Spending each morning watering, watering to apply CPR to the garden until the precious rains return, gives time for the mind to wander. Today it wandered down a path not usually taken. Through the years it has been decided that it is better to dwell on the positive aspects of daily living, look for that silver lining, accentuate that which is good rather than dwell in the land of negativity. The blog posts are written, we hope, with that philosophy as well.
But today, with hose in hand as the sun illuminated the garden so enchantingly, giving the evergreen shrubbery a hard blast of water to dislodge and annoy the red spider mites that love to suck the life from conifers during times of drought, thoughts turned to the size of the many Chamaecyparis cultivars growing in the Fairegarden Click to read about them here-Chamaecyparis.
Standing there spraying the trio of C. pisifera ‘Boulevard’ that anchor one of the only shady spots in this garden, the size attained in eight years of growth is noted, with some puzzlement. It must be explained that the plants purchased are always the smallest size available, usually one gallon pots. That was the case with the three Boulevards. Buying such small specimens means that the mature size is of extreme importance with optimum spacing for best growth in mind. Knowing the correct identification and then doing research to obtain the height and width in addition to whatever information is given on the tag makes for proper placement decisions. We do our homework!
But. There has to be a but, doesn’t there? It seems that those size measurements are given with a caveat not discovered until recently, that being….wait for it…WITH PRUNING! What the???? Anything can be any size with pruning, she says with clenched teeth. Let us use for example the beautiful blue foliaged Boulevard. Height: eight feet. Width: two feet. Okay, being cautious if impulsive, the one gallon plants were placed three feet from the edge of the pathways so as not to have spreading branches hitting passersby in the face. The height stated sounded good for the three Japanese maple seedlings given by neighbors Mae and Mickey planted in the same bed to be able to rise above the shrubs over time with some limbing up. At present, Boulevard is topping out at twelve feet before even ten years in the ground and branches have been severed to allow free movement on the pathways. There has been some pruning and even then the shrubs are outgrowing their britches.
The importance of knowing the mature size of trees and shrubs cannot be stressed enough. Take these two Arizona Cypresses, Cupressus arizonica growing near the arbor. These are replacements for two such trees that were purchased when we lived in Texas as Christmas trees flanking either side of the fireplace with lower limbs removed for a twinkling lollipop effect during the holidays. Kept in the five gallon pots, the trees were brought as part of the Noah’s Ark of plants in the move to Tennessee and planted on either side of the steps leading up to the knot garden. When the property next door was purchased, one was moved to the center of the daylily hill for some vertical interest. The one left on the slope died. The one moved to the daylily hill soon grew upwards into the branches of the nearby multitrunk siver maple. Even with hard pruning, the cypress was growing too large and had to be cut down. Poor planning on my part resulted in the loss of a perfectly good tree due to not properly researching about size. We thought we could just keep pruning it back. But the blue foliage was missed and two more were bought a few years ago and planted to provide a privacy screen to block the house next door on the eastern side of our yard. The mature stated height is forty feet tall, width is fifteen feet. There are named cultivars that are shorter. These may or may not have names, but there should be room for the stated size. Unless that size is some sort of code that translates to *With Pruning*.
Here is a C. obtusa ‘Crippsii’ newly planted at the corner of our property next to the power pole. The given dimensions are fifteen feet high by six feet in diameter. Three feet from the pole should cover it nicely, for the first fifteen feet anyway. We have two other Crippsii and have found them to be as advertised sizewise. So no complaints about these. Yet.
Various trees and large shrubs ring our yard. We want to pretend that we are out in the country with lots of acreage instead of near the center of downtown among fifty plus year old modest homes on smallish lots. Even with our three lots, the view from windows, decks and seating areas is wished to be free of roofs, windows and gasp, people. It’s not that we have anything against our neighbors, we simply enjoy nature. And privacy. Arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’ has been used in several of these screening hedges, including along the back property line of the house next door lots that form the back wall of the veggie strip garden. Cheap, fast growing and evergreen with the perfect size of fifteen feet tall by four feet wide to not take up much floor space in the garden, these were barely two feet tall when planted in 2002. Next year the dreadful satellite dish will be invisible! The house behind us already is out of sight, out of mind. They seem to be following directions well, sizewise.
So far, this is just piddling stuff really. Now we come to the meat of the rant, the thorn in my side, the pebble in my slogger, the C. pisifera ‘Gold Mop’ hedge. Forming the front wall of the veggie bed, the lovely frost cloth covered end visible in the photo, a row of eight one gallon shrubs were planted as a lower hedge to the dark green taller arborvitae. On the front side of this row of evergreens are my prized deciduous azaleas and the Hamamelis ‘Diane’, all properly spaced to accommodate the specified size of five feet by five feet of the Gold Mops. What has happened in eight years is aggravating. The Chamaecyparis are enveloping the azaleas and blocking the pathway of the veggie bed. We won’t even talk about what it is trying to do to Diane. Pruners, loppers and saws have attacked the branches resulting in the loss of the natural cone shape on the front side. The veggie side has been hand pruned up to now and is a neat and flat golden living fence, with regular pruning. A large electric hedge trimmer has been purchased to keep it in bounds. Irony is involved since the Gold Mops replace a Japanese privet hedge that needed twice a year trimming with, you guessed it, an electric hedge trimmer. It was too much work for me, and a ladder was involved, so over time the one hundred feet of privet was cut to the ground and the roots dug up. It was an ordeal to say the least. The replacement shrubs were selected for the criteria of not needing to be trimmed. Or so we thought until they grew so large. Various nursery personnel were questioned about the size issue of the Gold Mops. That is how we came to discover the words never mentioned in the literature, *with pruning*.
While we are complaining, please direct your attention to the poor shot of the number six Gold Mop. With no forethought and sheer luck this shrub is planted in the middle of the space. It seems that Six began life as a C. pisifera, which means pea like for the cones are small, round and greenish, although for most Chamaecyparis species it denotes thread like foliage. It is hoped that the photo above illustrates that the foliage of Six has changed midstream to fern leaf, usually described as obtusa, meaning blunt tipped.
Not only has the form changed, which is odd if acceptable, but Six has aspirations to touch the sun. The Peegee hydrangea standard is six feet tall. The other Gold Mops are between eight and nine feet tall, slightly over the expected five feet and still growing. Six is right now standing at fifteen to sixteen feet and is still a strapping, growing child. We are not sure what his final measurement will be, but the saw is at the ready if things get out of hand concerning the diameter. Final, ultimate height should not be an issue, she says optimistically.
We are feeling calmer about the whole thing now. Writing about it, like speaking to a friend over the phone when we are upset has that effect sometimes. We understand that the sizes of things are based on averages, results can vary, just like in humans. Having trees and shrubs grow larger than expected can be dealt with, even if that dealing means cutting down healthy specimens. It is part of gardening. The beautiful backlit leaf of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summerwine’, a shrub that has grown larger than the tag described, brings us back to garden gladness. It gets pruned right after blooming to keep it the size we want. Not a problem, we like to prune. Within reason.
In case you were wondering about the opening shot, it was taken at Mouse Creek Nursery recently. The plant is Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’. Owner and friend Ruth kindly snapped this picture of me standing next to it for some perspective. And smiling.