Posted tagged ‘D300’

Hoorah for the Blue Danube

June 26, 2015

Last year most of my hydrangeas were no-shows (or no-blooms, to put it more accurately). The culprit was a late spring frost which did in any hope of flowers from my mopheads (the H. paniculata ‘Limelights’ were fine).

This year I am overwhelmed with hydrangea blooms. And although I do love my ‘All Summer Beauty’ hydrangeas,

Hydrangea macrophylla 'All Summer Beauty' , Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘All Summer Beauty’ flowers next to variegated Hakone grass foliage in my front yard.

my favorite mophead is Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blue Danube.’

'Blue Danube 'in bloom in 2008 in my back yard, before I lost the wooden arbor at left.

‘Blue Danube ‘in bloom in 2008 in my back yard, before I lost the wooden arbor at left.

I probably bought this variety of hydrangea over ten years ago, by order two gallon-sized shrubs from an online source, Wilkerson Gardens, which apparently no longer offers them. Several years later, in a fit of horticultural ingenuity, I read an article on how to grow hydrangeas from rooted cuttings, and voila – I had two more ‘Blues.’ The photo below shows one of them growing next to an ‘Endless Summer’ – if you look carefully you can see the difference in leaf texture as well as in the appearance of the blooms. Although the web descriptions of this shrub describe it as ‘compact’ and good for containers, my experience is that it becomes fairly large (although not as large as ‘Nikko Blue’ or ‘All Summers Beauty.’)

'Blue Danube' is on the left, with 'All Summer Beauty' on the right. The latter's flowerheads have smaller flowers and in my experience are less likely to color pink in my soil.

‘Blue Danube’ is on the left (flower buds not fully colored), with ‘All Summer Beauty’ on the right. The latter’s flowerheads have smaller flowers and in my experience are less likely to color pink in my soil.

I think I love this variety so because of the strong purple-blue and purple-pink hues that the flowers have (at least in my garden). ‘All Summer Beauty’ and H. macrophylla ‘Nikko Blue’ have softer blue blooms.

'Nikko Blue' in my side yard

‘Nikko Blue’ in my side yard

‘Blue Danube’ has colors that can’t be ignored.

That may also explain why it’s my favorite hydrangea for cutting – and for photographing when cut.
Blue Danube Hydrangeas1_20130708002

If all this has whet your appetite for a ‘Blue Danube’ or two of your own, I’m happy to report that Hydrangeas Plus offers them for sale online.

Green Screens for Small Spaces

March 7, 2015

Garden Shoots is on a hiatus while I let my left hand heal. . .  Until I can type again with both hands, I hope you will enjoy one of the blog’s 
most popular posts from the past. Hope to be back in action sometime in April!

*

One of the requests I hear most frequently as a designer who lives in a suburban area is for screening plants. Maybe your neighbor’s house is a McMansion, or perhaps you just don’t want to look out your porch or the dining room window and see the street or – whatever. If you’re lucky, you have a large enough yard and enough sun that you can accommodate a mixed grouping of trees – some conifers (no Leyland cypresses, please!), a holly or two, and some deciduous but ornamental trees mixed in.

In some cases, however, the space available is more limited. Here is where I make a pitch for a tree that may not be as well known as the American holly or even the Japanese cryptomeria. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata,’ or the fastigiate hornbeam.

Before looking at the slimmed-down version, the straight species deserves its own moment of glory. I first encountered Carpinus betulus on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate outside of Asheville, North Carolina many years ago on a glorious early autumn day. Although the fall color is only hinted at in this photo, it’s a glorious golden hue and a real plus.

Carpinus betulus, European hornbeam

A mature Carpinus betulus starting to show fall color on the grounds of the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina

At the time, I didn’t know what kind of tree it was, but I made it my business to find out later. Since then, while I haven’t had clients with the kind of space needed in their gardens to plant one of these “regular” Carpinus, I’ve discovered the merits of its smaller cousin.

Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata'

Young Carpinus betulus

Fastigiate hornbeams (‘Fastigiata’ or a supposedly even narrower version, ‘Franz Fontaine,’) have a branching structure that is so tight it stops the eye, even when the tree isn’t in leaf. I’ve seen them planted as close together as 4′ on center, although I prefer to space them out six to seven feet apart (measured from trunk to trunk). This photo shows three ‘Fastigiata,’ planted along a six-foot fence in a back yard in the District of Columbia about seven years ago. Today they are fully grown together, about twenty feet high, and the garden owner loves them, especially since she can no longer see the car parked in her neighbor’s back yard.

I have seen them planted more formally (and seemingly “topped”), as a backdrop for a parking area at Muddy Rugs in Connecticut last August on a Garden Conservancy Tour.

Carpinus betulus, fastigiate

Fastigiate hornbeams, looking like lollipops, screening a parking area at a Connecticut house.

They can be kept relatively short and used as a hedge in smaller suburban spaces between houses, although I’m not sure how attractive I find them when treated that way if the height is seriously curtailed.

Carpinus betulus, hedge

These fastigiate hornbeams have been clipped into a kind of hedge between two new houses in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

(Of course, the Ellipse at Dumbarton Oaks is the most famous use of a clipped hornbeam hedge that I know of, but there the height at which the trees are kept is probably closer to 30-40 feet.)

Dumbarton Oaks, Ellipse, Patrick Dougherty

The hornbeam hedge at Dumbarton Oaks (shown here with Patrick Dougherty’s  ‘Easy Rider’ installation).

So you probably get the picture. The added bonus is that hornbeams can “take a little shade,” as designers like to say. That allows them to be used in less than ideally sunny sites, either mixed with other kinds of screening trees or on their own. And the fastigiate varieties can be utilized where space is very tight (a narrow space between two houses, for example); over time you can limb up the lower branches so that they can clear a low fence, or prune them to keep them tight.

But truthfully? I prefer situations where you can give them some breathing room, even when using them for screening. Here’s a perfect example, where local landscape architect Guy Williams has used matching pairs to great effect on one side of a somewhat formally designed back yard, both to screen the house next door but also to set off the space with grace.

Carpinus betulus

Four European hornbeam trees act as a screen but also as a focal point in this garden.

So the next time you’re contemplating how to screen a view – or just add some beauty to your garden – give some thought to a hornbeam. You won’t regret it.

Garden Shoots will take a brief holiday break over the Christmas weekend. See you in the New Year!

Longwood, Take Two

November 22, 2013

As readers of my last post know, I had a small mishap when I visited Longwood Gardens in early October – my Nikon D600 and its 16-35mm f/4 lens refused to part company easily after about an hour into my trip. So for the remaining three hours I used my iPhone 5 with various apps (primarily Camera+ and Pro HDR) to take photos. You can see those here.

Then I headed home – only to have a much bigger mishap in the form of my car’s fuel pump giving out. Long story short, I ended up renting a car about thirty minutes south of Longwood while the car sat in a garage awaiting for a new Subaru fuel pump to arrive and be installed.

So the next Tuesday, I returned to Kennett Square before picking up the car and took along my D300 because the D600 and lens had been shipped off to Nikon for de-coupling.  I really missed the full-frame aspect, but the D300 is a trooper and I came back with some good shots. Here’s a sampling of them, and yes, I will take a DSLR over my iPhone any day when I’m after seriously good images. . .

Glowing Embers – A Winning Japanese Maple for Sun

May 3, 2013

As many readers know, a couple of years ago I had to take down a gorgeous crabapple tree in my front yard that was failing. And because I also had lost a 90-foot beech tree shortly before, on the other side of the front yard, the site had turned from shade to fiercely sunny.

In considering what to plant to replace the crabapple, I did some research and settled on a Japanese maple called ‘Glowing Embers.’  Usually you don’t plant Japanese maples in full sun – they prefer dappled shade. But this one is different – it takes full sun and high heat, and is a vigorous grower to boot. Developed by Dr. Michael Dirr, the dean of woody plants, ‘Glowing Embers’ received the Georgia Gold Medal Winner award in 2005. Ultimately it will reach 20-25′ high, a bit smaller than my crabapple was, but it will help provide shade to the eastern side of the house.

I planted it in November 2011, when all I could see to appreciate was its bark, which in winter has kind of a reddish cast to the branches, something I haven’t read about in online descriptions.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

Taken with my iPhone, this image of the tree with its branches tied up on its way to the planting hole shows a reddish tint to the bark.

I’ve even had one designer colleague ask me if this was a ‘Sango Kaku’ maple, which are noted for their red branches. It’s not that intense, but it’s pretty impressive.

I loved the shape of my tree in winter, and took this image of it during a light snowfall.

‘Glowing Embers’ in snow.

In spring and summer, this tree has lovely light green leaves (a choice I favored because my house is red brick and I wanted it to stand out against that background).

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers"

A close up of the leaves as the little “whirlybirds” (oops, technically that’s “samaras” to us plant geeks ) start to appear. (iPhone 5 photo)

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

Acer palmatum ‘Glowing Embers’  last spring. I gave it extra water during the summer.

But it was in the fall that I fully appreciated ‘Glowing Embers’. The leaves can turn a variety of shades on the same tree, which explains how it got its name. And from tree to tree, it can take on a different aspect. Here are two photos, one from my specimen and another from a ‘Glowing Embers’ planted in a client’s garden.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

A close-up of the leaves on my tree as they started to turn.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers'

A ‘Glowing Embers’ planted in a landscape client’s garden, showing a slightly different range of colors on the leaves in autumn. Some of the reddish leaves had a purple tone to them.

What will the future bring? I’ll close with an image provided courtesy of the Georgia Botanical Gardens, of a mature ‘Glowing Embers’ in the fall at its Callaway Building.

Acer palmatum 'Glowing Embers,' Georgia Gold Medal Winner 2005

© Contributors to
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, 2007

I have no idea how long mine will take to get this large, but I hope it will be while I still call Thornapple Street my home.

An Artist Down the Road

April 19, 2013

In early March, the day of our “kick-off” meeting of all the crews and staff at Landscape Projects’ Poolesville, MD location, the other designers and I took a small road trip. Two miles away from our company’s physical plant, in Beallsville, sits Alden Farms, a local annuals-and-perennials garden center that happens to be owned by an accomplished sculptor.

David Therriault, the sculptor/gardener/entrepreneur in question, has been working with various kinds of “found” stone and metal for a number of years. What I loved about his work was its variety and how he combines different materials into a beautiful, cohesive work of art. Some of them are stand-alone sculptures of different sizes; some are water features. I saw at least a dozen I could envision incorporating into a garden.

If you’d like to contact David about his work, he can be reached via the Alden Farms website. If you live in the Montgomery County area, it’s worth a trip. But don’t be surprised if some of these works are gone when you visit, because I’m planning to take a client there soon, and she has a very large garden.

The Hinoki Falsecypress – Gold for the Garden

April 6, 2013

Recently, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society announced its most recent Gold Medal Awards for garden plants. I was excited to see that my own excellent taste in plants had been validated by the inclusion of Chaemacyparis obtusa ‘Nana’, or dwarf Hinoki falsecypress.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

My very own dwarf Hinoki falsecypress, about 12 years (I think) after planting. It’s in a sunny but occasionally windswept spot on the eastern side of my yard. (iPhone 5 photo, taken with Camera+ and captioned in Over app).

I fell in love with this shrub/tree during my education as a landscape designer. I love(d) its evergreen presence, the somewhat loose (but not out of control) way its branches and needles grew in a whorl-like manner, and the idea that you could include it in a mixed border or small garden and its slow-growing nature meant it wouldn’t eat the yard/house.

As both a gardener and photographer, I’ve found other aspects of it to admire.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

A close-up of the foliage. This image (taken at the National Zoo) wound up being used as the front page of our landscape company’s brochure.

The bark exfoliates if the plant has been mislabeled (as sometimes happens in nurseries) and it’s not a ‘Nana’ after all. See this example from Filoli.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The bark of a non-‘Nana’ Hinoki falsecypress on the grounds of Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California.

And last but not least, it produces these adorable little mini-cones.

Hinoki falsecypress, Gold Medal plants, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Look closely or you might miss the cones!

The PHS chose this plant because, as my friend and colleague Jane Berger wrote in her blog post announcing the awards, “it is sorely under-used compared to dwarf Alberta spruce”, which is planted in so many housing developments.” (Don’t get me started on Alberta spruces . . .). The wood is rot-resistant and in Japan has been used for building temples, shrines, palaces, Noh theatres, and goodness knows what else. But if you  aren’t in the market for hardwood to build with, plant it for its beauty. It’s hardy from Zones 5-7, and possibly into Zone 8A.

An ‘Endemic Creation’ in El Cerrito

March 8, 2013

I enjoy visiting gardens that unsettle my designer’s sensibilities. One of my sons once told me that he thinks of me as a photographer who likes taking images of “beautiful things” (rather than edgy street scenes, etc.) and I guess that’s what my mindset is when I design – somewhat traditional gardens with as much beauty in the design concept as I can pull together. So when we visited a garden on the APLD Conference Tour described in our materials as an “East Bay hillside in a modern vein,” I was delighted that our schedule let us spend some time there so I could take it all in.

Created by Brian Swope, who describes himself as a ‘contrarian designer,’ the back yard garden welcomed us first.

APLD, Brian Swope, El Cerrito garden

The view from this part of the garden includes a vantage point that takes in the neighbors’ house – which belongs to the garden owners’ parents.

Where to start? The sloping site has been brilliantly handled; the gravel “trail” that is visible just beyond the  perforated steel obelisk ( which is lit at night) climbs a hill that is modeled after trails in Marin County, complete with switchbacks.

APLD, Brian Swope, sculpture in the garden, Bay Area gardens

‘Siskyou Blue’ fescue grasses soften the planting area at the foot of the perforated steel obelisk.

The plantings in the garden are predominantly native species, including small buckeye saplings that cast shadows at night against panels set above a retaining wall behind the dining patio.

Brian Swope, APLD, Bay Area Gardens

Buckeye saplings edge the patio area at the top of the steps.

Poured concrete walls, as well as the edging for the planting beds shown above, have been textured with Trex – something that I never would have thought of doing in a million years.

Trex, APLD, Brian Swope, Bay Area gardens

Bed edging, created from concrete forms textured with Trex.

Closer to the house, in a shady site, planting combinations were softer.

Brian Swope, APLD, Bay Area gardens

I loved this combination of ferns, ginger, clover and other shade plants at the edge of the back of the house.

The front yard, installed in a second phase of work, is defined by a previously existing bamboo hedge. Swope chose other large forms – substantial rocks, Corten-steel edging, and gravel – to respond to the bamboo as counterpoints. (For a look at some other Corten steel projects for the garden, click here.)
El Cerrito Garden-8

A variety of shapes and textures, including 'Siskiyou Blue' fescue grass again, define the narrow front garden.

A variety of shapes and textures, including ‘Siskiyou Blue’ fescue grass again, define the narrow front garden.

In a harsh and challenging setting (with a fabulous view of the Bay), Swope and his client have created an inviting, modernist landscape. We felt privileged to visit it – and I knew my designer’s horizons had expanded, more than a little.


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