Friday, November 4, 2016

Goodbye Old Friend

A sad day in the garden. A major feature of the garden was removed this week. 

The large shrub at the eastern end of the garden was taken down. This shrub, which had become more tree-like, was actually a Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus). It was growing on the neighboring property and was part of what had become a hedge row. 

When we first moved into this house over 20 years ago, it was growing up against a garden shed. After the construction of the garage and the moving of the shed, the bush began to grow quickly, especially since it had more direct access to sunlight. 

Shrub, seen directly behind me pre-fence

Eventually, I built the fence, but the shrub continued to grow. At that point, I took control of the shrub and began to trim and shape it so that it conformed to the garden plan. Nine years later I had created a spectacular shrub/tree, one that I came to admire. 

Unfortunately, I did too good a job. Although shaped to compliment the fence, the canopy continued to grow. Not only did it grow in height, it also spread far across the fence line. At first it looked great, but more recently the canopy had become so large that it was beginning to produce too much shade over the west end of the garden above Buddha. Plants in the area were begging to show signs that they were not receiving enough sunlight. Even the Hosta were suffering.

Shrub, as seen overtopping the fence line behind gate

Although I had decided earlier this year that the shrub would have to go during the fall, it was the death of my neighbor that necessitated its departure. My neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had come to appreciate my garden and landscaping efforts. During the summer months, I would see him on almost a daily basis. If he saw me out working on the yard or garden he would come out and we would talk at length. When he passed away I was saddened. I had come to look forward to our chats. He was a good friend and neighbor. After his passing, his son gave my permission to remove the shrub/tree. Even so, I had been putting off the removal, not wanting to undo all the hard work and effort I had employed to foster such a beautiful specimen. 

This fall, the shrub was looking as good as ever as the color began to change.

Finally, the property going up for sale hastened the necesity to move forward. 

Now gone the garden seems different. With fall upon us and the leaves almost gone, its too difficult to see what the impact will be. Only spring will tell. I am hopeful that the remaining hedge row of Euonymus alatus can begin to fill in the void without crowding or over-topping the fence line. 

In the end I am sad over the losses of this season. However, I also realize that old friends never die, as long as the living keep them in their hearts and memories.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October Ablaze

Between October 21 and 25, the dwarf maples exploded with fall colors. 

This year the colors were very bright, especially compared to last year. 

We also had a small bit of snowfall which hastened the falling of the leaves. However, in the first few days the trees looked fantastic. By November 1 leaves were everywhere, but in the Moon Window my little sick dwarf maple was still hanging in there. The color looked good and I am hopeful that it might survive the transplant long term and eventually do well in this more shady location. In the meantime, the colors look wonderful when viewed through the window.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Cultural Bridge

While visiting the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington D.C. last week, I discovered that the U.S. National Arboretum was planning on building a Chinese garden. This garden is a joint venture between the United States and Chinese governments designed to promote friendship and celebrate the histories and traditions of each country. The garden will be a gift from the people of China. 

Here is a link to the National China Garden Foundation website.

Construction has yet to begin, as the project is just entering the public comment phase as I write this blog entry. My understanding is that it will take about three years to complete the garden. 

The garden will consist of 22 classical Chinese structure sitting on 12 acres of the U.S. National Arboretum. To get an idea of what the finished project will look like, and see pictures of some of the proposed structures, check out the following interactive web site:

I am looking forward to the garden's eventual completion. When combined with the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, it will make the U.S. National Arboretum a must visit site for anyone interested in the gardening arts of East Asia.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Bonsai & Penjing

Over the last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington D.C. on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum.

The collection began in 1976 with a donation of plants from the Nippon Bonsai Association to the United States, with the collection growing to 150 plants. 

Some of these plants date back several decades and some several centuries. 

Japanese White Pine
Started: 1873

Japanese White Pine
Started: 1625

Yes, the tree above was started in 1625. At almost 400 years old it was an amazing site to see.

I was expecting to see some wonderful bonsai when I first decided to visit, but I was surprised at the degree to which the museum offered so much more. I also was not well informed about the Chinese art of Penjing and was able to expand my own understanding of this art as a result of my visit.

The Chinese pavilion was very nice and had some great specimens.

I also loved the way they incorporated flower imagery into the window screens.

There was also a large collection of North American plants.

I also admired a potted Japanese Dwarf Male that was near the entry way. It gave me hope that I might be able to do something interesting with the Maple I recently located near my Moon Window.

The Museum, which is open daily from 10:00 - 4:00 is free, and well worth the visit.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Circle of Life

I decided to make a few major changes in the garden today, all of which stem from the need to do something to save the Red Select Japanese Maple (Acer palmate dissect 'Red Select') in the Stroll Garden area. 

This poor tree has been sickly ever since I planted him in the location along the neighbor's fence line. The soil is terrible, mostly sand, and in the midst of summer there was simply too much sunlight falling on the tree. It had started off the season with a good comeback after the following year, when I though it was about to die. However, it had suffered a great deal during late July and August of this year when the heat further reduced his foliage. It needed to be moved to a place with less direct sunlight. Problem is, I don't really have anywhere else to place it, or so I thought.

The other problem that was bothering me was the Clumping Bamboo (Fargesia rufa) I had planted behind the Moon Window. 

This bamboo has been there for years, and thrived in the shady area. I'm not sure why, but this bamboo never turned out the way I thought. Everything I read about it said that as a clumping Bamboo it can grow as high as 7-10 feet. That just never happened. I have other plants of the same variety elsewhere in the garden and they also did not grow tall. Instead, they grow out, more like a ground cover. 

It could be related to how I have maintained them. Each winter the shoots seem to die off and I cut them back in the early spring to make room for new shoots. They always fill back in and look great starting in late August/early September. However, they have never grown tall, at least not after the first couple of years when I first planted them. I don't know why this occurred.

Moon Window, 2011

Moon Window, 2014

Moon Window, 2016
So, my problem with the Bamboo behind the Moon Window (and off property) was that it never really filled in the view through the window. It did the first couple of seasons, but over the last few years it always left the view open to the wood lot behind - not very interesting to behold.

So, I decided to move the bamboo elsewhere and make way for the placement of the Japanese maple in its place. The more shady area will help the maple thrive. The soil here is also different than the sandy soil along the Stroll Garden area.

However, to begin, I had to find a place to relocate the bamboo. First, the plant had grown very wide over the years. As a result, I decided that I would have to split it into several plants. Given its size, this would prove difficult. I had to make sure that I saved enough of the root system for each of the shoots. I was able to split the plant into four sections - one large and three smaller sections.

I then plated the large section along the side of the garden shed on the other side the yard, near the vegetable garden. 

This spot is relatively shady and protected from direct sunlight. The remaining sections I dispersed behind the shed, two along the new fence, and one just at the corner of the back of the shed. 

I had an additional small bamboo plant I had moved into a bucket a couple weeks back that I also placed at the opposite end of the shed near the gate.

These plants will get a bit more sunlight here, especially late in the day. I'm a bit worried about this because these plants prefer shade in the afternoon, and I am doing the exact opposite. Problem is, I have no where else to plant them at this time. If they seem to be doing poorly in the future, I can move them once again.

Now that the Bamboo was moved, I was free to place the Japanese maple in the location behind the Moon Window. 

It will be off property, but I can only hope the neighbor doesn't mind. To date, he does not appear to show any interest in what I do along the fence. If anything, this might prove to be an improvement from his view.

If the Maple survives the move, it may have a chance to thrive here. Given that it already has very little foliage, I might be able to shape it to be more like a Bonzai than a Maple. I will not cut any of the existing stems or limbs at this time. I will wait until next year, giving it a chance to get established, before I clean him up

It's shape does provide more interest in the window, but I will need to be careful over time to ensure it grows away from the fence and window. Given its stem structure and the position in which I planted it, that should prove to be easy.

All I can do now is cross my fingers and hope that all this transplanting goes well. I will discover the outcome next spring. Next, I have to find a solution for the spot where the maple once stood in the Stroll Garden.