Arts and Entertainment

Anchors aweigh: It’s time to plant your garden’s mainstays

Did you know there are skeletons in your garden? Not really, but you could think of your trees as structures much like a body’s skeleton the scaffolding that holds up and supports the plants and gives a sense of permanence to the garden.

This time of year, when our gardens seem quite bare, is the perfect time to take notice of these structures. Plant framework can be achieved with conifers and deciduous trees. We’ll only talk about trees today, but remember, too, the charm of evergreen rhodies, azaleas, camellias and other continuously green plants. They will also lend structure to your garden, especially if you have a small space and trees would take up too much room.

Tsuga mertensiana (mountain hemlock), Abies koreana (Korean fir), Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ (weeping atlas cedar) and Cupressus arizonica glabra ‘Blue Ice” (aka icicles cedar) are four evergreen trees suitable for anchoring most gardens. Mountain hemlock and Abies koreana will stay smaller while the other two trees can become very large in all directions depending on your particular garden soil and weather exposure. Abies koreana has tightly curled needles and upright purple hued cones. Mountain hemlock has upright, narrow growth.

You might also want to explore the appealing Calocedrus decurrens (incense cedar) and various Picea (pines) available locally. Our native western red cedar (Thuja plicata), shore pine (Pinus contorta) and western white pine (Pinus monticola) are adapted to our growing climate and are often very easy to find, plant and grow. These are trees that need quite a bit of room though, especially incense cedar and western red cedar.

Deciduous trees woven throughout the garden lend all-season interest. Their bare skeletons in winter are especially charming when they’re covered with snow. When choosing a deciduous tree you’ll also want to consider flowers, fall color and interesting bark. Acers (maples) offer hundreds of possibilities. Try native vine maple (Acer circinatum), or coral bark maple (there are several varieties of coral bark maples – look for the ones with less tip die back and also the most cold hardy), Corylus evellana (contorted hazel aka contorted filbert), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), magnolias (numerous choices) and beech are only a few of the wide array of deciduous trees you could choose.

Evergreen Ginkgo biloba and Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrone) both retain their leaves and have interest all year long, growing with a more open frame reminiscent of deciduous trees.

This is a great time of year to plant trees. You’ll find them as bare root, balled and burlapped and in containers. Whichever you choose, you’ll want to get them in the ground preferably within the next month or so. Also remember that trees will need to be watered at planting time and regularly for at least their first few years in your garden.

Ask your favorite nursery person what the pros and cons are for the tree you select. Remember to avoid trees that will eventually reach up to block your view or the view of your neighbor. A few trees are prone to aphids (spruce and birch come to mind) so make sure to ask about that, too. There are a few birch cultivars resistant to aphids. Whatever you decide for your own garden, you’ll be happy you chose something with a good skeleton to anchor your garden and

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