Tilting at windmills

Recently I’ve been working a bit late, so my garden strolls have been too infrequent. Each time I pass the snow damaged cryptomerias and evergreen magnolias at the back of the property I’m disheartened, and apt to sling a choice word or two skyward.

Gardeners cuss the rain (if they are inclined to cuss at all, and what non-cussers do in their exasperation I don’t know), or drought, snow and ice, heat and cold, and every circumstance that doesn’t suit them at the moment. I suppose the tirade is satisfying for an instant, but the weather will do what it does regardless of my ranting and raving, and all the foul language I can muster won’t change a thing. Cussing is impolite, I know, but there is little danger that the neighbors will be offended since my exhortations are no more than emphatic mumblings, unintelligible as well as ineffective.

Pleasant spring weather has arrived, at least for a short while, but temperatures dipping into the twenties in another week, or snow showers or sleet would  be no surprise, and in fact are quite ordinary for March and the first half of April. I hope not to see a repeat of the seventeen degrees the third week of April from a few years back that nipped the new leaves of Japanese maples just as they were unfolding, and at their most vulnerable to the cold. Undoubtedly, there will some further tragedy before winter weather is completely put away.

Which does not mean that the gardener should not be going about his business. The time for planning is past, and now is the season for action, cleaning up messes left from the autumn, preparing the ground, and planting trees and shrubs.

Veggie gardeners will have started their seeds weeks ago (usually too early in their anxiousness to hurry spring along), and if not, it’s not too late. If you’re concerned that it is, the garden centers will be fully stocked with lush seedlings in another few weeks. I have discovered, and reaffirmed over a number of decades, that I am not a capable seed gardener. I am bound to neglect seedlings so that they perish soon after germination, and the entire seed tray is lost.

Though the time to plant woodies is here, it is too early for the veggie seedlings to go outdoors, and along with annual flowers that are usually grown in heated greenhouses, these should not be planted until the threat of frost is past. I know that the wait is killing you, but there is no sense rushing things that will be irretrievably damaged by one cold night.

Along with woody plants this is the prime season to plant many perennials, and if you will purchase a pot full of roots with only a bit of top growth then there is no danger that the stray frost or freeze will cause a problem. Tough perennials like hellebores will tolerate any amount of cold, and if they’re planted today you’ll be able to enjoy their blooms for several weeks longer. 

If you waited until too late in the autumn to plant spring bulbs, blooming daffodils are available in the garden centers, and though these have been forced in heated greenhouses to bloom a bit early, there is no danger in planting a few outdoors for a splash of color along the front walk. After the flowers fade in a few weeks you should allow the foliage to fade over the following weeks, and the blooms will come back for many years.

There is no better time in the garden than the season ahead, and with each passing week I will become less agitated as the temperatures warm and flowers burst into bloom.


Right tree, right place

Too often I see properties that have been overwhelmed by a single tree, so that branches block driveways or walkways and must be chopped annually to prevent structural damage. The fault is not with the tree, of course, but in lack of attention in making an appropriate selection years earlier. There is a wealth of information available in books and on the internet, and landscape designers and garden center professionals are willing to consult so that there should be little reason for planting a tree that will grow too large for a property.

The largest trees, and potentially most troublesome for smaller lots, are shade trees. Many of us grew up with maples and oaks (or poplars, elms, and willows), and when confronted with a treeless property and a blazing sun it is quite natural to consider these first. Before you rush to the garden center, stop for a moment and walk the area where you intend to plant. From the point where you will dig the hole take three to four paces in the direction of the house, or the driveway or walk. This is the width of many shade trees in only five years. Walk another three to four paces. This is ten years.

If you have bumped into the house, or walked halfway across the driveway, then a maple or oak is likely not to be an appropriate tree for this setting. I often use a two car garage to help imagine the width that a mature shade tree will grow to. If this is too large, then envision a one car garage. This is the size that many “small” trees grow to become. Some trees are stuck in the middle, such as many flowering cherries that grow only to thirty feet in height, but grow as broad as a maple.

If your pacing has caused you to reconsider your choice of trees then you are on your way to a well designed and functional landscape. Don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of superb choices for smaller properties, and many will grow surprisingly quickly and are quite beautiful. Below is guide (though not all-inclusive) for the size that you can expect trees to grow to in a landscape setting, which is generally a bit shorter than the mature height of a tree in a forest.

Most trees will grow nearly as wide as their height, though there are exceptions such as birch that are much more upright in habit. Some trees have a vase-like form, and so lower branches are more upright so they are less likely to cause a problem with driveways and walks. On the other hand, the branching of some trees becomes more horizontal or even pendulous with age, and these can cause problems that are not easily corrected. Beyond the approximate sizes listed below you should consult references that will detail the growth and form of trees that you are considering.

Large trees – 50 feet or taller

Maples (Acer) – fast growing, shallow rooted. tall growing except Japanese maples.

Oaks (Quercus) – long lived, hard wooded.

Ash (Fraxinus) – beware ash borers. Banned in some areas.

Poplars (Liriodendron) – soft wooded, very tall.

Beech (Fagus) – painfully slow growing, but ultimately a large stately tree.

Birch (Betula) – more upright form allows planting in smaller areas.

Locust (Gleditsia) – more spreading head, filtered, not heavy shade.

Sweet Gum (Liquidambar) – watch out for the seeds.

Evergreen magnolias – usually retain lower branches so that they occupy more space at ground level.

Sycamore/ London Planetree (Platanus) – pollution resistant, great for commercial parking lots.

Bald Cypress (Taxodium) – unique deciduous conifer. Often found in damp areas.

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia) – a prehistoric deciduous conifer. Fast growing.

Linden (Tilia) – slower growing, but Japanese beetles love them.

Willow (Salix) – many are more broad than tall, short-lived, weak wooded.

Zelkova – some varieties have upright branching.

Medium/ tall trees – 30-50 feet tall

Cherries (Prunus) – the tallest types reach thirty feet, but wider than tall.

Yellowwood (Cladrastis) – unique blooms and foliage, but soft wooded.

Black Gum (Nyssa) – wonderful autumn foliage.

Pear (Pyrus) – research problems with splitting before buying.

Hornbeam (Carpinus) – beware the fastigiate types that spread as they age.

Goldenrain Tree (Koelreuteria) – coarse textured, seeds germinate everywhere, but beautiful.

Katsura (Cercidiphyllum) – Beautiful, heart-shaped foliage. An outstanding selection.

Silverbell (Halesia) – dangling white blooms mid-spring.

Medium trees 20-30 feet tall

Serviceberry (Amelanchier) – often multi trunked, spring blooms.

Hawthorn (Crataegus) upright, often clumping form

Dogwood (Cornus) – most grow nearly as wide as tall. Native dogwoods, Chinese, and hybrids are unsurpassed small flowering trees.

Redbud (Cercis) – more spreading, wider than tall. Many forms, superb trees.

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) – Bloodgood and other upright growers to 25 feet tall. Incredible leaf form and color.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia) – some over 20 feet, others under but most have upright form. Long lasting summer blooms, autumn foliage color, and peeling bark.

Magnolias – deciduous types – there are upright and wide spreading, almost shrub-like forms.

Stewartia – perhaps will grow taller in someone else’s lifetime. Slow, but a magnificent flowering tree.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum) – very slow growing, unique lily-of-the-valley blooms and great autumn foliage.

Small trees – under 20 feet

Plum (Prunus) – purple leafed, but Japanese beetles love them.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia) – many varieties grow 10-16 feet tall, and some below 10 feet. Others are shrubs.

Snowbell (Styrax) – rounded form, covered in small white or pink blooms in early summer.

Crabapple (Malus) – be certain to select disease resistant types.

Fringetree (Chionanthus) – often multi-trunked. Covered in fringe-like white blooms in early summer.

Goldenchain Tree (Laburnum) – Beautiful blooms, but resents heat and humidity.

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum, japonicum, and a few others lumped into the broader category of Japanese maple) – pendulous forms often remain under ten feet tall, but grow as wide or wider than tall.

Please forgive my omissions. There are many other wonderful trees, but I have not included them because they are not as common. If you know of a tree that’s not included then you are likely to know enough about it that you don’t need this brief reference. In my garden I grow Franklinia, Seven Son Tree, a deciduous Big Leaf magnolia that grows to a hundred feet (at least), and a variety of weeping and dwarf trees that will grow no taller than ten feet. I encourage you to explore less common trees, in particular those with unique foliage or blooms that are appropriate for smaller properties. Just because a lot has space to contain a large growing shade tree doesn’t mean that several (or many) smaller trees are not a better choice.

I hope that this brief listing of deciduous trees is useful, but evergreens are misused just as often. I advise the same research in determining mature sizes so that you are not paying for expensive tree surgery a few years from now to make up for mistakes made today.

Repairing snow damage – split branches

In the previous chapter I pruned large branches that were broken in the recent heavy, wet snow. Today will begin with repairing damage to evergreens, and then will address how to save branches that have split, but not broken beyond repair.

Damage to evergreens was less extensive than in the heavy snows of February 2010, but some of the same problems are evident. Further information from early March on pruning and repair of bent and splayed evergreens can be accessed by clicking the links.

There are three evergreen magnolias in the garden, and two were ravaged last year. The third escaped with minor damage, but suffered considerably in the recent storm (above). The central trunk and two major branches were broken so that the parts of the splintered branches that remain must be removed. 

Since the branches of this  young magnolia can be reached using only a six foot step ladder, the repairs will be much easier and precise. The limbs of the taller magnolias broken in last year’s snow were removed with a polesaw, with a handle that extends to sixteen feet. I was able to remove the damaged branches, but a stub was left that will be prone to rotting.    

The magnolia’s branches had broken through, with two falling to the ground and the third caught in the uppermost branches and easily removed. The sliver of wood that remained was cut as closely as possible at the junction just above the next lower set of branches (above). Many evergreens do not have lateral growth buds, so when a branch is broken it must be pruned back to the next set of branches, or to the trunk. Since access was limited the pruning cut is not as clean as I would prefer, but it should heal quickly.

In the short term, the missing branches will upset the magnolia’s form, but the tree will react as if the branches were pruned, which will result in more side growth. Eventually, one of the branches will develop a more upright habit and take over as the central trunk, and in five years it is likely that the injury will not be evident.

Repairing a split branch

The branch on this redbud did not break through, but the injury is likely to kill the branch if it is not repaired. In the best case, I would take the weight off the injured area by tying the branch to another higher in the tree, but there are no taller branches on the redbud, so I’ll do the best I can.

First, I will drill a hole through the branch with a one-quarter inch drill bit to match the same size bolt (above).

I’ll place a washer on the bolt, and tap it through the hole with a hammer (above). Then, another washer will be placed on the other side of the bolt, and the nut will be hand tightened. I’ll use a box end wrench to tighten the bolt until it draws the split together as close as possible (below).

I will cut the excess from the bolt, only so that it is not seen. The split will mend itself in the next year, and the bolt will remain in place as the tree grows around it.

There remains considerable damage to repair. The upright growing ‘Seriyu’ Japanese maples lost many branches, so I will climb a ladder to prune the remaining stubs as soon as the weather gets a bit warmer. I fear that the broken top of a ‘Sekkan Sugi’ cryptomeria is beyond the reach of my sixteen foot polesaw, and the tree will be too difficult to climb, so the damaged trunk might be left in place. It is likely that the tree will heal itself, but the top will look awkward for a time.

Some branches of nandinas and boxwoods remain bent to the ground in the frozen snow, but most branches that have been freed as the snow melts have sprung back to their original position. I expect that there will be little damage to shrubs and small evergreens beyond a few broken branches.


Repairing snow damaged trees

As heavy, wet snow accumulated on the thickly branched red maple at the edge of my neighbor’s property, the Y-shaped junction where the tree forked into two trunks was severely stressed. Finally, the weight of snow was too great and half of the snow covered maple tumbled over, its fall broken only by a large dogwood just below the kitchen window. Fortunately, the tree was planted so that it did not fall into the house, but the following day it was apparent that the tree must be cut down.

The neighbor’s maple was victim to poor pruning practices many years earlier that allowed multiple trunks to develop, but often weaknesses in tree structure are recognized only after severe wind, ice, or snow events. My garden suffered substantial damage to deciduous trees and evergreens (a cryptomeria with a broken top, above), some a result of poor structure, but all due to the unusually wet snow. Today we’ll begin the process of sorting through the repairs, and deciding whether branches or entire trees can be salvaged.

First, please understand that working with chain saws can be extremely dangerous, in particular working on snowy ground or on ladders needed to cut branches beyond your reach from the ground. There is a time to realize that a project is beyond your capabilities, and if your safety is in doubt then the time is right to call for help.

Most of the repairs that I’ve accomplished on damaged trees in my garden today have been done with a folding pruning saw, a low cost tool with coarse teeth that cut easily through tree branches. A chain saw was used to cut large branches into sections, and hand pruners were used to clean up loose wood around the cuts.

In cutting away damaged branches I will try to minimize further damage to the tree, and attempt to preserve the branch collar, a raised ridge between a branch and an offshoot. Injuries will heal more completely, and more quickly, if the collar is maintained. Damage that requires removal of the branch collar will often suffer from rot since the tree will be slow to heal.

The first step in repairing the injury to this corkscrew willow (above) was to cut the long branch into pieces so that the weight did not cause further damage. Once the branch was cut with the chain saw so that a two foot stub remained, I used the pruning saw to begin a cut from the bottom (below), as flush to the branch collar as possible, so that the weight of branch did not further tear the bark as a cut was made from the top.

The cut was continued with the pruning saw from the top, so that the cuts met and the branch was removed (below). Excess loose wood and bark was removed with hand pruners, so that the cut is left smooth and the branch collar is preserved. This injury will heal in the coming year, and in a short time there will be no sign of the damage to the fast growing willow.

Repair to other injuries is not so obvious, or so simple. Redbuds are wide spreading trees with an arching branch structure that was particularly vulnerable to damage from the heavy snow. The ‘Silver Cloud’ redbud (below) branched only a few feet from the ground into three trunks, and one was split by the snow’s weight so that there was injury deep into the main trunk. 

I have removed the long branch, and made as clean a cut as possible (below), but the injury was deeper than the branch collar, so the long term survival of this tree will be in question. The wound will be left open to heal since tar-like tree dressings are of no value in preventing pests from entering, and can slow the pace of healing.

In some cases a partial break can be repaired by drilling a hole through the damaged sections and inserting a metal bolt to draw the injured parts together. In this instance the weight of the long branch was too great, but another partially split branch (below) will be repaired in this manner in a second chapter in another day or two. 

At that time we’ll also look at damage to an evergreen magnolia, and discuss injury to other evergreens and shrubs.

A sad tale

On this morning of the third day following seven or eight inches of heavy, wet snow I have trudged through the garden to further survey damage, and the results are disheartening one moment, encouraging the next. My immediate impression on the morning after the storm was that injury would be more prevalent, and more significant than from the deeper, but drier (and thus lighter) snows from the previous winter. Today, my initial observation was confirmed, though the damage appears less severe for evergreens, and much worse for deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in the winter months).

Branches of tall evergreen junipers and cryptomerias have been bent under the weight of the heavy snow, but with some melting over the past days most of the snow has been shed. The branches are beginning to spring back to their regular form, and I suspect that most will regain their upright manner without requiring elaborate pruning or tying (see ‘Split and Splayed’ from March 2010).

Evergreen magnolias (above) suffered considerably last winter, and again they are a sad sight, with numerous broken branches and central leaders. Of three southern magnolias in my garden, two were substantially broken last year, while one escaped with only minor injury. This year this smaller magnolia has had its top broken, as well as several other upright growing branches. The other two magnolias are several years away from recovering from last year’s damage, and have had more inflicted by the recent snow. I will prune the broken branches once milder weather returns, then evaluate the damage to see if the trees will remain or must be discarded.

Damage to shrubs and small evergreens that remain buried is still to be determined, and I will not risk further injury by attempting to excavate snow from around fragile branches. These were buried for several weeks in February last year, and with the exception of shrubs that suffered catastrophic damage when large sheets of snow fell off roofs, there was little permanent injury. I expect the same to be true this year, and it is more likely that branches will be broken while snow is being removed, rather than letting it melt.

A year ago I commented that deciduous trees were spared the brunt of damage, though some weeping forms of Japanese maple suffered splitting at the tree’s crown. In some instances this damage could be repaired by pruning, or by bolting the injured parts together. An internet search for “snow damage to Japanese maples” will yield information, and some helpful videos that might save a severely damaged tree. I fear that soft wooded Japanese maples might suffer inordinately again this year.

The ground beneath the large, upright growing ‘Seriyu’ Japanese maples is littered with broken branches, and if the trees’ canopies were not so full I would fear that they would be severely diminished. The dense branching is likely to have contributed to capturing sufficient snow that the weak wood would not withstand the weight, but I am confident that once the broken branches are removed the tree will fill in adequately this spring.

Through today, I have not been motivated to venture out into the cold, except to shake the snow from a few of the trees and evergreens in the garden, and I don’t plan to address the injuries until a warmer day. Besides the battered magnolias, I fear that the most severe damage is to a variegated ‘Silver Cloud’ redbud (above), and I will have a few days to consider the severity of this split trunk. The break is deep, and with the structure of the redbud’s branching I don’t see that it will be practical to bolt the injury. Cutting the damaged branch away will leave a considerable wound, so that I am not optimistic at this point. Perhaps I will be more inspired after a few days to figure a way to save this tree. 

On the morning after I gently brushed snow from the ten foot tall ‘Arnold’s Promise’ witch hazel (above) that was bent to nearly knee high, and today it has sprung back to its original form. This was encouraging, but I was further delighted to notice the first signs of color from bloom buds that will open to brilliant yellow ribbons in only a few weeks. Damage from last year proved to me that no matter the severity of damage, the garden will rebound more fully than is possible to imagine at this juncture.

As soon as a warmer day or two arrives, I will return to show the process in repairing damage to these trees, and also to check on the progress of shrubs as they emerge from the melting snow.

No more plants!

On a dreary January morning a thick fog has settled over this low lying garden nestled between foothills at the western edge of Virginia’s Piedmont. Today, temperatures will be slightly above the seasonal average, with the slight cover of snow and ice melting quickly in the relative warmth. My rambles through the garden are more infrequent in the winter months, though a time or two each week I’ll visit to check on the emerging buds of hellebores (below), late winter flowering bulbs, and the witch hazels (further below) which will often begin to show a glimpse of color early in February.

The mail order seed and perennial catalogs have begun to arrive, and I am scouring each page preparing a list of plants that I can’t live without once the garden centers open in March. I will not consult my wife! I have been working this garden for more than twenty years, and probably fifteen years ago I first heard her command, “NO MORE PLANTS!” Now, in most cases I am a good listener and obey without question, but, be reasonable, there will never be a time when there are too many plants.

The problem this year, as always, is that there are more plants that I “must have” than there is space available. I have given up on planting more trees, there really isn’t enough room, though I would be delighted with a few more Japanese maples, and a couple more dogwoods and redbuds. One day, early in the spring I’ll fill a truck with goodies from the garden center, unload them on the driveway, and then try to figure where the heck they’ll all fit.

Of course, this is not the proper way to go about planning the garden, and through the years I’ve made more errors in my haste than I care to recall, requiring much labor in digging, pruning, and transplanting to set things right. Occasionally, the corrections are realized far too late to save the innocent plants, which are engulfed by a neighbor, or must be cut out with a chain saw.

Ignorance is not my excuse. I’m aware of what should go where, but I suppose that I’m guilty of over exuberance. More is not always best, and if I live long enough perhaps I’ll learn that lesson.

In a case of “too little, too late” I have drafted a design of the garden (not to scale), but of course this has been accomplished after the fact, and only serves to show the jumble that the garden has become. I have drawn this as an aid for readers who have commented that they have become hopelessly lost as I describe the route as I wander through the garden. I appreciate that anyone cares at all to follow along, though I have doubts that the design will be of any assistance. Certainly, I will pay it no attention when I plant in the spring.

The property is nearly an acre and a quarter, and the house sits quite close to the street, which from the start was the reason that my wife and I selected this lot. Less snow to shovel off the driveway, and more garden behind the house. The house faces the south and east, and with a large beech the front garden is sunny only for a short period in the morning. Along the southern border of the property there is a stand of mature forest, close enough to the back corner of the house that I am relieved that the kids have grown and moved out, so that when a maple crashes through the roof one day no harm will be done, except to the house.

The sideyard to the south, sandwiched between the tall structure and the forest, is quite shady, and the soil poor and cluttered with roots from the maples and poplars. A stone path winds from the front between shrubs and hostas that flop about to a small pergola at the top of the rear garden.

The upper portion of the rear garden is the most congested area, and the design gives barely a clue to the jungle it has become. In this area there are three ponds, and a stream that has been constructed to run along side of another stone path. There are two patios, one of Pennsylvania bluestone flagging, and the other of slate, and both are roughly circular, though long established plants blur the edges considerably.

Below this jungle is a section of lawn, left to remain as grass since the septic field lies beneath. Redbuds, fringetrees, and spring blooming magnolias are planted along the periphery.

Beyond the small swath of lawn is the summerhouse, a term not of grandeur, but for lack of a better description for a modest metal structure with a solid roof to keep the rain out, and four posts. The floor is travertine, and below is a small stone patio and fire pit that leads to the swimming pond.

Because of the dense plantings in the upper garden the swimming pond cannot be seen from the house, but once in the rear garden the summerhouse and pond are the focus of the design, and small trees, shrubs, and perennials radiate from this point.

At the southern edge the large pond rises several feet above grade, and a dry stacked stone wall has been constructed to retain the soil so that a path can be accessed between the pond and the garden shed. There is another area of lawn in the center of the back half of the rear garden, and this area my wife insists must remain open for croquet, or some other nonsense, but probably just to be ornery. In any case, this lawn gets a bit smaller each year, and it would  not be surprising if it would disappear entirely some day.

A surprising number of evergreens

Now that the fairweather deciduous trees and shrubs have dropped their leaves and gone into hiding for the winter, the steadfast and stalwart evergreens march to the forefront. If I were to guess, and I’m guessing, I would figure two-thirds of the garden’s trees and shrubs to be deciduous, with the remainder evergreens, both conifers and broadleafs, tall and squat, blue, yellow, and with a variety of shades of green.

Now that the deciduous leaves have been windblown across the lawn, and swept into knee deep piles beneath the viburnums, the garden is quite open. For a few months it is possible to see from one corner of the garden to the other, and thank goodness for the hollies and cypresses, spruces, cryptomerias, and tall Alaskan and Atlas cedars.

Without leaves to hinder the view, brightly colored berries, the red stems of the Coral Bark Japanese maple, and blue and yellow conifers are more conspicuous through the winter months. The yellow cypresses (hinoki, cripsii, fernspray, threadbranch, and Golden Showers Lawson cypress) grow more luminous as the winter progresses (when heat and humidity are less stressful), and steely blue spruces stand out against the gray winter sky.

Evergreen shrubs such as variegated aucubas (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’, below), with brightly speckled foliage, azaleas and camellias with delightful blooms, and nandinas and mahonias with flowers and berries are not so large, but are interesting through much of the year. Lower growing evergreens such as sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis), plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata’), ivies, and periwinkle carpet the open spaces, often occupying the ground beneath flowering trees and Japanese maples.

Even the greens of hollies and pines are more apparent in the more barren winter landscape. The garden surrounding the Golden Weeping English yew (Taxus baccata ‘Dovastoniana aurea pendula’, below) has grown more shaded over the years, and so its yellow spring growth is now only a lighter shade of green, but the towering yew is perched against the back corner of the house with long pendulous branches overhanging the stone path as if a mantis awaiting its prey.

In April the twenty foot yew is partially obscured by a large ‘Burgundy Lace ‘ Japanese maple, but in January it commands attention, so much so that my wife is constantly hectoring me to cut the beast down to a more appropriate size for its proximity to the house. The branches bob in the winter breezes, and destroy the screens of windows twenty feet in either direction, but I prefer the “creature” as is, and thus far have been able to deflect demands to shorten its wingspan.

A Japanese Umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata, below) lurks nearby, one of two in the garden, and it is, of course, not a pine at all. Umbrella pines are quite slow growing, though the two are now fifteen feet or taller, and of the darkest green, but with lush, succulent, decidedly unpine-like needles. These are favored plants in the garden, and in fact my wife will prune any branch from a neighboring nandina or deutzia that dares to stray to touch them.

The heavy snow in the winter past broke a significant number of their soft wooded branches, and those that remained were bent downward a bit. I feared the Umbrella pines would be disfigured permanently, but months later the branches are barely missed, the bent branches hardly evident, and this was a considerable relief and greatly lessened our disappointment with the damaging snows.

I was overjoyed when I surveyed the winter’s damage and found the venerable ‘Lewisi’ hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘Lewisi’, below) intact, though a weeping Norway spruce only a few paces away suffered considerably. The hemlock was an early introduction into the garden, and was well established before its transplant, so I have an affinity for this dwarf evergreen, one not shared by my wife and visitors who walk past without a notice.

I have recently discussed the collection of hollies (a variety of Ilex natives and hybrids) in the garden, and though many would consider them excellent as a backdrop for showier plants, I continue to be enthused by their range of foliage shapes and colors and sturdy manner. The clusters of red berries are a bonus, and certainly are favored by birds that overwinter in the garden.

There are many dozens of other treasured evergreens in the garden, many like the Lewisi hemlock that no one but the gardener will notice, and while dogwoods and Japanese maples, viburnums and perennials rest for the season I will appreciate more than usual the dark greens, bright yellows, and blues.