Time is flying fast. At the end of June, we were in northern California to do some botanizing. Now, we are in northern Mexico visiting family. Not much time for blogging, but there was enough time in between travels to do a few terrible things around the garden.
I guess things started off last spring when I took out a rather large Ceanothus ‘Blue Jeans’ that I was tired of pruning every year to keep it from encroaching onto the sidewalk. I didn’t know what to replace it with, so the space stayed empty over the summer.
The space still feels empty (left) – we miss having something there for privacy from the road. Panning a bit to the south, you can see that the Veronica (Hebe) pinguifolia ‘Sutherlandii’ has grown about two thirds of the way across the sidewalk. It probably says something about me that I took out the Ceanothus that was barely touching this same sidewalk, but not the hebe. At some point, it will have to come out, but not yet.
Of course, I changed my mind about what I wanted in that space, moved the Corokia, and planted a small Chrysolepis chrysophylla (golden chinquapin) seedling in its place. It’s an oak relative with evergreen leaves that are supposed to be a fuzzy, golden yellow underneath, but the ones on this plant are more of a pale yellow. Hoping the color deepens with age. Even though it is native to this area, golden chinquapin is extremely hard to find in the nursery industry, which bumped up its must-have factor significantly.
Taking out the Ceanothus initiated a chain reaction of plant removals and pruning projects that had been pent up for a long time – mainly because I dread doing anything drastic in the garden without overthinking each situation for an extended period of time. However, once there was that seeding event (the Ceanothus), all of the other pruning projects sort of fell into place.
In April, I finally decided to yank out the Ozothamnus ‘Sussex Silver’ on the other side of the front deck. It was one of those plants that wanted to be much larger than the space it was allotted, growing 18-24″ each summer and then flopping all over the place when the fall rains returned. I’d then have to chop it back hard every spring to rein it in and force it to regrow in a nicer form by summer. This meant that the Ozothamnus ended up looking terrible for months on end – not a winning combination by my standards. So, out it came.
Removing it left the corner between the deck and the house empty, so that’s where the Corokia cotoneaster was transplanted to. A perfect spot, I think, for a large, dense, curling mass of gray twigs.
At the same time, I realized I was also tired of shaping the holly-leaved cherry (Prunus ilicifolia) every year, another plant that was too big for its britches.
I staved off the inevitable and chopped it back to ground level after noticing that it had produced a large, rounded root crown that was absolutely covered in buds – a strategy used by many fire-adapted shrubs. This means it should resprout yet this summer and hopefully I can do a better job with pruning as it regrows. In the meantime, though, it leaves another empty spot in the garden.
That project was quickly followed by digging out a large clump of Yucca flaccida from the sun garden. I don’t have a before picture showing how large the clump actually was, but I do have an after picture showing our wheelbarrow filled with about half of the stolons that were dug out (upper left). The after picture (upper right) is from a few weeks ago and shows a new Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ (to echo off the pale yellow flowers of Digitalis lutea, red flowers of Callistemon subulatus ‘Dark Red’, and red and yellow flowers of Lobelia laxiflora angustifolia). That entire space was filled with a rectangular mass of yucca leaves. You can probably see that the Y. flaccida is making a comeback from all of the stolons that I missed finding.
Embarrassingly, it’s been three months since that occurred and I still haven’t transplanted the stolons to the ditch along the road. They’re still sitting in the wheelbarrow (lower left), which I’ve forced myself to ignore because they aren’t a priority right now. The stolons are still alive, however, (lower right) and will probably be planted this fall.
I also decided to hack back our Ulmus parvifolia ‘Seiju’, which had grown so large that it was allowing the chipmunks to hop up into the bird feeder and gorge themselves silly. It looks terrible right now, but should recover completely by August (I hope). I’m too embarrassed to show the Arctostaphylos ‘Sunset’ next to it, which was getting too large and growing into the driveway (a no no when you don’t want your car scratched). The plan is to take cuttings this winter and then take it out next spring.
In mid-June, my attention turned to the Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ that is directly to the right of our front sidewalk.
It had long ago outgrown its spot and was out of proportion with the other plants in the front rock garden. L had been bugging me for over a year to do something about it because it blocked our view of anyone coming up the driveway. His idea was to cut the top half of the tree off, but I didn’t like that option as I thought it would look ugly afterwards (and no longer “saguaro”-like either).
I delayed pruning it as long as possible because I needed time to figure out how I wanted to approach things. I finally opted to thin some of the branches out and remove some height at the top. I was hoping if I did a careful job, it would still look relatively decent and recover quickly.
While I was at it, I decided to remove a dwarf Spanish fir (Abies pinsapo ‘Horstmann’) that was growing nearby (blue conifer, lower right of photo above). Although I love the texture of the needles (it’s by far the very best of the firs in my opinion, and drought tolerant to boot), it was too big and I no longer liked its overall form.
As I started pruning the Wissel’s Saguaro, I encountered large patches of crispy, dead needles on the lower branches that had been either shaded out or got too wet over the winter (not shown). These looked awful once they were exposed.
And, suddenly, I realized I had cut things back a little too far.
The tree looked terrible from the north side. At that point, I decided to just take the whole thing out. I have a few smaller Wissel’s waiting in pots anyway and I like the way this particular variety looks in the rock garden. So, it will be replaced with a smaller one once it starts raining again.
I am surprised how fast the Wissel’s Saguaro grew. It is supposed to grow 6-8″ per year and therefore would be about 6-8 feet tall in ten years. I planted ours in July 2010, 13 years ago, and it was probably around 10 feet tall when it was cut down…
…Heh, I just did the math and that growth rate is about right after all. Starting with a 15″ tall plant, that works out to about 8″ per year. It seems like only yesterday that it was a much smaller tree.
It was also interesting to see the graft union on the Abies pinsapo ‘Horstmann’ as I cut it down. The scion was much larger than the rootstock, pointing to a difference in growth rates between the top and bottom portion of the plant.
After a long day, I was finally done. The front rock garden looks bare, but I don’t miss either of the plants that I cut down. L bought an electric chainsaw to encourage my efforts and that really moved things along. Much, much easier than using the bowsaw and loppers, which have been my tools of choice for years.
Speaking of removals, there was one more that occurred in early July. Rabbits have been destroying a lot of plants in the garden lately and I’m tired of it. The yard is too big to fence against smaller herbivores, so I live trap them when I can. I’ve read all the cons about relocating rabbits and I won’t reiterate them here. Suffice it to say that I have made my peace with an occasional relocation. We are surrounded by thousands of acres of plants for their enjoyment. They don’t need mine. I find it particularly aggravating when they nip a rare plant off at the soil line and then don’t bother to eat it.
Ok, that’s all of the terrible things that have been happening around the garden. We’ll leave on a happy note with a picture of one of the cacti blooming at home.