“Baby I’m the Bottom, You’re the Top!”
In keeping with what seems to be musical themes, this week I offer a line from Cole Porter.
Nothing breaks me into song faster than Cole Porter music; it’s fun, witty with highly memorable tunes. If you’ve never seen the movie, “DeLovely” with Kevin Kline, take a peak some night when you are looking for something fun to watch. The old-fashioned Cole Porter songs are performed by many modern musical artists.
This is first newsletter in a series of about five more for the next five or so weeks on Green Jeannie’s Top 10 for the Garden. I gave a fun talk at the Camden County Women’s Conference this Saturday past and since each of the eight categories has a list of ten, it was not possible to cover all eight categories in full in an hour-long presentation. I promised the attendees that “the rest of the story” would take place over the next several weeks via this newsletter.
I know everyone is hot on the trail to get going with their greening, making this set of lists perfect to take with you to garden centers as you plan and plant your garden. These are the categories I will cover: Trees, Shrubs, Perennials—for shade and for sun, Annuals, Grassy-things, Tools and Products, and Resources. Let’s start with trees. All of these trees I have either in our own garden or in my client’s gardens so I can attest to their beauty and attributes—or as it called, high “landscape value,” are easy to transplant and easy to care for and appropriate for our suburban gardens. Please keep in mind that there are many, many more trees I adore. If I wrote this tomorrow, the list might be different. But for today, here are my picks:
Serviceberry—Amelanchier arborea. You have probably seen this plant blooming this week. It comes in a clump or tree form—I have clump forms and it is most natural-looking in this habit. Delicate white flowers float on an open-habit branching making it a nice tree for a mixed border. Since the foliage isn’t dense, you can plant pretty much anything you want below. Following the leave flush come the berries—-which are edible and which the birds also adore, making it an excellent small tree for a bird-friendly garden. Fall color is red-orange. In the winter you will notice a delicate lavender coloration in the bark;
Ginkgo—The fan-like foliage is one claim to fame. The other is the intense yellow fall color that one client of mine said nearly caused her to have a traffic accident when she saw a stand of them while driving. In the winter you can recognize this tree by the nubby buds. Most of the time, the male tree is what is for sale in the garden centers but it doesn’t hurt to ask. The female tree bears a fruit that smells like vomit. So you will most likely want to avoid this;
Japanese Maple—One of the most graceful trees on the planet. Even though I am a big lover of our native trees, I cannot imagine not having this tree as a choice in the garden. With lots of varieties to choose from in terms of shape and foliage, please be sure to research the variety you are considering before you buy. Many cut-leaf forms get very, very, large even if they seem dinky small at the nursery. This plant also lives quite happily in a container—just be sure to get a large one that is frost-proof;
River Birch—A beautiful native tree. The bark is extraordinary and quite striking in the winter. The branches sweep in an arch toward the ground, so you will want to elevate these so you don’t obscure the bark. I use the twigs and branches that fall from this to make garden accents for containers because they stay supple for a long time. The fall color is bright yellow. Please note that this tree is very root-competitive and not a whole bunch of small stuff—including grass—will grow underneath. But it will also not allow many weeds to grow below, either. Additionally, this tree has some size potential—up to seventy feet in wilder areas. Probably not so large confined to our gardens but still, you don’t want to plant this too close to your home;
Evergreen Magnolia—I love this tree although my son Blake, who is in the landscape business in North Carolina, said that if he bought a home with this tree on it he would promptly take a chain saw to it. That’s hard. It does drop leaves, but mine is within a plant bed for me it’s not a big deal. Plus the leaves are amazing for holiday decorations. The flowers are big, white and waxy, highly fragrant.
Tupelo Tree–I have to say that while this is a relatively recently planted tree in the garden, it has earned a place on my Top 10 list mostly because of the incredible fall color. Over the Top. On-fire orange. I see this tree outside the window where I do my morning reading and writing so it has a special place for me in this reason alone. The variety I have is called ‘Wildfire;’
Dogwood–What is there not to love about our native Dogwood? Except perhaps that the straight species has fallen victim to the Anthracnose disease. Thankfully, Rutgers University developed a disease-resistant variety called the Rutgan strain. Please consider this tree for the horizontal branching habit, an amazing flower, dark red fall color, and berries the squirrel like which will provide weeks of entertainment;
Redbud–I didn’t used to like this tree as much as I do now; it grew on me. I began to like it when I got a good, close look at my neighbor’s tree and that it had flowers that sprouted on the trunk! Total charm. From a distance the tree looks like a cloud of pink. I have two in my garden. They are a dwarf variety called “Hearts of Gold.” Which brings me to the desirable attribute of the foliage: a heart-shaped leaf. Gold fall color and with maturity, the bark has a great texture. Native as well;
Yellowwood–my newest tree–a rose-flowering variety. Since it is so young, I don’t think it will bloom this year but I certainly look forward to when it will. The bark is a smooth gray, and so far, the birds delight in perching in it. When it gets bigger, the crown will be round and full and will hopefully conceal our neighbor’s garage. This tree is totally under-utilized in gardens and it’s also a native for us;
Japanese Black Cedar–this evergreen is on the large side, but if you have room, it’s as stately a tree as they come. Dense with foliage and pyramidal in shape, I’ve been a fan for years. The tree does turn a deep bronze color in the winter which to me, adds even more character to it. ‘Yoshion’ is fine large tree. Here you have your shopping list for trees.
If I had to say there was one aspect of your garden that would give you the most beauty and satisfaction it would be to plant trees. In our quarter acre in the past ten years, I’ve planted twenty-two and it’s not over-planted. Plant a few: Arbor Day is April 28th.