Amazing Mulberry Trees

Amazing Mulberry Trees

Imagine the surprise in my eyes when, while trying to follow a map to the next garden on our tour, I looked up to see these unusual trees! Like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, these “trees” were sprawling and climbing across the front yard of a historical two story home.  This just shows how the citizens of Buffalo, New York are so passionate about their gardens (learn more about their showcase at https://gardensbuffaloniagara.com/events/garden-walk-buffalo/)   What could these strange forms possible be?  While not part of the garden tour, it should come as no surprise that a group of us started exploring these unusual features. The surrounding garden was packed full of flowering bulbs and perennials, so I hope that the owner appreciated our interest in this unique garden. Closer inspection showed that these appear to be mulberry trees that have been very carefully pruned and groomed to show these shapes. In the large sprawling form in the first photo there may be other vines wrapped in to create the fullness and show off the forms. Wow. A mulberry tree!  I was always told that these were “ditch trees” and here someone has very lovingly formed them into whimsical masterpieces. I don’t know the technical term for this type of pruning. Would you consider these a topiary?  Just look at how the tree below has been trained to wrap around the post on the corner of the deck, kind of like it is giving it a hug. So cool!  To the mystery gardener who has created these beautiful trees, I congratulate you for your patience and vision....
Unique water features

Unique water features

I love water features. Unique water features are usually what sticks in my mind after visiting a garden and the gardens of Buffalo are no different.   As I sit at home on this cold (winter?) day, I am looking back fondly at the photos of beautiful private gardens in Buffalo, New York from last August. You want to see great, creative gardens?  Go visit Buffalo for their Garden Walk this summer! Possibly my favorite, the photo below shows this great large fountain, probably 4 feet tall, with a hidden basin underneath and a recirculating pump. I have no idea how the hole was drilled through to contain the plumbing, or if this is possibly a faux stone, but it definitely is a water feature I would want in my garden. I almost don’t know where to start!  But looking through these images the unique water features that these gardens showcased were so wonderful I thought they deserved their own recognition. If you are considering adding a water feature to your garden, whether it be bird bath, reflection pool or fountain, I hope you find inspiration in these photos. A fountain with a pool at the bottom is hard to beat. Perhaps a small pool is enough for you?  This garden water feature will provide water for birds and wildlife and be very simple to install. This small water feature was in one of my favorite gardens from the tour. It was tucked in among the plantings, yet the sound of a small trickle of water permeated through the gardens. Perfect. A birdbath is an easy way to provide water for birds and wildlife and can be moved year to year or throughout the season. Simple and not taking up too much space, this fountain was tucked into a small side strip next to the drive. The sound of water next to a seating area is a huge benefit of this water feature. One of the more elaborate, this pool is certainly the focal point of this garden. Yes, this works for rainy days, but this was also plumbed with a recirculating pump to add the sound of a trickle of water– even during the sunny days. With individual pieces from a ceramic artist, this fountain is truly a unique piece of art. This whimsical fish/serpent/fountain adds a fun water feature and without too much water flowing, actually adds quite a bit of...
Planting bare root apple trees

Planting bare root apple trees

I can’t believe its been almost a year since I planted our bare root apple trees!  Where has the time gone?  And, why haven’t I written about it on here yet? Its been a very busy year but I am glad that I took the time last spring to order and plant three bare root apple trees. Growing up I remember having two apple trees alongside our driveway and I knew that one way of embracing our new zone 5 growing zone was to plant something that I couldn’t grow in Florida. Apple trees fit that requirement! I started this process by checking out the Iowa State Extension website for variety recommendations. I love looking through plant catalogs and I knew I would be easily distracted by beautiful photos of bright red apples. This publication on Fruit Cultivars for Iowa is my favorite for selecting fruit trees. I decided to go with three different cultivars grown on semi-dwarf root stock. I bought my trees from Stark Brothers online. They had the varieties I wanted and… I was impatient. I knew we were moving to Iowa and I wanted to get these babies planted!   I am sure our local nurseries have these varieties too. Selecting Tree Size Buying grafted trees allows you to chose the mature size of your fruit trees. Since mine are grafted, there were several choices available. Decide which is right for you based on the amount of room that you have available and also being considerate of picking. Columnar Apple Trees mature to be about 8-10′ tall, but only 18-24″ wide. This makes them perfect for growing in containers on balconies and patios. Dwarf Apple Trees mature to be about 8-10′ tall and wide. Even though they are smaller, they produce an abundance of full-size apples. Semi-Dwarf Apple Trees mature to be about 12-15′ tall and wide. They offer maximum apple yield per square foot. Standard Apple Trees mature to be about 15-25′ tall and 20′ wide. They are perfect if you have a large space or want a multi-purpose apple & shade tree. Planting bare root apple trees I began by marking the location of my trees. I wanted them equally spaced and even though they don’t look like much now, I think this row of trees will be beautiful in the future. Since this area was in grass, I started by removing about an 18″ circle of sod and soil to create a large hole. Once I had the tree setting in there I could adjust to make sure the roots were spread out and also that the depth was correct. The beauty of planting bare root apple trees is that they are very easy to work with and this task can easily be done alone. I did add some flags and small stakes to my trees to keep them upright while they established. Just yesterday I took the photo below and removed the small stakes. Its amazing, but the process of bending and moving in the wind will actually make these apple trees stronger in the long run. I like to think of stakes as being similar to an ankle brace; you need the brace to start feeling better, but if you continue to wear it all of the time your ankle will not get stronger because the brace is doing the work. I think one year is a good rule of thumb for the amount of time to leave a stake on a tree. You can see that I did increase the ring of grass-free space around each tree. The buckets that are shown are my “slow release” watering system. I have small holes drilled in the bottom of each so that when I am watering I can just fill them and move on to the next and yet it will water the tree slowly and deeply. I am so excited to see the second year of growth on these bare root apple trees!  Do you have any fruit trees ordered to plant this spring?  I will confess, I’ve already placed the order for my peach trees…...
Colorblind gardening

Colorblind gardening

Is it possible that we spend too much time thinking about color schemes and designs for our gardens?  Could colorblind gardening be the next trend for gardeners? Last summer I had the pleasure of attending the Garden Writers conference in Buffalo, New York. Have you been to Buffalo recently? It is wonderful! Garden Walk Buffalo is America’s largest garden tour and gives you the opportunity to snoop, I mean explore, private gardens across the city. The photos on this post share one of the most memorable gardens I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy. A small sign reads: Colorblind people make the best gardeners. Joe, the gardener here has a major color deficiency. Hope you can’t tell! I would say that Joe’s colorblind gardening should give us all inspiration. Pulling together the brightest, happiest plants you can find into a single space can only exude one feeling: happiness. I loved experiencing this garden. I found myself walking around with a huge grin on my face and realized the other folks visiting might think I was a little crazy. That’s the emotion this garden makes you feel. Another sign reads: This garden has over 150 pots. Each is planted with annuals every year.   What?!  By the time of my visit in early August you couldn’t even see the pots under all of the foliage. If you decide to attend Garden Walk Buffalo, and I highly recommend you do, this garden is part of the Block Alliance of 16th Street.  Oh how nice it must be to sit out here in the evenings! Many times I’ve looked through my hundreds of photos from Buffalo and I inevitably stop to look at the images from this “colorblind garden”. Oh what fun he must have!...
Rhodochiton atrosanguineum- Purple Bell Vine

Rhodochiton atrosanguineum- Purple Bell Vine

Sometimes I feel like if I put out to the universe what I am looking for then these things tend to show up. Okay, universe, you’ve been alerted, on the top of my “plant wish list” is Rhodochiton atrosanguineum, “Purple Bell Vine”.  Are you familiar with this plant? The first time I saw Rhodochiton atrosanguineum was during a garden visit as part of the Garden Writers Association conference in Buffalo, New York last summer. As I toured this homeowner’s garden taking photos I literally stopped when I saw this plant. It doesn’t happen too often that I see an entirely new plant. Well, new to me, that is. What could this be?  Where do I get one? The Purple Bells Vine was being grown on a small obelisk structure and had completely engulfed the metal frame.  The deep purple flowers were hanging from top to bottom. It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? I couldn’t help but to start researching this plant as soon as I sat down on the bus. Here’s what I’ve discovered: From Annie’s Annuals and Perennials: Introduced from Mexico way back in 1833, Rhodochiton atrosanguineum is a funky fast growing option for baskets or a shady trellis. Vines stay a compact 10’ and produce masses of bell-shaped, maroon-purple, pendant flowers that dangle like flowery ornaments on fine threadlike stems. Inspiring! Lovely 2”, heart-shaped leaves edged in purple adorn its tendrils. Best blooms occur in bright shade throughout Summer and Fall. Protect from frost in Winter or bring indoors. Rich soil and a good feedings will make for a happy vine. Part shade to full shade. From Select Seeds: This refined beauty of a vine was introduced from Mexico in 1833. The small heart-shaped toothed leaves are dark green with burgundy edges. The violet bell-shaped flowers have a maroon “clapper”, and the 2″ flowers sway from the ends of thread-like stems. Try it in containers or twining up string trellises where it will bloom until late fall freezes. Lifecycle: Annual Hardiness: Tender Annual Color: Violet Size: 6-10 ft Season: Summer to fall Sun: Full sun Soil: Rich, moist, well-drained So I think the real question at this point is: Am I ordering plants or...
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