Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Monday, November 28, 2016

November 2016 Favorites and Musings

The mild fall continues in my garden, with temperatures hardly falling below 40F. This weather pattern always makes me worry, as it often is punctuated by a sudden, sharp freeze, damaging plants more than if a few light frosts had occurred beforehand. On the other hand, if it simply stays mild, it will be great for all those little starts I planted this fall. Unfortunately, it's also great for winter weeds, and I haven't been taking advantage of the dry periods between rains to battle those weeds. Instead, I've been trying to focus on indoor pursuits that I neglected while I was planting the new garden areas earlier this fall. It hasn't been easy, with the news seemingly even more disturbing than usual and my mood taking its own downward turn and my energy and focus following suit. Lately I've been thinking far too much and doing far too little.

 But enough of that. In addition to work and trying to study, I've been doing a lot of reading and looking for new-to-me blogs, especially in mild areas like the southern U.K., New Zealand, Chile, and the wetter parts of Australia and the Mediterranean region. Why? Because these climates are the most similar to the one I'd like to eventually live in, somewhere on the Oregon coast. Naturally, I've also been reading up on anything I can find about gardening on the Oregon coast and the north coast of California. (As a short aside, I find it funny how some people divide "northern" and "southern" California, with roughly two thirds of the state as "north". It makes it very difficult to find information when everything about "Northern California" seems to center around  San Francisco, which is drier and warmer than points further north on the coast.) A couple blogs I've been enjoying lately are Jardins A L'Anglaise, and Creating my own garden of the Hesperides. The former is written by a landscape architect and garden designer in France, taking readers on virtual tours of beautiful gardens around France and elsewhere. The latter relates the pursuits of a home gardener in Italy. I stumbled across this blog, but didn't look closer until I learned of the meme this blogger hosts, Garden Bloggers' Foliage Day. I always welcome another opportunity to celebrate foliage in the garden, and look forward to following this meme and finding more fantastic foliage gardens.

And speaking of foliage, my two favorite plants this month are all about foliage. Actually, as usual, I have lots of favorites, but I'd have to write a book to cover them all. So for this End of the Month Favorites, hosted by Loree at The Danger Garden, I'm sharing two red twig dogwoods: Cornus sericea 'Hedgerows Gold', and Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'. Follow the links for cultural information and sources on plantlust.com.

These two shrubs are two of the brightest plants in my garden right now. So many of my deciduous plants had their leaves blown and beaten off by wind and rain, but these two are just becoming more colorful. Would you believe I never thought much about red-twig dogwoods before? And now I'm featuring them in a post. A specimen of 'Midwinter Fire' growing in the gardens at Cistus Nursery finally sold me on them. It looked phenomenal, backed by a blue-needled dwarf Sequoia sempervirens. A mass of Midwinter Fire, dug from someone's garden, came to the nursery while I worked there, and after the choice pieces were potted up for sale I took home some of the scraps to plant along the dry creek bed. They'll have to be kept as cut-back shrubs, not allowed to grow to their full size. And I didn't have any dwarf redwoods to back them with, but I did mix in some blue Juncus, Podocarpus 'County Park Fire' and other plants that will play off the dogwood and each other in various ways. It's still filling in, but I have hope it will look good when it does.
'Midwinter Fire' colors up with peachy yellow foliage in fall, freckled with ruddy red that expands across the leaves as they age. It's amazing backlit by the sun, or in the evening when everything else is starting to get lost in the dark.

'Hedgerows Gold' was shared with me by a friend in Seattle, and began delighting me immediately when I decided to plant it in a bed covered with silver Carex comans.
Cornus sericea 'Hedgerows Gold'
It's only gotten better as the leaves have turned, taking on colors ranging from yellow, through orange and red, to burgundy, even with some near-white in the photo above. Quite rangy for now, it will become fuller as it becomes established and receives pruning

It's amazing how a disregarded plant can suddenly become a favorite after finding a little inspiration and just the right spot in your own garden. I've also been planning to put in some of the native red-twig dogwood in a wet area on one side of the property, augmenting the existing plants in this natural area to increase interest for us, provide a bit of screening from the neighbors, and increase habitat for wildlife. I tried once, before the fence went up, but the deer pressure in this area is so great that the young plants didn't stand a chance. Luckily, the wet area in question is included within the fence, so I'll try again. It's not an area that needs complete screening, so a deciduous plant like dogwood is fine. And the increased sunlight in the area, created by the neighbor's logging, will allow them to grow much better and should be enough to give them color in fall. If you drive around now by any areas that keep a bit of moisture in the summer, you'll see the beautiful foliage, largely burgundy and green, but often with flaming yellow to red shades mixed in, starting to reveal the red stems for winter.


16 comments:

  1. I think Autumn has some beautiful colors -as your photos show today. Thanks for the posting!

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  2. Right now is when red twig dogwoods shine! Yours are gorgeous. I wish they looked fab the rest of the year as well.

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    1. They aren't very interesting in summer, true. They native one is great for wildlife, though, so it's wonderful to incorporate into moist, semi-wild areas on larger properties. Then there's variegated selections like 'Hedgerows Gold'. They're a little showier in the summer than other red-twigs. But even the plain green ones make a nice component in the right composition. I'm leaning more and more toward quieter combinations. The whole garden doesn't have to scream all the time.

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  3. I've always admired dogwoods but it's yet another of the plants I never see here. My Sunset guide suggests that there's just one species, Cornus alba, that can handle conditions in my area. I love that 'Hedgerow's Gold'.

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    1. I can't say it's a group of plants I would miss if I lived in your climate, but they do have their merits and are worth a post.

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  4. Love both of them, have both of them. I can't say enough good things about Hedgerow's Gold - at Joy Creek Nursery there is one in a bed near the retail area that I watched for months. Just stunning. Yours are equally as gorgeous.

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    1. Thanks, Tamara. Mine are small, yet. The Hedgerows Gold, especially, has a lot of filling in to do before I call it gorgeous. But close-up it certainly is!

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  5. Your ability to narrow it down to a pair of plants as your favorites for the month is quite admirable, especially when you point out they are ones you once wouldn't have appreciated. It's amazing how seeing a plant in just the right way can change your perspective on it.

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    1. Actually, I just never got back out to the garden to pick out and photograph more favorites before writing this post! lol.

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  6. As a beginner gardener some years back, I went on a variegation binge. The variegated red twig dogwood was one of my purchases. I found out it can easily turn into a huge monster if not pruned regularly, but the winter display makes the extra work worth while. Behind it is my weeping blue atlas cedar. I never thought about the blue-red combo until you pointed it out. Astonishing!

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    1. A once-yearly hard pruning seems like a small price to pay for that winter display, as long is you've got it in a great setting. My Hedgerows Gold is planted where it's ok if it gets a little large. I'm more concerned about the Midwinter Fire I have planted along the dry creek bed. They're size may have to be controlled more tightly.

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  7. I often admire red-twig dogwoods but have never actually planted one. Last year, I bought some sticks at flower world to put in an outdoor pot for the winter and when pulled out to make room for spring plants, they'd rooted. Your suggestion about placement near a blue conifer have given me an idea about where one might squeeze in in my garden. Thanks to your post, I'll seek out 'Hedgerows Gold'.

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    1. Silver also makes a nice combination. My Hedgerows Gold is underplanted with silver Carex comans, and I love it. Either is just a nice change from the more typical green backing. I think the bronze Carex comans, or other bronze plants, would look pretty good, too. Though a selection with more orange and yellow, like 'Midwinter Fire' might look better with the bronze.

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  8. Thanks for the blog recommendations!

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