Archive for February 2012

Winter Jasmine for the Cold Weather Garden

February 24, 2012

How many plants do you know that bloom in the winter? Hellebores, yes. Witchhazels, ditto. Snowdrops, depending on how mild the winter is. Today’s post, however, is in praise of Jasminum nudiflorum, or winter jasmine.

Dumbarton Oaks, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Jasminum nudiflorum gracing a brick wall at Dumbarton Oaks (near the Rose Garden)

I first understood the allure of this arching, trailing shrub when I saw it in bloom at Dumbarton Oaks, early on in my education as a gardener.  I mean, how beautiful is that?

There are other locations at Dumbarton where the visitor comes across it, although not necessarily as dramatically placed.

Dumbarton Oaks, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Growing through a stone "lattice" wall in another part of Beatrix Farrand's masterpiece.

Dumbarton Oaks, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Behind the library, overlooking the grass steps.

Winter jasmine’s period of bloom is roughly six to eight weeks long, a real plus for color-starved eyes in winter. However, the flowers don’t appear all at once. They open sporadically, which means that the effect can be less than spectacular. Best performance is in full-sun sites.

According to one of my favorite garden publications, The Avant Gardener (don’t look for a website, it doesn’t have one), winter jasmine will spread up to 10 to 15′ wide and grow 2-3′ high. It’s hardy down to Zone 6 and supposed can be cut back to about 12″ high occasionally, to promote strong growth.

Even during the spring, summer and fall, however, winter jasmine is a good choice for spilling over stone walls in the landscape. The new shoots are green, and the foliage is delicate in appearance. Here it is in a Chevy Chase client’s garden last June.

Jasminum nudiflorum, winter jasmine, stone walls

Winter jasmine looks good year-round.

As you can see from this photo, a happy specimen of this plant will just keep growing . . . and growing . . . and growing. (This, of course, makes it a great choice for planting on sunny slopes – it may not be evergreen but since its shoots are green in winter, the ground won’t look bare.) So if there is soil at the bottom of the wall where you plant it, and you don’t want it to root there, a little maintenance will be necessary.  Otherwise, sit back and enjoy it.

Lighting Up the Garden

February 11, 2012
Garden lighting, Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers,' garden design, winter gardens

My new 'Glowing Embers' Japanese maple uplit in snow.

This is my new screensaver, at least until spring arrives. I took this photo (a 15-second exposure, on a tripod) the other night when we had an unexpected, very tiny snowstorm. I liked the photo so much that I posted it to Facebook and wrote, “Snow + up-lit Japanese Maple = magic. Takes some of the sting out of losing my beautiful crabapple.” Later the image was re-pinned on Pinterest to a “Just a little magical” board. Magic, indeed.

Garden lighting is often thought of as an extravagance, an “extra” that you’ll get around to – someday. But I’ve concluded that it’s one of the most worthwhile investments you can make, to dress up even a new landscape, in terms of bang for the buck. My own front yard is a good example. I had to spend a lot of money this year taking down and replacing two trees,including getting the tree stumps ground out, and replanting one bed area around the new ‘Riversii’ beech. I may have to spend more this coming year because I suddenly have a sunny exposure where I had shade before, and I don’t know which of my current plantings will survive.

It broke my heart to see how small my new trees were when they went in, and how dark the front yard seemed at night. The old trees, you see, had been uplit beautifully.

Fagus, beech tree, night lighting,

The branches of my old American beech tree uplit at night.

Without the lighting, the front of the house looked bleak and sad at night, with the only lights on my steps and two carriage light fixtures on either side of the front door. So I bit the bullet and had lighting installed on the ‘Riversii’ and the new Japanese maple by my go-to lighting contractors, Outdoor Illumination Inc. Neither tree is large, but the difference the lighting makes to the house and landscape is amazing.

Lighting can be used not only for trees but to draw your eye to other built elements in the garden, such as these wooden Nepalese screens one of my clients installed as a kind of sculpture.

Garden sculpture, garden lighting, copper beech

Three wooden panels surround a young copper beech in a garden in Chevy Chase, Maryland, uplit by soft spots.

Magnolia 'Leonard Messel,' garden sculpture, garden lighting

Behind this screen is an up-lit Magnolia 'Leonard Messel'

In a more modern landscape setting, you’ll see lights used around pool perimeters, as here in this Potomac, Maryland garden designed by landscape architect H. Paul Davis.

Pool lighting, garden lighting

Spotlights for the pool jets as well as the hornbeams and river birches adjacent to the water area create a beautiful effect as dusk descends.

But even away from paths and major trees, lighting in the garden can contribute to an atmosphere of calm and magic.

garden lighting, fall gardens, garden design

As evening approaches, a garden bed with color fall foliage is illuminated, bringing the outside in for a little longer.

So consider some “night lights” if you’re working on improvements to your garden. You won’t regret it.


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