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Archive for the ‘Trees’ Category

Someone was concerned because many plants appear to be dead or dying out in our garden terraces.  So, I put on my “woolies” and ventured out to check all three levels.

 

What I found there were three levels of gardens suffering from winter!  I found nothing unusual. I found that most gardeners had done with their gardens, what they needed to do.  They had cut back perennials that needed cutting back.  The hardy perennials that had been left, were in differing states of life.   Some of them looked fabulous!  Some looked a bit haggard (like me on a cold, windy day).  And some looked a little surprised that their moderate Seattle had dealt them a surprising hand with freezing temperatures over a few weeks.

Seattle doesn’t often suffer from such cold for so long.  BUT, right now that is what’s happening.  If our tender plants were not bundled up (like we have done with ourselves when we’ve ventured out) before this hard frost hit, they are suffering a bit.  But, worry not.  Nature has planned for this.  Notice, even the plants caught in their own little pond, are doing quite well!

The plants that are perennials are doing just fine.  It could be that their tops have died back…but that’s OK.  That’s what they do!  They will come back robustly in the spring.

The shrubs and trees (be they large or little) that are deciduous (losing their leaves in the winter) have lost their leaves, making them look a bit naked.  The other trees and shrubs look wonderful.  Their leaves and budding tips are just waiting to burst forth on the first warm day.

The annuals, or non-hardy plants, large and small, have succumbed to Father Winters cold blasts…as they are expected to do.  They do NOT look good.  They are the ones that should find their way into the compost!

The final word on all of this is not to worry.  It’s too late to do anything anyway.  Some of the gardeners have either put, or left, fallen leaves on their garden beds.  That is a wonderful technique of mulching (snugging up the plants).  Nature takes care of it’s own.  When a cover is needed…there are the fallen leaves!

img_5956Many gardeners also cover their plants with burlap when a hard frost is expected, but nature hasn’t planned anything like that, so it’s nice, but not necessary.  That is a more prevalent technique in areas with snow and wind, to protect a plant against losing too much moisture, and even protecting branches from heavy snow loads.

All in all, I think the gardens look great.  Don’t worry!  All will be well in the spring.  And if you’ve lost something, consider it an opportunity to plant something new and different!

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What is a tree anyway?

First, it is a plant that has a woody stem.  Second, it lives for a long time…maybe or usually longer than humans!  Here is a wonderful link to Utah State University Forestry Extension Service.  It gives a more complete explanation.  However, I’ll give you the abbreviated version here.

On the outside of the woody stem is the bark, with which we are all familiar.  screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-11-54-28-amRight under the bark is the cambium, which in it’s “process” forms the bark and the wood within.  We also know it as the wood “ring”, which forms each year, telling us the age of the tree.  A new ring for every year!

Next comes the phloem (also called “sapwood”) which moves the sugars, water, minerals, and other necessary ingredients for the life of the tree, up and down between leaves and roots.  It eventually becomes part of the outer bark, while new growth takes it’s place.  That phloem (sapwood) is what allows us to tap trees for things like maple syrup!    After awhile the interior wood dies and forms the “heartwood”.  Here is a sketch explaining all of that from the Utah State page.

But, wait!  Don’t shrubs have some of these same characteristics?  Yes, they do, but usually a tree is defined as having one central, large (3 inches +), stem.  A shrub usually has quite a number of stems.

Then there are woody vines, that cannot hold themselves erect.  They usually hold onto something by way of tendrils or by twining.  Sometimes they just grow along the ground.

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In a previous posting, I had mentioned that when shopping for plants, a Big Box store might not have the “vernacular” of the gardener down pat.

I am going to assume that you all know that a “Big Box” store is one that buys and sells most products in bulk or “Big Boxes”.  Places like Walmart, Samscreen-shot-2016-10-14-at-10-24-47-am‘s, Costco, etc. qualify as Big Box stores.

They almost always have a huge garden center, with tons of plants for sale.  But, like the other sections of the store, the help you get is not always the best.  Looking for a particular kind of screw?  You’re on your own!  Looking for a variety of hosta? Again, you’re on your own!

If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you might do alright.  BUT, if you’re looking for help with choices…you’re in the wrong place.  On rare occasions you might find a competent gardener on the staff, but that IS a rarity.   If you’re looking for colorful annuals, and lots of them, this is a fine place.  BUT, if you intend to purchase a plant that will become a valued part of your garden and landscape, I’d sure go to a local nursery.

When Big Box stores purchase the plants they will sell, we have NO idea from where they come.  The best price may be plants from Florida, or Texas.  They will not have been grown in soil and weather even remotely like ours.  What that means is that when you get the plants into our soil, here in the PNW, the plants may just revolt.  They miss home!  It’s too wet.  It’s too warm.  It’s perhaps too cold. Not enough sun.  You get the idea.

When, on the other hand, you buy locally, most of those plants have been born and bred right here, near Seattle!  (This applies to ANYWHERE you live in the country…you ALL get the same plants from a Big Box Store, no matter WHERE you live!)  Most local nurseries grow their own plant material, or buy from a local “farm”.  They know that if they buy from far away, chances are the plants will not survive.  They can’t risk that, because most of the time they guarantee their plants.

Timg_5597o me that means I would only buy perennials, shrubs and trees from a local nursery.  Annuals I don’t worry about as they only last a season anyway.  IF you are very garden, or plant savvy, you know how to judge a plants health and variety…go for the lower prices in the Big Box Store.  If, however, you’re new at this…pay the little extra, and BUY LOCAL!

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The canopy cover in Seattle now is about 23%.  What this means is that 23% of our city streets have a lovely canopy of tree branches.  Those of us, fortunate enough to fly in and out of Sea-Tac, see this every time we fly over Seattle. img_5618
Seattle’s goal, established in 2007, is to reach 30% canopy cover in 30 years. The data from the recent study is exciting because it provides critical information about recent canopy changes across the city as well as within different land uses, neighborhoods, and watersheds. This information allows the City to better plan and manage Seattle’s urban forest.” (Quote from Seattle reLeaf)

Aside from just being a pleasant presence, trees provide many benefits to our city environment.  Among those benefits are absorption of carbon dioxide; helping thwart flood water from affecting our streets and gardens; shading buildings thereby lessening the need for air conditioning; the roots help filter rain runoff, refreshing the water going into our streams and waterways; those roots also hold the soil in which they reside; and most certainly it offers relief to all of us in the form of shade!

Here at Horizon House our garden spaces have always had trees, still do.  When we had the reconstruction project that impacted our garden sites over the past year and a half, a number of our trees were removed.  There were a few reasons for that.

  • One was that the trees had actually become root-bound.  They lived in large planters, and eventually over the course of 10 plus years, their roots filled the space.  When that happens the planters can crack.  It also makes it impossible for the gardeners to dig and care for their plants.
  • Another reason was that the planters needed to be cleaned up, relined, and provided with irrigation pipes.

But now, that is all done.  We are awaiting replanting of trees in our spaces.  It is important for that to happen.  Sure, their roots will again fill those planters, but we will have benefited in the meantime.

Earlier this week, HH planned a trip for us, through “Spotlight On Seattle”. img_5605 We visited the Seattle Waterfront, and quite a few viewpoints. img_5615 img_5638img_5644 On the trip we came very close to the area where Seattle suffered a huge “clear cut“.  The folks responsible felt the view was beautiful, and the trees were interfering with their view, so they just cut down the trees!  A VERY BAD IDEA!  They have been sued by the city, as well they should.

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Seattle Times

Not only did they destroy the trees, they made the hill on which the trees lived very vulnerable to “slides” since the roots of the trees held the soil during rains.

At any rate, I hope Horizon House remembers all of this when they are choosing to replant our trees.  We need those trees.  The city wants and needs those trees.  The residents here are anxious to have the shade and gentle noises of waving leaves back.

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I did it!  I jumped for a “garden” here at Horizon House! Actually, it’s a plot that cannot be gardened in the usual sense.  It has roots from a Japanese Maple that we like a lot.  We don’t want to cut out the roots, as we’d lose the tree!  Drucilla, who had that plot, was moved to a place where she could actually dig.  Now, what to do with that useless plot???

Just cover it with mulch?  Why not place some pots there?

We had just cleaned up the three (3) decks so they could be resurfaced, which meant that all the pots sitting on those decks had to be removed.  There was ample time for folks to claim their pots.  I didn’t really want to buy new pots, when all those unclaimed pots were just sitting in the storage room.  So I picked out a few, and pressed them into service!img_5586

Betty had a pot that she was not going to be able to use.  It had some geraniums in it.  I asked if I could use it in my “new garden”.  She consented.  At first I was going to remove the geraniums, but then decided to keep them.  I would lay that container on it’s side, and put the two other pots around it.

Charlie and August helped me bimg_5590y moving heavy pots, and filling them with wonderful new soil.  I trimmed back the geraniums and am hoping they will reach for the sun and begin to grow in that direction.  They will hopefully provide some color.  I planted drought resistant plants (mostly succulents) in all three pots.  I’m hoping they will require very little care, and after they settle in, should look pretty nice!img_5593

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We’ve been thinking about this for a few months now.  We have a number of large gardening planters in the middle of our Level D deck here at Horizon House.  There have been Redbud trees, Cercis canadensis, growing in them.  eastern_redbud_in_bloom 300 jwwAt the moment, they have been literally chopped down!  This happened in the early summer, and like all good cut back trees, they are sprouting valiantly, trying to re-establish themselves.  However, they are doomed to failure!

The trees have filled their rather large containers with roots, meaning there is barely space for anything else, and the trees are running out of space.  It’s time for a “re-start”.  Also, the planters are leaking from the bottom.  This creates dangerous, slippery, green streaks all over the decks.  That is NOT a good environment for folks with walking challenges.  So, the planters will be emptied, resurfaced, refilled with soil…and NEW trees!

At this point, all the gardeners are thinking about which kind of tree might replace the Redbudzuni_flower2_thumbs.  We could of course, put more Redbuds in there.  They are really a south eastern tree…but they have certainly been good here for us as well. Another thought might be Crape Myrtles, Lagerstroemia faurei.   Here’s a picture of one of those from the Clemson University website.

There are a few of these blooming around our “campus” and in the greater Seattle area.  They need a good deal of summer heat to bloom, so some years they will be gorgeous, others not so great.

styrax-obassia-gpp-01-gppAnother small tree that has been mentioned is a Fragrant Snowbell or Styrax obassia.  Here is a picture of one of those blooming.

All three of these will do well in our climate, it’s just a matter of choice.  The Gardening Committee will be thinking about these, and maybe some others that come to our attention over the winter months.  Hopefully the most lovely of them all will come to reside on our Level D gardens!

As is usual on my blog, there are links provided for you to click so you can get lots more information.  I hope you’ll use them, and be educated!  🙂

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