Tag Archives: redtwig dogwood

Tour of the garden – 7/20/17

And on the very hot day, he sort of rested

This is where I’ve spent a lot of my time the past week.

Temps have been in the 90’s here in Jersey and it’s been wicked humid. That doesn’t mean I haven’t busted my hump out in the garden though. I’ve been weeding like a mo fo and just before I’m ready to pass out, I head to this rocker in the shade, drink gallons of water and rest up until I’m ready to get back out there again.

Call me crazy, but I love this weather. It’s uncomfortable and the bugs are all up in my business, but this is what separates the hardcore gardeners from the casual gardeners. I love the sweat and the head rushes and the feeling of toughing out; not to mention the post-weeding cold shower avec a tasty cold beverage.

 

Plant recommendation for the week

Molinia ‘Cordoba’ or Moor Grass

It didn’t take long for this ornamental grass to get established as its only been in my garden for 3 years now and it started off as a tiny little plug.

While the grass leaves are only about 2 feet in height, it’s pushing 6′ – 7′ in height while in bloom.

I’m still tinkering with how to best use it in terms of design. I did follow a suggestion of planting it in front of a dark background as seen in the photo above where it is situated in front of a Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ shrub.

From another angle though, you can see how it can easily be lost in the garden shuffle.More to come as I joyously tinker and as the fall color emerges in a few weeks.

 

Filling in nicely

New garden bed and path back in 2010.

And current day where I am now running out of room for a path.

A good problem to have.

 

Never give up

I tried desperately to grow a Red Twig Dogwood in at least 5 different locations in my garden dating back a decade or more. The deer always got it or it simply never thrived.

I tried one in a container and it did OK but I feared it dying over the winter in that container so I knew I had to transplant it elsewhere.

On a whim, I planted it along the foundation of the house and the rest is history. She’s about 5′ to 6′ tall right now and that is after I cut it to the ground in March.

The deer don’t frequent this area that often but they will chew on some of the plants here sporadically.

True story: There is a large gap between the two sidewalk stones right in front of the dogwood and I’ve convinced myself that it messes with the footing of the deer so I haven’t adjusted it for years running now. Crazy? Maybe.

 

Lady in Red, isn’t dancing with me

If you look carefully at the pic below, you can see one flower on this ‘Lady in Red’ hydrangea.

The sad thing is that the one bloom is still more than the last two years combined. In fact, this hydrangea has never bloomed well.

But it takes up space, comes back every year and has decent fall color.

Not significantly bad enough to justify eradication.

Yet.

 

Seed heads are good

You’ve heard me say it a million times (including in my new book). Keep those spent flowers on Baptisia because they add such an interesting element from summer through winter. Here’s how they look right now in the middle of July.

 

 

It’s better to be lucky than good

When these Veronica bloom, they are lit up by the emerging bright green grass (Pennisetum) in the background. I would love to say that I planned it this way but it was truly dumb luck.

 

What do you think?

The combination of Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and Obedient Plant is an example of another not-planned-combo that has recently emerged in the garden.

I have no clue if I like the mix or not. So I need your input in order to decide how to proceed. Thank you.

 

If you plant it, they will come

That would be Swamp Milkweed.

 

 

Big hopes for the future

I posted this photo of a Purple Prairie Clover on Instagram recently. Very cool IMHO.

In truth, it’s the only one I have on the plant so it only looks great shot in macro. But if this native perennial blooms heavily next year, I am going to be madly in love. Those flowers are killer.

 

Shameless cross-promotion, not the least bit garden related

I recently wrote two new articles for Medium and I would love for you to head over there and check them out:

The Hardest I’ve Ever Laughed

Raising a Child That Is Nothing Like You

Thank you in advance.

 

 

Task oriented

Task 1 : Cut down the Redtwig Dogwood

As hard as it is to say goodbye to those killer red stems, it’s time to move on now that spring has arrived.

I cut the stems of this shrub to the ground each spring and without fail, it grows back rapidly through spring and summer. This keeps the shrub’s size within bounds since I have it in a tight spot along the foundation of the front of my house.

This is what it typically looks like by summer.

The severe pruning also aids in providing the reddest of stems that upcoming fall/winter.

That task was completed today.

 

Task #2: Prune out the oldest stems on the Ninebark

This is another pruning task I conquer each spring. I cut roughly 2/3 of the old stems on this Ninebark ‘Diablo’ to the ground with the goal of limiting the ultimate size of this rapidly growing shrub.

You can easily identify the older branches by their lighter color and heavier peeling bark.

Another task completed today.

BEFORE

AFTER

Again, I do this so this Ninebark doesn’t outgrow the somewhat limited space I’ve provided for it along my foundation. By pruning it in this manner, it doesn’t get too monstrous and looks like this by the time it stops growing in summer.

 

Task #3: Clean up the dead foliage around the perennials

A lot of hand pruning and pulling but it’s all worth it after seeing all of that delicious green new growth.

 

Task #4: Cut down the ornamental grasses

For today, I stuck with the grasses that could easily be handled by hand pruners. That consisted mostly of Karl Foerster grasses.

 

Task #5: Observe

Observe the bulbs developing in a see of Bee Balm rosettes.

Observe the Golden Ragwort quickly throwing out growth and hopefully flowers in the next few weeks.

 

Grasses, transitions and a new destroyer of plants

A tour around my garden:

Ornamental grasses are the dominant feature right now as they round into their peak form. So why don’t we start there.

I’m sure you are well aware of my affinity for Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ by now but if not, here is some visible propaganda.

rots

 

rots 2

 

More Panicum love here as well.

driveway bed

 

Not only do the grasses put a smile on my face but they also serve a very tangible purpose. Here they are protecting the tomatoes from the deer and doing a bang up job I must say.

tomatoes grasses

 

‘Karl Foerster’, kicking ass in John’s garden since ’07.

karl

 

A recent addition to the grass collection, Pennisetum ‘Burgundy Bunny’ has phenomenal color right now. I am going to liberally add these wherever I can find the space for them. Love.

burgundy bunny 2

 

Soghastrum (Indian Grass) has announced its presence in a big way of late but I’ll hold off on photos until they are just right. By just right, I mean when all of the blooms have arrived. For now, here is a taste of one of those blooms. Love.

indian grass bloom

 

Speaking of blooms on the grasses. Here is one of the Andropogon (Big Bluestem) ‘Red October’ blooms. I now get why this grass is often referred to as Turkey Foot.

andropogon flower

 

Yes, there are plants other than ornamental grasses that tickle my fancy right now and some of these newly emerged this week. Like seen here with the first blooms of Chelone lyonii. This plant truly loves my often waterlogged soil and for that I am indebted for life.

chelone

 

This Boltonia bloom could be heard yelling “first” this morning.

boltonia

 

Sedum ‘Matrona’ is playing nicely with Veronica ‘Royal Candles’ and my little hide-it-from-the-deer-game is still going strong.

sedum veronica

 

Transition of seasons. It is coming.

Look at what we have here. The seedheads of Baptisia are slowly opening and that makes me think winter is around the corner and that makes me cold which in turn makes me both mad and sad.

baptisia seedhead

 

Speaking of a transitional period, I just noticed this week that the stems on the Redtwig Dogwood are well, red and that also is freaking me out a bit. I love the red stems in winter and it is welcome winter interest, but for god’s sake, not yet.

redtwig

 

This Rhamnus (Buckthorn) ‘Fine Line’ was inundated with Japanese beetles just a few weeks ago and looked nasty. Now I know how resilient and tough she is and that will be noted on the trusty plant spreadsheet.

rhamnus

 

This spring I ordered a massive quantity of small plugs of Packer Aurea (Golden Ragwort) from Izel Native Plants and while they all initially struggled with the heat and the humidity, they have all bounced back like a champ. I love the foliage. And I’m banking on mass blooms in early spring next year and post bloom, I plan on it being the plant to hide the ugly legs of others like Bee Balm and Sneezeweed.

ragwort

 

I cannot for the life of me successfully grow Cimicifuga (Bugbane). It is official now. I’ve tried in full shade, mostly shade, partial shade and full sun. I’ve left alone for years and remained patient with no success. I’ve kept them consistently moist and no dice. It may be time to move on.

cimici 3

 

cimici 2

 

cimici

 

One last one before I go. I spotted this bloom of Hydrangea ‘Little Lime’ just laying in my front lawn this morning and thought it curious since it wasn’t actually eaten by the deer.

hydrangea

Upon closer inspection, there were Bee Balm plants knocked to the ground near it as well.

Upon closer inspection this was not the act of deer or any other animal.

Upon closer inspection, a certain 14 year old boy seemed awfully nervous around me this morning.

Upon closer inspection, said 14 y/o boy likes to hit a baseball across the front lawn and this area happens to be right in the way.

QOTD: How should I appropriately handle this situation?

Spring pruning time

This moment could not have come soon enough. With some free time early this morning coupled with the fact that it was 60 degrees here in New Jersey, it was a no-brainer to get outdoors and cross some spring gardening tasks off of the list, specifically, some spring pruning.

For today, it was the pruning of two of the largest shrubs in my garden and two shrubs that I pruned to the ground (with success) last spring: Redtwig Dogwood and Dappled Willow (Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’).

Here is the original post on the spring pruning of the redtwig dogwood:
pruning redtwig dogwood

And the original post on the spring pruning of the dappled willow:
pruning Salix

And here is an update I posted on the progress of both shrubs last June:
pruning updates in June

And to further update you on the results of the severe spring pruning, here is a photo of the redtwig dogwood prior to it being pruned this morning:

redtwig winter

Even after being cut to the ground last March, this deciduous shrub ended up growing to about 5-6′ feet tall and 3-4′ wide. And the red stem color was killer all fall/winter.

late fall garden 2

I heard more compliments and more “what is this shrub” comments from visitors this winter than ever before. In other words, “success”.

The Dappled Willow went bananas after it was also pruned to the ground last March. Check these pics out.

In June.

salix

And in September.

salix

Totally out of control. This year I need to do a better job of cutting this back a few times throughout the year to keep it in bounds.

Back to this morning.

The redtwig dogwood was up first.

spring pruning

As much as it pained me to see it go, it is necessary for me to keep it at a size that doesn’t outgrow its location. I’ve tried other redtwig dogwood shrubs in other parts of my garden, and the deer have destroyed it every time. In this location along the front foundation of my home, it has escaped them. The only issues are that it is a tighter fit and not full sun. But three years in, we are still good to go.

By the way, I make it a point to save the cut stems for indoor decorating because you know, I’m all about the interior decorating.

redtwig branches

Next up was the Salix.

spring pruning

A little bit tougher to cut back with the thicker stems.

spring pruning

But if you have nice and sharp loppers like I do and if you are as brutally strong as I am, you should be fine.

salix branches

This was the second year in a row that a bird nested in this shrub during the winter and I made sure all was clear before proceeding this morning. No birds were injured as part of this project.

bird egg salix

With nothing but warm weather on the horizon, expect to see more spring chore completion over the next few days.

Pruning updates

This spring (end of March) I pruned my Redtwig Dogwood just about to the ground.

pruning redtwig dogwood 3

And here is how it looks as of today, June 10th.

redtwig dogwood

It took a while to get going in April and early May but man has it taken off since. And it couldn’t look more fresh and healthy. I’m even convinced the leaves are much larger than they have ever been.

redtwig dogwood 2

So to date, all is good. The next test will be in the Fall/Winter as we analyze the redness of the stems.

Next up is the Salix (Dappled Willow). This deciduous shrub was also cut back severely in March.

pruning salix 6

And holy crap Batman has this savage shrub recovered quickly.

salix

We’re talking about 6 feet high and wide.

The coloration early on was phenomenal.

salix

And then settled in at about the same color as it was at this time last year.

What I now know for sure, is that it will require a yearly pruning in early spring in order to not outgrow its current location.

Such is the life of an avid gardener.

Pruning the Redtwig Dogwood

It may be snowing here in New Jersey as I write this, but it didn’t stop me from heading outdoors and completing another gardening task today. Today was all about pruning the Redtwig Dogwood ‘Arctic Fire’.

My lone Redtwig Dogwood is unfortunately, in a location where I can’t let it grow as large as it desires. ‘Arctic Fire’ maxes out at about 5′ x 4′ (don’t believe what a lot of other sites will tell you). I had no other choice but to plant it in a bed along the front of my home where I’ve managed to shield it from the deer for years now. Anywhere else in the yard and it would be toast.

Because of that, I potentially have to prune it for size control for the first time this spring.

Here she is last summer just about outgrowing its spot.
redtwig dogwood

And last Fall after shedding its leaves.
after11

And as of this morning.
pruning redtwig dogwood

If size wasn’t an issue, I don’t think pruning the Redtwig Dogwood would even be a need at this point. As you can see below, the stems are all still wonderfully fire truck red.
pruning redtwig dogwood 4

So let’s now unveil the final decision via video. How will he be pruning the Redtwig Dogwood?

There we have it. Time to chop it down to the ground.

And just like that …
pruning redtwig dogwood 2

Yes, another big hole in the garden but if we want to experiment and learn, this is a necessity.
pruning redtwig dogwood 3

So another pruned shrub to keep a close eye on this spring/summer. Fun stuff.

And by the way, I used my new favorite pruners for pruning the Redtwig Dogwood and for pruning the Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’. And that would be the Corona Anvil Pruner.
corona pruners

Nothing has ever worked or felt better in the hand. A serious endorsement for this one.

Have a great weekend.

Why I post so often

I have this friend (dude knows who he is) who on more than one a hundred occasions has asked me “How can you possibly take any more pictures of your garden? Seriously, you have like hundreds of posts in only four years, haven’t you said/photographed it all?”

First off “friend”, and I use the term loosely, I have actually posted 868 times since February of 2010. And while some of the posts are of questionable mind, most are simply an observation of what is going on in my garden at that time. I introduce new plants to my garden each season/year, plants get more robust with age, take on a completely different look and feel when relocated within the garden, change dramatically through the seasons and often times die. And many times it is a combination of all of these things. That is why I can take hundreds of photographs in one session.

Here are some examples just from today.

This is my first witness to a Fothergilla blooming in my own garden as I just planted it last Fall:

I dig the bottlebrush like flowers and are even cooler up close:

I get all jonesed up seeing my Redtwig Dogwood leafing out, knowing we are transitioning from early to mid spring:

 

Before I know it, it will fill out completely and take its understated turn in the landscape:

The Amsonia are finally emerging from the ground and I frickin love how they look when doing so:

The next step is seeing the first buds forming:

Soon following will be a cacophony of buds:

Then the first bloom:

And finally full bloomage:

All of the foliage on the Astilbes have this cool red/brown/green/rust combo right now and it is fantastic:

Eventually it will settle in all green with hints of red stems:

Then the first buds appear:

And then boom, we’ve got serious blooms:

 

The photos tell the story and that alone, friend, should give you enough evidence as to why I am now easily completing my 869th post.

Red Twig dogwood ‘Arctic Fire’

Winter interest.

Oh that elusive winter interest.

It is in the single digits here today so winter is clearly front of mind.

With four long months of fall/winter here in the NJ, and as good as the browns and greens may look, anything that can lend a unique color to the landscape is something worth investing in. And after four years of “investing” in a redtwig dogwood (‘Arctic Fire’ to be exact), I am proud to announce that I have successfully kept one alive and thriving, browsing deer be damned.

More details on ‘Arctic Fire’ (Cornus stolonifera):
*Typical size is 4′ x 4′
*Survives in zones 3-7
*Blooms in May-June (though I have yet to witness, no biggie)
*Works in full to partial sun
*Tolerant of most soils, including my almost boggy conditions

Here she is current state:

 

And from a few weeks ago:

Just about bare, and ready to carry me through the winter with her glistening red stems.
While this shrub puts on its best show during the winter, it looks “nice” in spring/summer with its clean foliage, reddish stems and leaf shape:
Of course it took me years to get to this point. I have had it chewed down to the ground many, many times and just about had given up on it. But then I took a chance and placed it in a partial shade spot hoping the deer would be dumb enough to miss it.

I am proud to announce the deer were indeed dumb and have not touched it since. Here are some of the old pics as the dogwood struggled to find its footing:

As dumb and counterproductive as it sounds, I plan on pruning this shrub back severely in spring to maintain that bright red stem color and will be sure to track its success/failure. Until then, bank on way too many photos of the stems covered in snow.
John