Trees in the rear garden

The lower half of the rear garden remains a disappointment. Someday, though not soon, it will return to its previous glory, or some approximation of it, I’m certain. The culprit responsible for the area’s decline was a doubling of our yearly rainfall a few years ago. The lower half of the garden is indeed also lower in elevation, with rainwater draining onto it from this and neighboring properties so that a part of the garden that was once advantageously damp became waterlogged enough to kill nearly every woody tree and shrub.

The variegated ‘Wolf Eyes’ Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’, above) perished in ground that was raised above the dampness and relatively dry, or so I thought, but it turned persistently damp after the many inches of additional rainfall. After a decade or more the dogwood had grown only to eight feet tall and a bit wider with dense branching, as is the habit of this shrubby tree. Each year in late May it was covered in blooms, and certainly it was a heartbreaking loss.

While I don’t expect another deluge to match this, I’ve been careful in replanting to avoid moisture sensitive trees and shrubs, and in the near future (I hope) this will look less like a garden under construction. The jewel of the planting is a Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana, above) that should thrive in constant dampness in the wettest area, and it is joined by sweetshrubs (Calycanthus) and chokeberries (Aronia) that should eventually fill the area.

In the drier area of the upper half of the rear garden, ‘Samaritan’ (Cornus kousa ‘Samaritan’, above), with similar variegation to ‘Wolf Eyes’, has a very dissimilar form, growing upright and tall, and though it is placed close to other small trees, it towers above. Unfortunately, flowers on lower, more shaded branches are scattered, and while ‘Samaritan’ does not flower as heavily as ‘Wolf Eyes’ there are plenty of blooms on upper branches in the sun.

Two green leafed Chinese dogwoods, one in shade, the other in nearly full sun, show the effect of sunlight on flowering. In shade there are few blooms, and in a sunnier spot leaves can hardly be seen through the abundant flowers (above).

In a long planned project, I have cleared out much of the area beneath variegated leaf redbuds (Cercis canadensis ‘Silver Cloud’, above) and fringetrees (Chionanthus virginicus) along the southern property line. An impractical path, reached only by carefully stepping between orchids and other perennials, is lined with native jack-in-the-pulpits, astilbes, and hostas, and was encouraged by the demise of a wide spreading ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’) and the wide void left following its removal. The shaded path leads to nowhere, but in addition to creating areas for shade planting it opens a lane to view the magnificent European beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’) that had been hidden behind too many other trees and shrubs for too long.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Ann Pulliam says:

    show us the beech!

    1. Dave says:

      I have tried to capture the beech now that there is a window to see more than half the tree, but the photo is a mass of foliage that doesn’t come close to showing the tree’s character. A mature weeping beech is a massive specimen, forty feet tall and just as wide, and the mistake is planting anything in close proximity that obstructs a full view.

  2. tonytomeo says:

    ‘Silver Cloud’ redbud is interesting. I like the straight species of redbud so much that I do not give the cultivars much of a chance. I rather dislike how ‘Forest Pansy’ is such a fad. There is one at work that is too shaded to color well. It looks like a coffee stain on the forest to me. How is the foliar color of ‘Silver Cloud’ in autumn. (Of course, foliar color would be very different here.)

    1. Dave says:

      Forest Pansy fades badly in the summer in our area, but it remains popular. Variegated redbuds are rarely seen, but the green leafed redbud is native to our area with roadsides bursting with blooms in early April, so it is very popular.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        No one believes me that ‘Forest Pansy’ fades! I never liked it from the beginning, and I like it even less because it is such a fad. It is just as useful as the those that are not bronze, but I get so tired of it. It is as if there are no other options, or the other cultivars are not good enough. There really are situation for which bronze foliage is not a good option!

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