Friday, March 24, 2006

Adding "Bones" to your Garden

Winter and early Spring is a great time to evaluate the "bones" of your garden. That is, the elements of the garden which remain visible and attractive year-round. This is includes both "hardscape" structures (pathways, edging, walls, gates, arbours, benches, statues) as well as "softscape" structures : evergreen trees and shrubs.

Take a look at your garden. What structures can you identify? Are there areas lacking any visual interest? Consider introducing more "bones" to your garden.

In terms of softscaping options, there are many more options than the typical evergreen trees and shrubs (cedars, spruces, pines, junipers) Take a look around your neighbourhood. What trees and shrubs look great this time of year? These are good candidates for adding structure to your landscape.

Consider also some of the following favourites from my garden (photos taken today):

  • Variegated pieris japonicaPieris Japonica (Lily of the Valley Bush) - Many varieties to choose from, my favourite being the variegated form with creamy white flowers (see photo right).
  • Rhododendrons - There are an amazing variety to choose from, many which don't look like a "typical" rhododendron. If you have a chance to attend a rhododendron plant sale, I'd encourage you to attend.
  • Azaleas - A wide range of varieties, and many flower colours to choose from. Very showy when in bloom, often covered completely in flower.
  • Skimmia Japonica - A handsome slow-growing shrub. If a male plant is grMale skimmia japonicaown nearby, the female plant will bear bright red berries which persist all winter. The male itself (photo right), bearing upright clusters of pinkish flowers, is not only useful but attractive also.
  • Lavenders (Lavendula) - My favourite is the Spanish Lavender (lavendula stoechas), with its attractive bee-like flowers.
  • Blue oat grassBlue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) - The blue-grey tufts (I think of mine as little sea urchins - see photo right) may turn pale in winter, but keep their form nicely, and sway with the slightest wind.
  • California Lilacs (Ceanothus) - This family includes some 55 shrubs, many of them native to Oregon and California. The familiar fast-growing variety Ceanothus Thyrsiflorus (Blueblossom, California Lilac, or Bluebrush) is covered in a mass of blue flowers in early sChoisya ternata sundanceummer. It is a hardy and drought tolerant shrub, requiring little care.
  • Choisya (Star leaf or Mexican Orange Blossom) - My little Choisya Ternata 'Sundance' (see photo right) brightens the garden all winter, with its bright yellow foliage. The white star-like blossoms in Spring and sometimes again in Autumn are just a bonus. The shrub is worthy of a spot in the garden for the foliage alone.
  • Holly (Ilex Aquifolium) - Nice berries to brighten the winter, and the variegated form has outstanding foliage too.

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