Carole's Garden Newsletter

What a gorgeous spring it's been. I've enjoyed every single minute of it. The grass is green, thick, and full, the flowers have been beautiful and everything is growing well this year. It's finally turned to summer here in Bel Air and the weather is now hot. We had a fairly warm and wet winter making for the beautiful spring. On my blog I'll be talking about global warming, carbon emissions and how we can help to correct the situation--take a look if you want to find out how you can help at Garden Today..

garter snakeI thought I would leave Harry's picture here. He was last summer's garden visitor. You can find out more about Harry on my blog at Garden Today.

Upright Plants for Narrow Places

As a landscape designer and a gardener who is a "plant nut", I am always looking for new and interesting trees and shrubs that enjoy living in our area and have characteristics that make them stand out from all of the new plants appearing in the garden catalogs. Since I am running out of gardening room in my own garden and since many of my clients tend to purchase small lots with large houses, the plants I need and that my clients need are oftentimes new upright cultivars of old favorites.

For the past several years, beginning in December when the spring plant catalogs start coming in, I read every description of every plant in many of the retail mail order catalogs. I look through certain wholesale catalogs as well. Each year I pick a different set of standards for my searches. One year it was "plants for shade"; another year it was "plants with colorful foliage". The past winter it was "upright or narrow-growing plants". I picked the right year to do this search as there were plenty of plants to select.

I was so excited to find so many upright plants that I couldn't control myself and purchased more plants than I could think of places to plant them. I really prefer to have personally grown a plant before recommending it to my clients, and not just rely on descriptions in catalogs, magazines, or books.

Listed below are some of the plants I found in the catalogs as well as the upright plants I'm growing in my garden. Please note that the sizes shown are estimates only. The sizes are based on growth data from various sources. The notations show height first, then width. When I mention using a tree as a "street tree", there should be no utility wires above the tree.

Acer rubrum ‘Scarsen' or Scarlet Sentinel™ red maple is listed on several street tree lists because of its compact size. Grows to 40x20ft. Plant in sun to part shade in average to wet soil. Red maples are one of my favorite large trees with their hazy, early-spring red flowers. Fall leaf color ranges from orange to red. It's a good size to use as a street tree or a shade tree.

Amelanchier canadensis ‘Glenn Form' or Rainbow Pillar® serviceberry grows to 20x8-15ft wide. Plant in sun to part shade in average garden soil. It has an upright form and is dense and multi branched. Like all serviceberries, it has white flowers in early spring and edible purple fruit which the birds eat. It's green leaves turn yellow, orange and finally red in the fall. Its late red fall color is spectacular. It's often suggested as a great hedge plant because of its upright form. If a large-size specimen of this tree is available, it would make an excellent corner-of-the-house tree. Some information on the internet suggests that this cultivar is not a good berry producer as other serviceberries.

Berberis thunbergii 'Helmond's Pillar' grows to 6x2ft. Plant in sun in well-drained soil. Leaves are burgundy and green out somewhat in the summer. Tiny yellow flowers produce small red fruits in the fall. Barberries are great container plants because of their hardiness ratings and will survive through most of our winters in containers. It makes a nice contrast plant wherever it is planted. I especially like it with red Pentas or Egyptian Star Flower and blue Dianthus foliage. Helmond Pillar has great red fall color.

Buxus sempervirens 'Graham Blandy' or Graham Blandy boxwood is a slender, columnar boxwood being the same width at the bottom and top. Grows to 12x1-2ft. Plant in sun to shade in regular garden soil including clay soil.

Buxus sempervirens ‘Dee Runk' or Dee Runk boxwood grows to 12x2.5ft. Plant in sun to shade. Boxwoods are tolerant of clay soil. Of these two upright forms, I prefer Dee Runk because its form is more attractive being wider at the bottom than at the top. Both of these plants work well wherever you use them, whether in informal or formal gardens. It's always nice to see an exclamation point among rounded perennials or small, rounded shrubs! Dee Runk is harder to find but well worth the search.

Buxus sempervirens 'Argenteo Variegata' or ‘Elegantissima' slowly grows to 8x4ft. This is an outstanding variegated boxwood with creamy-white leaf edges. Because of its variegated leaves, this boxwood looks better in part shade rather than in sun. It's beautiful for Christmas decorations and very distinctive. I like this planted in shady places where it can shine a little among all of the dark-green shade plants.

Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata' or upright European hornbeam, grows to 40x20ft. Grows in sun to part shade. Plant in well drained soil; it is adaptable to many soils including clay. It doesn't have a central leader but fans out into a very densely-foliaged, oval-shaped tree making it ideal for use as a hedge. Has dark green leaves turning yellow in the fall and has smooth, gray bark similar to the beech. Blooms in March with white to yellow flowers. Because of its soil adaptability and narrow form this tree is often used on narrow building lots. I've seen it planted as street trees in Bel Air and it should be available in large sizes.

Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata' or upright Japanese plum yew grows slowly to10x6ft. Plant in sun to shade. Has 2" long black-green leaves that are spirally arranged on the stem. I like it because it adds structure and a very dark color to shady areas. It looks great growing out of a sea of groundcover like golden creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea') or sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), but also combines well with taller plants such as large-leaved hostas, and other shade-loving shrubs such as azaleas. I've seen mature plants and it's amazing how wide they are compared to young plants which are very narrow and seem to stay that way for a long time.

I love beech trees and I don't see them often enough in our landscapes. I'm trying to rectify this omission by using an appropriate beech tree in many of my designs. Here are some narrow-growing cultivars:

Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Purple' is a purple-leaved cultivar of the European beech with a columnar growth habit. It keeps its dark color throughout the summer. It is best planted in a sunny location.

Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Gold' is another columnar grower and has bright gold new growth that turns green in the summer. A second flush of growth in the summer makes a nice contrast of gold against the green, older foliage. Best planted in a sunny location.

Fagus sylvatica ‘Red Obelisk' is another purple-leaved beech but its purple leaves turn greenish in the summer and are irregular and undulating which give it a different textural look.

These three beeches work well as accent trees on any sized lot. They also make a nice front-of-the-home accent tree since they don't cover up the house front as the wider pear and cherry trees would. Plant in sun to part shade in moist, well-drained soil. All three grow to about 50x15ft after many years. European beeches are clay soil tolerant.

Ginkgo biloba 'PNI 2720' or Princeton Sentry® ginkgo grows to 70x10ft. Plant in sun in moist soil but it is adaptable to many soil types including clay soil. Attractively-shaped green leaves turn brilliant yellow in the fall. This is a male clone and would make a very nice street tree.

Ilex x meserveae 'Heckfee' or Castle Spire™ and Ilex x meserveae ‘Heckenstar' or Castle Wall™ hollies grow to 10x5ft. They are a new line of blue hollies that grow compactly. Castle Spire™ is the female holly, is pyramidal in shape, and has bright red berries and shiny green foliage. Castle Wall™ is the male holly with shiny green foliage and a more-upright form. Use in hedges, in foundation plantings, or as specimens. Plant in sun to part shade in moist, acid, well-drained soil.

Ilex x ‘Rutzan' or Red Beauty® holly is a new Rutgers introduction by Dr. Elwin Orton. It is a female holly with a dense, pyramidal habit, dark green leaves, and bright red berries. Grow in sun to part shade and in moist, acid, well-drained soil. This is a narrow pyramid growing to 12x4ft wide. Any male blue holly will pollinate it. We've purchased several small ones locally and I think they will do exactly what Dr Orton says they will do. Red Beauty® is supposed to be a better berry producer than the Dragon Lady® holly. This would be great used in foundation plantings, hedges, and in mixed borders.

Magnolia x 'Sunspire' grows to 40x6ft. Plant in sun to part shade in ordinary garden soil. It is tolerant of many soil conditions and takes heat and humidity very well. 'Sunspire' blooms in spring so the fragrant 4- to 6-inch gold flowers are not hurt by late spring frosts. I have not been able to find the parentage of this cultivar but I thought I read somewhere it was of M. virginiana origin. This would make a beautiful street tree or a tree for the corner of a tall house. By the way, as of the end of December, mine still has its leaves. Note: Spring 2007=the leader died in early spring but a side branch survived. This is being grown in a pot.

Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf' or 'Vanderwolf's Pyramid' limber pine is a conifer growing 30 x15ft. in a tight, pyramidal form. Plant in sun or partial shade in moist, well drained soil. It is very adaptable to a variety of soils. Its long, twisted, silvery, blue-green needles are displayed on dense branches. I've always admired this tree whenever I visit a local wholesale nursery to check out nursery stock. Its form and the way its needles are displayed make it a winner.

Prunus ‘First Lady' is an upright-growing, early blooming cherry with dark pink, single, slightly pendulous flowers blooming in April. It grows to 25x15ft after 20 years. Plant in sun to part shade in ordinary garden soil. I've always liked its relative, the Okame cherry, and I'm sure I will like this new one as well. This is one of the first cherries named in the U.S.D.A.'s cherry breeding program to produce better cherries for our area. It has many uses in our gardens including as a street tree, small shade tree, and as a tree for house corners. This is a "Don Shadow Signature Collection" plant so it must be a great tree.

Rhamnus frangula ‘Ron Williams', or Fine Line® buckthorn, combines airy, ferny foliage with upright, slender growth. I liked this plant as soon as I first read about it. Fine Line® is a low maintenance plant and adds a nice exclamation point among ground covers. Because of its hardiness, this is another plant to grow in containers, as well as in the garden. Grow in full sun to partial shade in any garden soil. It's fine green leaves turn a nice dark yellow in the late fall; actually, it's one of the last plants to drop its leaves. Grows to about 6x2ft.

Sambucus nigra ‘Pyramidalis' or columnar elderberry. When I saw the information on this plant in the Forestfarm catalog, I just had to give this plant a try. The catalog didn't really say much. I like elderberries but not their size; therefore, I decided to buy this plant to find out what it does. Some plant descriptions mention that its leaves are sparse and close to its trunk and that it blooms in May to June with typical elderberry white flowers. Also, when mature, it has thick, very upright stems. New growth at the top spreads into a vase form. Even though I have a very young plant I can see that the description is accurate. It is not very attractive at this early age, but there is always next year!

Sorbus aucuparia ‘Fastigiata' or fastigiate Mountain ash is another unusual shrub or small tree. 'Fastigiata' is an upright tree with strongly ascending branches, dark green leaves, and waxy red fruits. This is a slow-growing, coarsely branched tree. It has white flowers and, I hope, the large fruit clusters of its cousins. My plant is small and I have high hopes for it.

Syringa meyeri STD or Meyer's lilac grown as a standard grows to 8x4ft with a rounded form. Plant in sun to part shade. Blooms later than S. vulgaris. Its small leaves do not get mildew. It is much smaller growing than the common lilac and will fit into even the smallest landscape. It's hardy to zone 4 so it should survive in a container. I purchased this standard version (STD) several years ago and it is easy to keep to 3 feet wide. Two of these plants would be great flanking the entrance to the garden. In the garden make sure you have a seat near one so you can enjoy its fragrance when it blooms. Fragrance is different from the common lilac but still very nice. Mine blooms in bright shade.

Taxus baccata 'Standishii' is an English yew cultivar. Plant in sun to shade in well-drained soil. It's very similar to the Irish Yew with a columnar habit but is slower growing. Its leaves are entirely golden yellow, and it is a low maintenance plant because it keeps its shape without trimming. Grows slowly to 30x8ft. Three of these plants would look great in a shady area with the dark-colored English yews growing around them.

Thuja occidentalis 'DeGroot's Spire' or DeGroot's Spire western arborvitae. I've been growing this plant in a fairly shady site and it's been doing very well. Grows to about 10x3ft. Plant in sun to shade. It prefers moist sites but does well on a fairly dry slope. Has nice, dark-green foliage.

Thuja occidentalis ‘Yellow Ribbon' is a new arborvitae that has a narrow, very pyramidal form. Its yellow evergreen leaves remain yellow throughout the winter. This one tends to be the tallest of the arborvitaes listed here, being 12x3ft. Cultural conditions are the same as for DeGroot's Spire.

Thuja orientalis ‘Beverly Hills' has bright yellow, soft, ferny foliage during the growing season. Winter color is said to be bright yellow green. Both of my plants are planted in part shade and are yellow green in the summer and turn brassy in the winter which is O.K. with me. Cultural conditions are the same as for DeGroot's Spire. This one grows to about 10x4ft. Note: Thuja orientalis might now be called Platycladus orientalis.

Also, many shrubs can be pruned into standards. This spring I bought Rhododendron ‘Geisha', a Glenn Dale azalea, that the grower grew as a standard. I was looking at some of my new viburnums, and thinking about pruning one of them, Viburnum sargentii ‘Onondoga', into a standard as well since it has one tall stem with a few smaller ones. That might just work. If not, I can always cut it to the ground and let it grow up again.

Pictures of many of these plants can be found on the internet. Go to Click on the Images button above the search box, and type the plant's name in the search box.

Internet and Mailorder Nurseries:

Greenwood Nursery - sells Don Shadow's Signature Collection

Rarefind Nursery

Spring Meadow Nursery, Inc. - wholesale grower but a great resource website for consumers

Wayside Gardens

Local Nurseries:
McLean Nurseries, 9000 Satyr Hill Road, Baltimore, Md, Phone 410-882-6714

Groff's Plant Farm, 6128 Street Rd, Kirkwood, PA 17536, 717-529-3001

Indigofera kirilowii . . .

Six years ago I planted a false indigo I purchased from Plant Delights Nursery. I've ignored it for the past several years. Last year I removed Phlox ‘David' that was next to it because I wanted to plant a new Caryopteris (Blue Mist Shrub) in its place. Once the Phlox was removed the false indigo started to shine since it was no longer competing with the large mass next to it. Actually, when it is in bloom it is the centerpiece of that area.

<i>Indigofera kirilowii</i>Indigofera kirilowii is its botanical name. It is a small shrub growing to three feet by three feet and is easily pruned after it flowers. Its lovely pink flowers appear during June and July. My plant was blooming at the end of May. It has nice, bright-green, pea-like leaves as you can see from the picture. I have never really noticed it's fall color so I assume there is nothing special about it. In cold winters it could die back to the ground but will readily grow again from its roots. It flowers on new wood which is similar to the Buddleia.

I planted it in the only sunny spot in my back garden and it has done well with very little care. The catalog information notes that it needs moist, organic, and well drained soil. It is growing very well in clay soil and as I said before, it really doesn't get much care except a hair cut in early spring. It is watered when the other plants around it need water. Since it was next to a garden phlox it did receive water during drought periods as I did water the phlox then.

In my garden it is planted among yellow-leaved plants. That's Sedum 'Angelina' in front of it and a large-leaved Bergenia planted to its right. The plant comes from Korea and is hardy to USDA Zone 5. I have not seen any seedlings from it at all. I have read that since it readily puts out new shoots from its roots it can be used as a ground cover. It might be a great addition to sunny slopes for that reason.

When searching the internet to see who carries it, just a few mail order nurseries do. I think I have seen this plant recently at some of our local nurseries. If you need a plant for a sunny location, check to see if your local nursery carries it. If not, it's worth a search. Actually this plant purchased from Plant Delights Nursery were from Christopher Lloyd's garden and grows to only 18 inches tall and that's the height of my plant as well.

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