Is Your Pine Loosing Needles?

It worries me to see this:

Pinus strobus 'Pendula'

Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’

Those are dead needles, and on an “evergreen”, one thinks “dying tree”.

But no need to worry after all. Even evergreens lose “expired” needles or leaves. Everything that’s living and growing will eventually discard dead cells, and that’s what’s happening here. The “joint” where the needle or leaf meets the branch develops what’s called the “abscision layer”, where cell activity and enzymes create a weakness, hence leaf- or needle-drop.

Pinus strobus 'Pendula'

Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’

You can see that the dead needles are all higher up the branch, while the branch tips are all still green. This is a good thing!

Different species will keep their needles for more or fewer years–the Pinus strobus (White PIne) above only keeps its needles for a year, so there’s constant change happening. I’ll look forward to watching its development.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Fernspray Gold'

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Fernspray Gold’

This Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Fernspray Gold’ is losing three- or four-year-old foliage. Meanwhile, the green current growth will be turning a wonderful coppery colour pretty soon (hence the name ‘Fernspray Gold‘), before turning green again next late spring.

Your broadleaf evergreens will be doing the same (leaf drop), but may not look so dramatic.

Rhodo

Rhodo

This rhodo is losing three-year-old leaves. You can see that the leaves at the top of the picture are current year’s leaves, then follow the stems down to find last year’s leaves, and finally the third year leaves that are yellowing. But you can see it’s a very healthy specimen–probably the happiest rhodo in the garden.

So as long as the foliage that’s falling isn’t this year’s foliage, you can probably not fret too much about it. If you want to find out how many years your own tree/shrub holds its leaves, U of Nebraska has a page you might find useful. For a little more in-depth reading, inthegarden offers this article.

Garden Design–A Primer

So you’ve got this space, and you’d love to turn it into a sanctuary far from the madding crowd. A few keys to keep in mind when planning or renovating your garden are rest and roam: allow the eye to rest (i.e., not TOO busy, or pauses in the chaos), and provide a route for the eye to roam.

1. Connect the various parts of the garden through some kind of logical access-way: paths, gates, arbours, grassy openings. This gives a sense of continuity even though the areas may have very different functions.

2. Provide access to all parts of the garden. If you can’t easily walk there, you’re not seeing what’s there, you’re not checking out the health of the plants, and no one else will see it if you’re not seeing it.

repurposed pavers leading around the back of the shade garden so I can access it.

Repurposed pavers leading around the back of the shade garden so I can access it. Clever how the diamonds of the trellis above cast a matching shadow on the diamonds of the pavers below. I carefully planned it that way…:-)

3. Provide drifts of colour, not a smorgasbord of colour spots. Repeat colours or specific plants in various spots around the garden.

Rudbeckia fulgida

Rudbeckia fulgida with Hemerocallis fulva in the background. Both multiply and/or self seed, both very civil in their habits!

4. Include evergreens–shrubs such as broadleaf evergreens and conifers, and evergreen perennials.

Evergreen Stipa tenuissima complements growing bulbs

Evergreen Stipa tenuissima complements growing bulbs

5. Don’t try to FILL the spaces with COLOUR. Green is very restful, both for the soul and for the eye.

Bed of lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria magus).

Bed of lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria magus) in early morning.

6. Balance the size of the space with the size of the plantings. A monkey puzzle tree will not suit a 100 s.f. front yard. Know the mature size of your plants. (Remember, Google is your friend.)

7. Balance the “weight” of items, whether plantings or hardscapings, around a fixed point. For example, something tall and narrow on one side of the entrance might be balanced by something low and long on the other. Thanks to Sue from Not Another Gardening Blog for this useful illustration of asymmetrical balance:

Notice the asymmetrical UNbalance on the left, and the difference on the right, where the "weight" of the three shrubs in the left corner feels similar to the weight of the tree in the right corner.

Notice the asymmetrical UNbalance on the left, and the difference on the right, where the “weight” of the three shrubs in the left corner feels similar to the weight of the tree in the right corner.

8. Use vertical space: arbours with vines, artwork that is taller than the surrounding plantings, hanging baskets and window boxes.

Some of these ideas can be implemented right away, others may take a little more time. But none are difficult. Do you have areas in your garden that can be changed right away? Would you like to try something new to gain a little more structure in your garden? Post comments and/or questions, and I’ll try to answer or find you an answer.

You can check out the RLGS Facebook page where there are sometimes additional posts. You can also follow me there.