Garden.True.North is about gardening in Zone 3,
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
A few weeks ago, I received a gift from a neighbor of a bonsai plant that she passed along from her brother's collection. I looked over the seven she had, and picked one that I found out later is a Ficus benjamina. Good choice because it is considered one of the best for a novice. It was like taking home a puppy – love the cute little guy -- but don’t know the first thing about how to take care of it.
Above: Ficus benjaminia that is now mine!
We once had a three-season porch that overlooked a pond and my backyard gardens. It was furnished with typical rattan porch furniture. We never used it. Why? I would guess we weren’t comfortable.
I refurnished the room with cushy sofas, chairs, and a small table for meals. Outside I added a Pagoda Dogwood and Japanese Maple (both small understory trees growing about 8-10 feet) that provided screening from our neighbors. It made all the difference and we enjoyed the room and used it frequently. Can a similar redo of a garden increase the use of an outdoor room?
Now our screened porch is a screen house set right in the middle of the gardens.
My brother Charlie on the left, my sister Linda and me on the right. We moved before my two younger brothers could be pictured by this particular shrub.
The pictures above are just two of many snapshots taken by our Mom in front of the Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia). Every time I pass one in full bloom a flood of memories race through my mind. Our Bridal Wreath was the go-to backdrop for confirmation, graduation and just plain nice-day pictures. It is helpful that this shrub blooms when these events are happening.
In looking through old family photo albums I see each generation had a favorite shrub. Lilacs and arborvitae appear to be the winners for earlier times. Before we moved to the house with the Spirea, a lilac bush figured predominately in our outdoor posed pictures.
The old-fashioned Bridal Wreath Spirea (botanical name: Spiraea prunifolia) is a non-native in the Rose family. Reliably hardy to 30 below (zone 4), it grows best in full sun but will tolerate part shade as long as it gets 4-6 hours of daily sunshine. Leave it room to grow to its mature size of 4-8 feet tall and wide and the flowers will fill its arching branches. The flowers attract butterflies and pollinators in the spring.
No need to prune this shrub, but if you must, do so right after it is done blooming so it has enough time to set flower buds for next spring. According to Melinda Myers in her Gardening in Wisconsin, removing the flower tips as the blooms fade can improve next year's bloom. Renewal pruning of this suckering shrub can be done by removing one-third of the oldest stems to the ground.
I've planted a Golden Bridalwreath Spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei 'Levgold') in my Zone 3 garden that gets about 4 hours of sunshine daily with success. It is rated a Zone 4 plant so the test will be this spring since we had 33 below temperatures this winter. I've got my fingers crossed on this one.
Do you have a favorite backdrop for your family photos? If not, maybe this is one you will consider planting.
Oh how I wish all things would be this easy! The picture above left is a fresh flower arrangement that I put together on October 1 just before our first frost. The one on the right is what I have on my kitchen island today. What do they have in common?
Aralia cordata 'Sun King', common name is Golden Japanese Spikenard, is bright chartreuse, stands about 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide plant. It brightens up any area it might be in, one could say it dominates, or putting it nicer it is a focal plant.
I added this to the front of my vegetable garden for all these reasons. My vegetables are fenced in and are the first things visitors see when entering our property. This showy plant keeps the area from looking too utilitarian. It is placed in a challenging area, since it is right next to a black-topped drive in a 3 foot by 10-foot bed. I needed a plant that would die completely back in the winter so it does not interfere with snow piles from the drive.
It produces clusters of star-shaped flowers in late summer that add to late flower bouquets. It does well for me in an area that gets about 6 hours of sun and is advertised as doing well in full sun to full shade. In other words, it is not picky except that it does not do well if allowed to dry out. I also have had no trouble with deer nibbling on this one.
The University of Arkansas Extension named it the plant of the week in September 2015, a link to their write-up is shown below. The University of Tennessee named it the plant of the month in May 2016. Since its introduction in 2000, it has received a lot of positive press.
The downside of this plant is that it suckers, although I have not had a problem with that yet after two years. The chartreuse color may overwhelm a garden of native plants; this would seem out-of-place. It is non-native, the common name gives you a clue on that, although there are native Spikenards.
This plant has does its job for the place I had to fill. I enjoy its brightness and low maintenance requirements. In the right place, I can recommend this as a plant to try.
For more information:
University of Arkansas Extension
Missouri Botanical Garden
University of Tennessee
The Elderberry bushes are in full bloom and there is a buzz about them. I originally planted the shrubs to harvest the berries that are reported to be an excellent immune booster to prevent colds and flu. I have discovered that the flowers are pollinator attractors, both flowers and berries look great in bouquets (they can also be used to make a liqueur or wine) and the berries provide food for people and birds. As a result of all the additional benefits of elderberries, it turns out that I have made only one batch of elderberry syrup.
I have been taking pictures of my gardens all season long so I can reference them in the off-season. My camera is an essential garden tool to record successes and failures, to document what needs to be done next year, and to steal ideas from other gardeners.
Activities for September
Oaks are one of our more stately native trees. It's botanical name is Quercus.
Cultures that have come in contact with oaks have created many myths. Here is just a sampling:
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