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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

More Mulch

Had some left over mulch from the mulch used to improve the bed alongside the Stroll Garden, so I used it to fix up some of the plants throughout the garden.

I have been concerned that some of the plants are not doing well because they are planted in the midst of peastone. I wanted to create small mulch circles around them (some older plants, some newer ones) so that they would benefit from the decaying matter on top.

The two dwarf Azaleas along side the inner front gate entrance are a good example. The leaf color has been off all year, and they have grown in a very sparse way. Most likely this is a combination of not enough sunlight and poor soil quality.

Currently, the peastone is not helping the soil around the plants to become nutrient rich. I also do not want to depend too heavily on fertilizers for these plants, so the mulch should go a long way to help. 

It also looks nicer as well. The trick will be to keep the surrounding peastone out of the mulch beds.

Covered with Moss

May my lord's life endure
A thousand generations,
Eight thousand generations,
Until a pebble
Becomes a boulder
Covered with moss.
Kimigayo, Japanese National Anthem

I've been working on the small moss islands in the Stroll Garden all summer (see April 17 post). 

The small island was planted with moss from my wife's vegetable garden. 

I am not sure what type of moss this is, but it was dark and clumpy. It was also not very pleasing to the eye. 

The larger island was planted with a combination of moss I had harvest from the edge of the garden near the wood lot and some left over moss from the vegetable garden. They did not go well together. Also, I didn't have enough to complete the entire bed, so I waited all summer for moss to grow elsewhere so that I could transplant it into the final 30% that was left unplanted. 

spring, 2016

I am not sure why, probably a combination of increased shade and daily watering, but the Zen garden is beginning to produce large quantities of moss throughout. I don't mind this so much, but I don't want it to take over completely. As a result, I had plenty of moss that I could extract and relocate to the larger Island.

First, I removed the moss that had been planted from the vegetable garden. Doing so allowed me to plant a similar variety of moss in its place. This moss is more green and bright, especially when wet.

I now have the bed completely filled. There is a bit of difference with some areas in terms of color and texture, and indication I am mixing different varieties of moss. However, it definitely looks better than the previous mix.

Most of this moss survived through the hot and dry summer, so I am hopeful that it will remain intact and healthy following the winter into next season. 

Perhaps in the future I can harvest enough to transform the smaller island, but for now, I like the look of the different moss.

Iron Butterfly

The Butterfly Narrow-Leaf Ironweed (Verononia lettermannii 'Iron Butterfly') I planted last fall began to bloom over the last week. The plant had been growing steadily all summer, but the purple flowers that have now bloomed have added some very nice interest to the garden.

This area along the see through fence has really turned out nice. having a sunny spot in the garden with colorful flowers finally has helped to add something other than green to the garden.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fall Mulch

After finishing the work on the curved bed alongside the stroll garden it needed to be covered with a layer of mulch. I don't like to mulch in the early fall unless necessary. In this case, I thought it was best to give the plants a bit of protection before we head into the winter. There is still plenty of time for weeds to take root, so the mulch will go a long way to keep weeds from getting a foothold. It should also help to retain some moister as the plants establish their roots.

I am very pleased with how the bed has turned out and remain hopeful that these plantings will work. We will see how things look in the spring.

The only drawback is that the cinder block foundation is even more exposed than before. I had always hoped to just hide the foundation with plants. However, it may be time to consider having the foundation covered with a more appealing stone.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Standing on the Edge

While reworking the bed for the new Rhododendron along the Stroll Garden, I decided to take the time to modify the edging. I was inspired by the edging that I had see at the Missouri Botanical Garden Japanese Garden, Seiwa-En.

Along much of the garden's pathways, there is an edging comprised of grass - I think it was Mondo Grass, but I'm not 100% certain. 

click to see panoramic image 

I loved the way it separated the gravel areas from the walkway. Immediately, I though that I could incorporate a similar style within my own stroll garden.

I had incorporated a gentle curve separating the planting bed and gravel walkway into my original design. As a result, I thought that a similar grass could work as edging along the curve.

Once I adjusted the bed along the garage wall by leveling the soil and planted the newly purchased Rhododendron, I then began work on planting Super Blue Liriope (Liriope mascara 'Super Blue'). Its not Mondo Grass, but it was the closet thing I could find that was available, and relatively inexpensive. 

The Liriope will also result in a purple flower. I will need to keep an eye on how much these grow in width. I planted them only 8 inches apart, about half the distance I should have. If after one season they grow to wide, I can remove every other plant and use them elsewhere. I am hoping to get the ones I've planted to form one long border, so I am willing to take a risk with the close proximity. After two years I should also be able to split them and use portions elsewhere.

In the meantime, the initial planting looks good. However, I still have to re-mulch the entire bed. That may have to wait a while.

These Liriope like part sun, so the morning sunlight will do them well, and the afternoon shade should keep them from getting to much sunlight. In the meantime, we will have to see how this experiment turns out.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Rhododendron Stroll

I've decided to add some Rhododendron (Rhododendron 'P.J.M. Compact'to the garden. I have been hesitant to do so simply because I was concerned about the size that that the plants might reach. So, I decided to plant some small dwarf size plants along the edge of the garage alongside the Stroll Garden.

In total, I planted four plants, two on either side of the central spot. these are very small now, but I am hoping they grow larger in a few years.

These plants will get morning sunlight, but should be shaded most of the afternoon. I am hoping that this combination will be beneficial for the plants. Hopefully they will grow over time and help to hide the long foundation line along the garage. Since this portion of the garden is outside the enclosed garden, it is constantly visible to the public. Hiding that foundation will help make the view more appealing.

In order to plant here, I first have to level out this bed. I had left it angled a few years back when I first created the stroll garden, as a result, rain run-off from the garage roof has washed much of the mulch I placed here into the stone area. 

Stroll Garden - 2014
It has been difficult to keep the stones free of this debris. By leveling it off a bit, I can better control the flow of water, although I really should seriously consider creating a better drainage system. No time or money for that now, so we will relay on the sandy soil to absorb the water.

I also have to move some of the plants that I have placed here in the past - Clumping Bamboo (Fargesia rufa), Hosta, etc. 

I was essentially using this spot as a dumping ground for left over or damaged plants. These Rhododendron are the first plants I have actually purchased with the intent of placing them here. Finding a new home for some of these other plants will be a challenge. I am getting to the point where there are very few places left for me to add new plants. The main garden is full and I am holding off on the Dragon's Spine area until I extend the fence (hopefully next year). So, buckets may be their final destination.