Monkey Puzzle Trees

Last Fall I drove by this house several times on my way to a project, so had a chance to observe it fairly closely. The reason it caught my eye was because my project was also on quite a slope, and also had concrete retaining walls that I needed to beautify.thumb_IMG_1467_1024

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What’s with that gate?

At the time I thought I was going to have 3 retaining walls with two level planting spaces, not too dissimilar from this. And there was going to be quite a variety in the plantings, so as I looked at this, I cringed at the thought that my project might turn out the same.

Because, alas, my project was also going to have palm trees (Trachycarpus fortunei).thumb_IMG_1469_1024

But the construction took some hairpin turns, and we ended up with two retaining walls, one deep, very sloped planting bed. Imagine the middle of the above walls removed, and the space between sloped–that’s pretty much was “my” site is like. And I’m happy to report that it doesn’t look anything like the above, altho’ I haven’t got pictures yet because we’re still making adjustments and planting things that weren’t available in September.

But back to the orange house. I’m not going to make comments on the all the design faux pas (I’ll save that for another post) because I want to show the same site 7 months later–yesterday:

thumb_IMG_4107_1024 3I don’t know how they got away with it, but on the boulevard–ie city property– in a space of about 45′ x 5′, they’ve planted 4 Monkey Puzzle Trees (Araucaria araucana).

Thanks to the UBC Botanical Gardens forum for this picture of Araucania araucana in Vancouver

Thanks to the UBC Botanical Gardens forum for this picture of Araucania araucana in Vancouver. Click on image to be taken to the link.

At a mature size of 70′ tall and 30′ wide, and best featured as solitary specimens, this is an excellent example of “wrong plant, wrong place”.thumb_IMG_4104_1024

They must have been getting a great deal on trees, because they’ve also hidden the house and the palm trees behind a great hedge of Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald‘, fairly mature specimens that are planted a little to close together for health.

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Click on any of the pics for larger image.

Anyway, bottom line is, don’t plant 4 Araucaria araucana at 10′ intervals.

 

Wilderness Rant

I don’t remember if I’ve ranted about this in these pages, but it’s about the “wilderness” across the street. Up until last summer, the warehouse that fills the block across the street was bordered by 25 feet x 813 feet of trees and shrubs. Much of it was cotoneaster and vine maple and blackberry, but there was also forsythia, 12 pin oaks, and lot of other “wildness”. The birds loved it over there, my neighbours and I enjoyed the free blackberries, and the forsythia always told me when to prune my roses.

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This picture was taken the day I first saw the house that would soon be my own. Would have been Feb 2007.

All changed when the owners of the warehouse decided…something. First they ripped out all the shrubbery and undergrowth. No more blackberries, no more forsythia. And for some reason that defies explanation, they made the already steep bank even steeper.

I asked Backhoe Man why they were doing this, and all he knew was that they would replant. Hmm…

These little pin oaks are the only things that are left:

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May 5, 2015. (The garden is 3-4 weeks later than this year.) The small bank is actually about 10′ high, and now as much as 45 degree slope in places.

Well, until early July, when I heard chain saws revving up and went out to find someone cutting them all down. Now I’ll agree with whoever might say, ‘they’re pretty spindly and sad’, but they’d survived the great drought up to that time with no added water and all the disturbance of three months prior. What’s more, they were the only green things left. I asked Chain Saw Man what the deal was, and he said the owner wanted to paint. Ah, of course, good reason to cut down 12 trees.

And so it stayed. The blackberries started to grow back, the little cedar that was plunked up on the top of the bank (at the beginning of the video) died, of course. And they painted. The painter even asked to use my outdoor electrical outlet! He wasn’t to blame for the trees, so I let him.

And a few days ago, the piece of resistance:

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Hydroseeding! Those rock-ish looking things are actually the contents of old dead planters that for some reason got rolled down the hill and left.

I took a video of Grass Masters hydroseeding, but unfortunately managed to delete it. Never mind–you get the idea. They sprayed over everything: the ditch, the gravel path at the top, the ancient debris of discarded planters, the blackberry shoots, probably already dead since they apparently also sprayed weed killer three days before. Enough time to dissipate? or just enough time to kill all the seeds being sprayed?

We’ve had barely a sprinkling of rain in the 4 days since this, and today it looks like this:

Really not any worse. Couldn't get much worse.

Up the street. Really not any worse.

Down the street. Couldn't get much worse.

Down the street. Couldn’t get much worse.

Stay tuned, I’ll definitely keep you updated on this.

 

When Your Garden Surprises You

Yesterday we had a light sprinkling of rain, so I went out  later with my phone to see what I could see. And I was pretty surprised at what I did see. I’m always encouraging people to look at their gardens with fresh eyes, often with camera/phone in hand. And I do that myself. But when I see wonderful things, it’s always a revelation–how can the same old things look so…new?

There were so many pics I’ve collected them into collages. Click on any for an enlargement.

Aquilegia with subtle rhodo background

Aquilegia with subtle rhodo background. The pink blossom is about 1” diameter!

Clematis montana, possibly 'Rubra'? I think it looks better every year. It's climbing the neighbour's shed, as well as my plum and persimmon trees.

Clematis montana, possibly ‘Rubens’? (Hmmm, apparently I’ve left the label on a stick. That would be the white, possibly grandiflora, and not nearly as prolific as ‘Rubens’ .) I think it looks better every year. It’s climbing the neighbour’s shed, as well as my plum and persimmon trees.

Corylopsis platypetala. Later in the year the leaves reminds me of ketchup potato chips, which is a pity, because I love the tree and hate the chips

Corylopsis platypetala. Later in the year the leaves reminds me of ketchup potato chips, which is a pity, because I love the tree and hate the chips

This was the image that really sparked my observation. Keep a look out for the rain drops:

Hamamelis mollis.

Hamamelis mollis.

Now this is hardly believable! Is it really nature? The Euphorbia with the red petioles is 'Black Bird', and the one with the red stamens (?) is 'Ascot Rainbow'.

Now this is hardly believable! Is it really nature? The Euphorbia with the red petioles is ‘Black Bird’, and the one with the red petals is ‘Ascot Rainbow’.

Cryptomeria japonica 'Cristata'

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Cristata’. Speechless!

Heuchera, various cultivars that I don't know. But definitely my favourites.

Heuchera, various cultivars that I don’t know. But definitely my favourites.

Pinus strobus 'pendula'; Allium 'Purple Sensation', and Acorus calamus 'variegatus'

Pinus strobus ‘pendula’; Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, and Acorus calamus ‘variegatus’

Lilac 'Sensation' is the one with the white edging to each floret. The other is unfortunately unnamed--a runner from a much older tree.

Lilac ‘Sensation’ is the one with the white edging to each floret. The other is unfortunately unnamed–a runner from a much older tree.

My favourite combination: Adiantum venustum and Athyrium niponicum

My favourite combination: Adiantum venustum and Athyrium niponicum. Amazing magenta/burgundy ribs on the athyrium, and wiry black on the Adiantum.

Hypericum androsaemum 'Albury Purple'. Just look at the perfection of the hew growth!

Hypericum androsaemum ‘Albury Purple’.  Just look at the perfection of the new growth!

Dicentra spectabilis and polygonatum

Dicentra spectabilis and polygonatum look so pretty together, despite being so similar in habit.

Cerinthe, Erysimum, and Iberis. All of them hard to beat!

Cerinthe, Erysimum, and Iberis. All of them hard to beat.

And finally, a sea of Convallaria glowing in the morning sun:

Convallaria majalis. Does it look as fragrant in the picture as in person?

Convallaria majalis. Does it look as fragrant in the picture as in person?

 

Yes, it’s terribly aggressive, but it doesn’t really harm anything else around it, so I just keep digging holes and planting among the waves.