Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Confused crabapple August 14, 2010

Filed under: flora,oddities,trees — greenwalks @ 8:44 pm
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What the huh?

Confused crabapple

(Photo taken on August 13, 2010)

My spindly parking strip ornamental crabapple trees, which I keep threatening to remove but somehow never do, just did the strangest thing. Perhaps distracted by the recent and unusual-for-August spate of cool, wet weather, they put out a new bunch of leaves and, even odder, some more blossoms.

As far as I know, they have never done this before, and both trees are at it.

Has anyone else experienced this? Am I wrong to find it bizarre?? I’m not complaining – they look a little less terrible this way. Just puzzled.

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Plant Amnesty Free Event April 18, 2010

Filed under: shrubs,trees — greenwalks @ 10:02 pm
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Short notice, but if anyone would like to join me, I’m going to try to go to this:

Meeting of Like Minds, Hosted by the Heritage Tree Committee

When: Tuesday, Apr 20, 2010 — 7pm – 9pm

Where: Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st St, Seattle, NHS Hall

What: Fun evening with delicious potluck food. Free and open to the public.

For more information: Email us or call 206-783-9813

Speakers: Mike Lee and Arthur Lee Jacobson

Topic: From Wilted to Wow: Best Shrubs and Trees for Northwest Summers

The summer of 2009 was a valuable and sobering study of the drought and heat effects on landscape plants. Yet for every wilted or thirsty shrub or tree, certain species thrived merrily. You can plant lovely trees and shrubs that will thrive with little or no summer watering. In this joint seminar, nurseryman and landscape architect Mike Lee will suggest shrubs for Northwest gardens, and plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobson will recommend perfect trees.

(I have been reading, and very much enjoying, Arthur Lee Jacobson’s highly opinionated and enjoyable books, “Trees of Seattle” and “Trees of Green Lake ” – this sounds like a fun event and a great way to learn from some of Seattle’s greatest plant-savvy minds.)

The poster below is from a different Plant Amnesty event, which my family attended last year. It was great! I hope they are planning to do it again.

 

Venerable Tree April 17, 2010

Out for a stroll the other morning, I spied an unusual traffic mediation on one corner:

Tree protection

I had come from the other side of the street, and didn’t notice at first that the mini bollards were to protect a massive specimen tree. Huh, the city getting involved to protect a tree from getting bonked into by negligent motorists? Must be a special one…

Then I saw the plaque:

Scarlet Oak Heritage Tree Sign

I had heard about Seattle’s Heritage Tree Program, initiated by Plant Amnesty and now co-run by the City of Seattle. But I don’t know that I had ever seen one if its beneficiaries/honorees before.

As you can see from the sign, the Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) is not native to the Pacific Northwest, but this particular tree has thrived in our climate. I hope that future generations of Seattle residents continue to protect and enjoy it. If all of our parking strip street trees lived so long, we would be the greenest city around!

Scarlet Oak trunk

Scarlet Oak reaching up

Scarlet Oak from down the sidewalk

As all gardeners know, every day is Earth Day. But I hope you have/had a happy one today anyway!

(I should add, after seeing some of the comments, that it’s true that this is probably this tree’s least showy season, and that no photo can truly capture its magnificence, but I thought that its massive arm-like branches and immense trunk were still impressive enough to show. Great idea to go back when it’s leafed out and again in the fall to see the scarlet leaves. I will try to remember to do so!)

 

Pink Petals in Parking Strips March 4, 2010

Filed under: flora,trees — greenwalks @ 9:03 pm
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Does such a profusion of plums become prosaic? Or does it produce perfection? Peruse at your pleasure!

(This post is dedicated to Grace, who perennially pines for pink.)

Okay, enough with the alliteration. Seattle in early spring (yeah, I know it’s technically winter still, but it hasn’t felt like it in a long time so I’m going to go ahead and just call it spring. The plants and animals sure think it is!) offers an almost overwhelming spectacle – entire streets lined with wildly blooming ornamental plum trees. Apricots, cherries, magnolias, cornelian cherries, and many others abound as well, but the plums are ubiquitous and seemingly the earliest, so when they arrive it feels like spring is really here. The pinkness is impossible to ignore and hard not to be cheered by.

My neighborhood has gone nuts for these trees. Many have deep purple leaves so a long line of them can be a little blah in the summer. But oh, for these few weeks, they shine. I have been crossing my fingers for no lashing storms to hasten the petals to an early demise, and so far we’ve been lucky. Standing under some of these, neighbors have stopped to comment and enjoy the spectacle together.

So, without further ado, the reigning queens of the blossom ball, all from parking strips!

Plum trees abloom

Ephermeral plum blossoms

Venerable plum tree

Pink plum blossoms on pavers

Plum tree bloom explosion

Parking strip pinkness

Mini plum branch

Blue skies and pink plum flowers

Pink confetti in the grass

Pale pink plum blossoms with purple leaves beginning to emerge

 

Tiny Treasures February 8, 2010

Filed under: flora,trees,winter — greenwalks @ 8:21 pm
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I owe a big thanks to David Perry of A Photographer’s Garden Blog – without his post about and spectacular photos of the female flowers on his contorted filbert tree, I would never have known to look for them in my own garden. I bow to David’s far-superior eye, camera, framing and description and hope you will check out his blog if you haven’t already – he’s a master.

My “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick” tree, planted by the previous gardener, has brought me much enjoyment every winter as its ridiculously curvy branches are covered in a busy array of grouped catkins. How can I have never noticed the “girl” flowers before? Well, because they are so absurdly tiny, probably less than 1/8″ across and sparsely scattered around the tree, placed kind of oddly at the spur where the catkins emerged. They look to me like fuchsia-colored baby sea anemones. Do they bloom for longer than a week? I can’t imagine so, but maybe they do. Their appearance has coincided with the end of the witch hazel’s blooming season, so the timing could not be more perfect.

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ – if you live in Zone 4-9 and don’t have one already, you might want to start saving your birthday money so you can see this happen next spring… (Note: I think this is how all filberts act, not just contorted ones, so you don’t have to save so many pennies if you just want a straight-branch one!)

Harry Lauder's Walking Stick flowers

Contorted filbert female flower emerging

Contorted filbert female flowers and male catkins

Contorted filbert flower

Catkins and flower

Many catkins, tiny flowers

Gracias, David, for helping me see what was right in front of me.

 

The “It” Trees of the Garden Show February 4, 2010

Filed under: garden shows,trees — greenwalks @ 10:19 pm
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I took so many pictures at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show today, I’m not sure where to start. I’ll try to do a few posts, grouping some of my favorites thematically. Since I’ve been thinking and posting a lot about trees lately, that seems as good a place to start as any.

Every year at the show, there seem to be a few plants that repeat in many of the show gardens. Is it like the Paris or Milan high-fashion collections, where one year everyone seems to have agreed on miniskirts and the next on military coats? I have no experience in the world of show garden design, so it is a mystery to me how certain things seem to flow in common through many of the designers’ final products.

I always feel sorry for these trees, some of them pretty mature, ripped out of their natural habitats and shoved into some sawdust in an an artificial indoor landscape so that a few (thousand) of us can ooh and ah over them over a four-day period. What happens to them afterward? Are they consigned to the compost heap? I hope not! Maybe they are specially cared for and replanted in some special spot, their moment in the spotlight over but a long and happy life ahead.

This year, these were the trees that seemed to be everywhere, the stars of the show. How many will end up being planted in attendees’ gardens, I wonder?

River birch, the hands-down winner for unusually beautiful bark

River birch bark

Witch hazel, here hovering over black mondo grass

Witch hazel and black mondo grass

Contorted filbert – this one was pruned into an “up-do”

Contorted filbert

Tree fern – okay, technically not a tree, but they were all over the place! Hard to grow in the Pacific Northwest, even with a lot of wrapping and care, from what I’ve heard.

Tree fern

Magnolia grandiflora, this one was the cultivar ‘Southern Charm’

Magnolia grandiflora 'Southern Charm'

Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ – this one really surprised me, showing up as it did in at least three gardens that I saw. It is a rare and expensive tree (for more about it, see this post from last year’s Garden show), and I bet it’s going on a lot of people’s wish lists after this week.

Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'

A few other trees stood out for their uniqueness instead of their ubiquity:

Asian pear

Asian pear

Weeping Norway spruce (known in my family as the Snuffleupagus Tree)

Weeping Norway spruce

Unknown Japanese maple

Japanese maple

Cypressus macrocarpa ‘Saligna aurea’ had amazing, filigreed golden tendrils

Cypressus macrocarpa 'Saligna aurea'

Not all of the trees at the show were real:

Metal tree sculpture

Constructed tree "hideaway"

Weathered tree sculpture

Whimsical "tree" sculpture

BTW, we did get in to hear Fergus Garrett’s lecture on training the eye to make good plant combinations. Inspiring and well worth all the standing around and being herded like ruminants that was required to secure a seat.

More to come…

 

Weeping Tree January 26, 2010

Or maybe it is we that should be weeping, for this tree whose form is so, uh, unusual.

Strangely pruned birch tree

I am guessing that it is a weeping birch tree (Betula pendula youngii) that has had its branches clipped back uniformly to give it this bizarre shape. Kind of like a medieval monk’s tonsure, never the best look on humans.

Odd pruning jobs on parking strip plants are really standing out to me these days. People are really putting the “fashion don’t”s out there for us all to see!

In a recent post, there was a discussion in the comments field about topping vs. pollarding vs. just plain old hard pruning. I am no expert, but I believe the following photo shows the technique known as pollarding, which is frequently done to encourage new growth from particular trees and shrubs. As I have been wanting to try pollarding on my out-of-control red-twig dogwood, I was interested to see that these had already been pruned. Am I already late? Yikes, time to haul out the loppers and try to be brave, I guess!

Pollarded red-twig dogwoods in January

This BBC/UK page has a simple plant-by-plant pruning guide for shrubs that respond well to hard pruning, as well as a video of a guy with thick Scottish (?) accent taking his clippers to some dogwoods and willows to encourage new growth. I love how he says “it might seem crrrruel,” my sentiments exactly, which I guess is why I’m having such a hard time getting around to it!