Wishing all my readers Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas! I hope the spirit of the season brings you a time of laughter and joy filled with good memories spent with family and loved ones. May you experience happiness, good health and prosperity throughout the upcoming year and always.
All the best to you always and may your gardens be grand!
When designing a garden for all seasons it is important to include cultivars that have both good structure and eye-catching bark or foliage. Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’) is one of my all time favorites on all accounts. Coral Bark Maple is a vase-shaped deciduous shrub or small tree that is native to Japan, China and Korea. Hardy to zones 5-8, this beautiful specimen grows to a mature height and width of approximately 15-20 feet and displays delicate palmate lobed leaves that are approximately 2-5″ in length and almost fern-like in appearance. The Coral Bark Maple is considered to be one of the most prized of the upright palmate maples during the winter months for its stunning coral-red bark that appears after the leaves fall.
The name of this cultivar, ‘Sangu Kaku’ means coral tower (sango meaning sea coral and kaku meaning tower) as if to suggest this lovely pink-barked specimen resembles coral rising upward from a reef. The foliage display starts in spring when leaves emerge as a beautiful yellow-green with red edging and small reddish-purple flowers are an added surprise when the tree is viewed up close.
As the season progresses a succession of colorful foliage continues to occur. In the summer months once yellow-green foliage with red tips turns to light green and the insignificant flowers are followed by samaras that ripen in late summer. In autumn the show continues as the foliage turns to an amazing bright golden-yellow and then to a fiery orange before the leaves drop. The coral-red bark is visible as the temperatures and leaves fall and the show continues throughout winter and can be striking against a backdrop of snow.
Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’ prefer to be grown in full to partial shade and should be sheltered from harsh drying winds. They prefer a moist, organically rich, well-drained soil but are adaptable to a variety of soil types. Coral Bark Maple requires little to no maintenance but should be monitored for insects or disease on a routine basis as one would with any prized landscape tree. Best pink coloration appears on young branches. In order to stimulate new growth of stems with better pink coloration the tree can be occasionally pruned. Since Japanese maples are generally grown for their attractive foliage and shape, ‘Sango Kaku’ is best served as a focal point in a location where the beautiful pink bark in winter and colorful foliage can be appreciated. It will fit into just about any type of landscape whether a foundation planting, formal or informal garden, grouped in a perennial/shrub border or as a single specimen and will bring years of enjoyment to you outdoor space.
Last month, a reader posted a comment recommending a couple of articles she thought might interest me – one written by author/garden designer Rory Stuart and another by garden photographer Charles Hawes. Both were discussing issues related to garden photography and both gentlemen brought up the point that gardeners seem to want their gardens viewed (and photographed) only when they look their finest.
Rory Stuart writes, “Gardens are always hymns to time, and gardeners the leading choristers – “if only you had been here last week”, or “come again next week and they’ll all be out.”
Charles Hawes concurs, “Garden owners want their gardens to be seen at their best and are hungry for praise…………….the garden can never be praised enough and yet such praise never satisfies the owner.”
Here is a review of some basic gardening tips and chores as winter approaches.
Watering During Fall & Winter: Plants, especially evergreens require moisture throughout the colder months. Moisture is often provided by occasional rain or snow cover (which also provides insulation for the roots of your plants). It is a common misbelief that is unnecessary to water in winter; however, once the ground freezes it is difficult for water to percolate down to the roots. Dehydration can result from the lack of water. Deciduous trees go dormant but evergreens remain somewhat active and require some moisture for survival. Water as much as possible before the ground freezes, especially if you have new plantings and if there is a period of drought water when the ground thaws.
Anti-Desiccant Spray: Certain broad leaf evergreens such as cherry laurel, skip laurel, mountain laurel, boxwood, euonymus, holly, rhododendron, Japanese skimmia, leucothoe and aucuba can be subject to severe winter burn due to water loss from the leaves by transpiration. When the daytime temperatures start falling below 50 degrees it is time to apply an anti-desiccant spray such as wiltpruf to protect these plants. Apply when the temperatures are above freezing and there is no threat of rain or frost within 24 hours. (This tip applies to areas going into their winter season-temperatures dropping below freezing: 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.) If there is a prolonged thaw in mid-winter it may be time to re-apply anti-desiccant spray to your broad leaf evergreens, especially if there are more prolonged freezing temperatures on the way.
Pruning Ornamental Grasses: Ornamental grasses can add much interest to the winter landscape and should not be cut all the way back for winter. It is best to cut your grasses back in late March to early April in order to protect the roots from frost which could do damage. If your grasses become unsightly by the end of the fall simply prune back the plumes and leave the rest for early spring. Another trick is to wrap a bungee cord about half way up around the center and let the grasses drape over keeping them upright and in place.
Weeding: A little preventive weeding in fall can give your garden a good start to spring. Some weeds tend to multiply in the cooler temperatures and if not tended to can be a nuisance in the warmer months. On a milder day when temperatures are above freezing weeds can be removed easily and should be disposed to prevent spores/seeds from spreading elsewhere. Also decaying foliage from perennials and around plants should be removed to as a preventive to fungal infection.
Frost Heaving: In sustained below freezing temperatures followed by thaw the soil expands upwards from the ground causing plants to push upwards exposing the crown. This is known as frost heaving. Certain plants such as Heuchera (Coral Bells) and Liriope are especially prone to this type of damage. As a preventive measure apply a mulch finishing to your garden beds. If frost heaving does occur slightly tap the soil back down and brush the mulch back around the exposed top of the plant to protect it from the cold.
Ice Damage to Branches: If snow piles up on your evergreens do not immediately shake the branches for it could cause breakage and damage. Try to carefully brush the snow away removing any excess weight. If the tree or shrub is covered with ice permit nature to take its course and allow the ice to melt naturally. If your trees or shrubs do suffer any damage from winter storms it is recommended to remove any broken limbs to avoid stress and disease to the plant. This can be done when the weather allows.
Garden Tool Care: Before storing your garden tools for winter clean them thoroughly with water and gently remove any built up soil to prevent corrosion. It is recommended to oil any moving parts on your pruners and loppers and spray any wooden handles on tools such as shovels with linseed oil in order to keep them from drying and cracking. It is also a good time to re-sharpen your shears, loppers and shovels so your tools will be all ready to go when spring arrives.
In Summary: Some simple preparation can go a long way especially in areas where winters are harsh. I have found these techniques to be very worthwhile and productive over the years and they should do the same for you! As always…happy gardening!