Tag Archives: Stewartia

Here’s Looking at You …

2015-9-10 cornus florida flowersContributed by Allan Robinson

Near my front door, which I use multiple times every day, is an ornamental tree that I admire. I take a sense of pride in this tree, as my partner and I planted it back in ’08. The day was warm and the tree perhaps a tad too big for both of us to comfortably handle as we slid it out of the back of a borrowed dump truck, scrambling out of the way in fear of bodily harm. With just the two of us we had one shot to size the hole correctly and position the tree in it. After much deliberation and a little more digging, followed by back-filling the hole and then a little more digging, we succeeded.

Since that memorable day back in 2008 both of us have admired our ornamental tree, a tree selected and planted purely for aesthetic reasons. We selected a tree for its four seasons of interest. Such a wealth of ornamental features may not be important if your tree won’t be seen throughout the year, but in our case this tree bids us a good-day every morning and welcomes us home each evening.

As the seasons progress, so does the beauty of the tree. In the spring we admire the large white flower petals before the leaves emerge. During the summer months we have lush green leaves changing to a rich purple-maroon in autumn. The berries, which have been hidden all summer, boldly announce their arrival to the birds by brightening to red in the fall. Before winter rolls around the last task of the tree is to set its flower buds for the following spring providing winter interest. We like to hang lights on it during the holiday season. With or without lights, the tree is quite handsome throughout the winter.

2015-9-10 cornus florida fruitAlthough we chose a native dogwood (Cornus florida) for our front walk, other popular deciduous ornamental trees include Birch, Paperbark Maple, Kousa Dogwood, Crab Apple, flowering Cherry, Stewartia and Washington Hawthorne. What special tree would you like to have welcome you home each day?

The Winter Garden: What do you see out the window?

12-5-14 snow BuddahA walk through the winter garden after a fresh blanket of snow has fallen…the angled sunlight streams through, casting shadows of the bare tree and shrub branches…a feeling of stillness and peacefulness surrounds you. A favorite view from a window reveals a distilled snapshot of simplicity, elegance and calm. Preparing for these moments is an essential consideration when creating a garden.

The winter garden has a completely different feeling and spirit than other seasons. The winter light casts longer shadows and seems to create a world apart from its seasonal counterparts. Thinking of winter as part of your overall design plan will not only extend the time you can appreciate and benefit from the garden, it creates a place of joy and serenity during a time that we can often feel blue and housebound.

Winter is a great time to focus on the core structure and basic form of your garden. Try this: slightly squint your eyes and look outside at the winter gardenscape. Is there a rhythm of shapes and mass or just a lot of emptiness? Perhaps these are areas that need additional woody plants or evergreens. How well does the hardscape, structures and/or garden ornament (i.e. stone walls, boulders, art/sculpture, trellis, arbor, etc.) add visual interest and value to the garden? How does the flow of energy and patterns of movement feel in winter? Can you easily get to or view special spots in your garden? Even if you cannot sit on those beloved benches or cherished chairs due to snow cover or freezing temps, can you see them and imagine yourself there?

Winter is the garden in its most basic form, stripped of bright color and most layers. Interesting bark, berries, evergreens with a variety of textures and/or colors are some of the greatest assets to your winter garden. For bark, trees such as Stewartia, Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple) or Betula nigra (River Birch) are great options. For color in stems, shrub dogwoods such as Cornus sericea (with yellow stems in winter) or Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’ (orange-yellow and red stems) stand out beautifully against a white backdrop. For berries consider the many varieties of Viburnums, Ilex (Hollies) or Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima’ (Red Chokeberry). Ornamental grasses and seed heads left standing add a softer layer and dimension. These things may be overlooked or underappreciated during the summer when all perennials, annuals and everything in leaf takes center stage.

Put the garden catalogues aside and take a look outside now. We are always here to help you evaluate and improve your garden in all seasons.