers (not the nicest) appear in late winter and burst into blueberry colored and then blue-black berries that dangle like grapes. Looks great in mass plantings and works well with grasses, coreopsis and ferns. Is often seen masking residential ac compressors, a stressful and rigorous job for any plant. Fantastic in deep shade in the deep South. It is a nice source of food for wildlife, too.

You don’t need to pull the volunteers that sprout in the spring. Most won’t last. Prune selectively on “THE 3 YEAR CYCLE”, prune 1/3 off of 1/3 of your plants each year. If you have 3 plants, each year prune 1/3rd of the branches off 1 of them. Keep moist with plenty of mulch.

A relative of Barberries and Nandina (if you can believe it). It may not flower if it doesn’t get at least a couple hours of sun each day, though. Best position is one that gives 2-4 hours of morning sun. One of the only plants that can tolerate the heat of an ac unit nearby. Choose plants based on color, some are not as attractive as others. Not happy in cold. Used by Native Americans to treat lots of ailments. Popular with herbalists to treat psoriasis.


‘King’s Ransom’ above, a toughy!

Variegated forms available, most cultivars are the bugandy color but sp seems to be dark green.
‘King’s Ransom’ a new cultivar with maroon matte leaves, interesting, compact
Mahonia bealei | Leatherleaf Mahonia very similar to M. aquifolia but matte green and larger
Mahonia japonica | Japanese Mahonia available, almost identical to M. bealei, Dir says differences are not manifest, especially since individual plants are many times hybrids anyway.

ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 7 – 9 | part sun to (prefers) full shade
GROWTH RATE ….. slow
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 3′ to 5′/same
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. Erect, rounded, horizontal branches, some stems shoot up tall
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 7 to 12 leaflets, rigid and leathery, ovate, each leaflet is 1″ to 3″ long, 1″ to 2″ wide, terminal is largest, prominant spines
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. alternate, pinately compound
LEAF COLOR ….. Evergreen | many shades, drk green to bugandy and maroon
FLOWERS | fragrant lemon yellow panicles in April, can be quite attractive or just too neon, depends on the plant.
BERRIES | beautiful blueberry blue turning black
SOIL does well in moist, slightly acid
Native to China introduced in 1845

UCONN Hortnet / Mahonia aquifolia

Virginia Tech Dendrology / Mahonia aquifolia

Wikipedia / Mahonia aquifolia

Dave’s Garden / Mahonia aquifolia


Cornus mas | Corneliancherry Dogwood


Cornus mas | Corneliancherry Dogwood

The exfoliating cinnamon bark is beautiful and terrific in winter. An underused understory tree wonderful for natualizing a woodland garden. Tough enough to thrive in urban settings. Good for shade. One of the earliest bloomers of the season (March) with the flowers gathered in clusters. The fresh, yellow star-like flowers are tiny. Like many dogwoods has bright happy fall color.
Care-free. Prune up to begin with and for rejuvination of older specimens. Otherwise is does well with little attention.

Deer are not interested. No Anthracnose or other disease or pests. “mas” translates as male refferring to the natural vigor of this tree. Yellow blooms are similar to Forsythia, but the tree is more dependable. Use as alternative if you have the space. Can be used for deciduous windbreak.

‘Golden Glory’ widely available, heavy bloomer
‘Aurea’ yellow folliage form, very hardy, leaves go green in summer heat, though. Still I’m going to look for and use it.

ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 3 – 8 | part sun to most shade
GROWTH RATE ….. medium to slow
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 15′-25′/ same width
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. Upright, multistemmed, rounded, gets sparse with age (time to prune)
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 2″to 4″/ 1″to 2″ typical dogwood shape
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. simple, opposite
LEAF COLOR ….. Deciduous | deep green, red-plum fall color
FLOWERS | yellow, tiny, clustered
BARK | one of it’s best features, and it has many. The bark looks a lot like Platanus, but with warm hues.
BERRIES | red berries in fall, attractive and edible by birds

SOIL needs moist, acid, peaty soil – add leaf mold, can take clay
Native to Southern and Central Europe, Southwestern Asia

Ohio State / Cornus mas

MO Botanical Garden / Cornus mas ‘Golden Glory’

UCONN / Cornus mas


originally uploaded by intheburg

Magnolia x soulangiana | Saucer Magnolia


These Saucer Magnolias growing right in the shade of a huge black walnut, caught my eye. They were old and healthy for sure.

Magnolia x soulangiana | Saucer Magnolia

Wonderful large petals and an amazing array of color form and growth habit. The Saucer Magnolia is very popular, almost too popular, but lovely none-the-less. Dirr suggests planting in groups which I think is a nice idea if you have the space. Perhaps best not to make it your only or most prominant focal point since late frosts obliterate the blooms every few years in this area.

Magnolias have very shallow root systems. If you transplant, take care not to plant the root colar below the soil or risk retardation or death. Needs protection from strong winds. This striking tree needs special attention to site. It needs full sun, but real protection from wind. Best not to plant it in southern exposure so not to speed the bloom time. Does quite well in the South. If you can site properly, get ready for and wonderful view.

Magnolias are a very old genera of plants dating back 100 million years, as does the beetle that pollinates it. Look for cold hardy cultivars.

Little Girl Hybrid ‘Ann’ 8′to 10′Dirr’s Fav
Little Girl Hybrid ‘Jane’ hardier and better for use in the North
Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’ may be found for sale, but difficult
ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 4 – 9 | full sun to light shade
GROWTH RATE ….. medium, 10′ to 15′ in 10 years
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 20′-30′/ as wide or wider
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. Dense, multistemmed, spreading, upright, close set leaves
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 3″to 6″/ 1.5″to 3″ obovate
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. simple, alternate
LEAF COLOR ….. Deciduous | dark green on top pubescent below
FLOWERS | 5″to 10″ wide, 9 tepals, white to pink to purple often combo of colors
BUDS | like other small magnolias are very furry like little rabbit feet.

originallyy uploaded by derAmialtebloede
SOIL needs moist, acid, peaty soil – add leaf mold
Native to Japan
Clemson / Magnolias comparrison

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