Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Midwinter Fire Dogwood (Cornus sanguina ‘Midwinter Fire’)
This shrubby dogwood has the typical elements that make a plant appealing in the summer. Handsome green leaves and clusters of white flowers bloom in the spring. Where this shrub really shines is in the winter, once the leaves are gone. Its stems start out a yellowish-orange at the base, turning darker orange toward their middles and bright red at their tops. All the stems together look very much like a fire in midwinter. Grown in groupings, it can have a very striking effect in the landscape.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Repanda Juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Repanda’)
Junipers were the fad in the 70’s and were greatly overused. Old “pfitzers” and “tams” could get ugly really quick if they weren’t cared for properly. Junipers tend to be the historians of the plant world, you could find plenty of ancient balls, paper, and other artifacts that got stuck in their prickly grasp. I had about written junipers off, but the common juniper, especially “Repanda” won me over. Staying fairly low to the ground, this shrub is still prickly, but the needles are different from most junipers and quite attractive. The foliage is dark-green with shades of blue-green to grey running through them.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Serbian Spruce (Picea omorika)
Native to western Serbia and eastern Bosnia, this lovely evergreen is an excellent choice for any landscape. Naturally pyramidal in youth, the branches droop slightly with age providing a very attractive, almost weeping form. New growth appears with an almost bluish-grey coating, turning dark-green with maturity. Reaching only 30 feet at maximum, this lovely evergreen fits well into most landscapes and its hardiness and resistance to pollution add to its charm. Sometimes used to replace Douglas fir, it deserves a place in your landscape by its own right. The new growth is edible, but similar to last week’s entry, not very tasty. Tricking a coworker into eating it backfired when he started munching on all the new growth. I had to step in before he permanently stunted the tree’s growth. The lesson is, you never know what someone will like, but seriously, it’s not tasty, unless you like pine-fresh breath.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter Gardening

Winter may not allow us to dig in the earth and garden in the traditional sense, but it is the perfect time to “dig into” landscape planning. Conservation Garden Park offers a number of opportunities to learn and enjoy nature through the cold winter months. Few people think of winter as a gardening season but there is much to be appreciated—even if you have to look a little closer to find it.

Left: Creeping Oregon Grape in full winter color.

Has your own landscaping hibernated for the winter or are you enjoying a fourth season of color and activity? If the answer is the former instead of the latter, now’s the time to plan changes for spring.

Snow-covered structures are lovely in their own right or can become the center of social activity for colorful birds if feeders are hung from the rafters.

One of the best-kept secrets of the Conservation Garden Park is its winter beauty. In the Garden, evergreen trees and shrubs take center stage, showcasing a variety of colors, texture and foliage—made more noticeable by the contrast of snow. Branches take on a sculptural quality, especially those blessed with interesting bark or persistent fruit. Berries attract birds to the landscape providing movement and life. Together, these elements combine to form a winter wonderland at Conservation Garden Park.
Evergreens, boulders, hardscaping and snow work together to paint a winter wonderland.

In any solid landscape design, evergreen plants of every shape, size and texture form the backbone. How these materials work together with hardscape elements is more easily observed this time of year when seasonal foliage is dormant. Conservation Garden Park offers many examples of winter landscape elements. We invite you to tour the Garden during our winter hours to learn how to create a fourth season of color.

If you’re feeling decidedly LESS adventurous—cozy up in your own home and enjoy the excellent online resources for winter planning available through our website, which includes an extensive database of Utah-specific plants.

Online message boards, blogs, seed catalogs and gardening books are also great sources of information. Planning for the spring can save time, money and maybe—during these dreary January inversions—your sanity!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Creeping Mahonia (Mahonia repens)Always the bridesmaid never the bride, this plant works well in a supporting position but will never steal the show in your garden. But, not every plant needs to steal the show, and in its own way, this evergreen shrub is packed with many attractive features and year-round appeal. The prickly-edged foliage emerges red and turns dark-green during the summer. As winter approaches, the leaves turn a dark burgundy. Clusters of bright-yellow flowers appear in spring, turning to bluish-purple berries as summer approaches. Although the berries are edible, they are very astringent. With a little urging, your loved ones will eagerly try a taste. Follow up with, “I only said it was edible, I never said it tasted good.”

Monday, January 3, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
For middle-aged men, the term “bald” probably brings negative feelings. However, for this stately conifer, bald is an apt description of its deciduous nature. Losing foliage in the winter is rare for conifers, but the bald cypress will lose its needles as the weather grows cold, regaining a fresh new set in the spring. Although it is often a cause for alarm for those who are unaware of this trait, it is an interesting characteristic on a tree that has many redeeming qualities. Naturally growing in swampy and wet areas, this tree will grow in relatively dry soils as well.
Being a recent addition to the garden, the only pictures we had were in its less impressive "bald" state. The attached picture shows some very mature examples, but is not from the garden (we don't have any trees growing in standing water around here).