Tuesday, May 14, 2019

New Plants for 2019

Top and left are the female 'Blue Rug' junipers, lower right is the
supposedly male 'Andorra Compacta'.  Normal bloom time
for these is late May to early June.  So I will keep an eye out..
I had an established planting of creeping juniper, Juniperus horizontalis, die back last year.  This may have been due to a number of factors, but I think mostly the very wet weather causing the soil to stay very moist for most of the year.  While many folks poo poo junipers as too common, they have their place.  They are a durable, low-maintenance ground cover for sunny, dryish locations.  This species is native to the northern third of the US and most of Canada.  Their usefulness and adaptability has, however, made them a staple in the landscape trade.  One thing you don't see too often is berries on these plants.  Like other junipers, creeping junipers have separate male and female plants.  Ever since seeing cedar waxwings last year I have been looking to have more bird berries on our property.  To the extent that I could find gender information, it seems that most creeping juniper cultivars are female, such as the very popular 'Blue Rug' cultivar (aka 'Wiltonii').  Digging through the literature I found mention that the cultivars 'Bar Harbor', 'Blue Horizon', 'Plumosa' and 'Andorra Compacta' are male (or at least may be male).  In addition to a bunch of 'Blue Rug' junipers I was able to get an 'Andorra Compacta' to serve as a breeding partner. Now by having both male and female cultivars there is a better probability that berries will be produce to help support the winter bird population. 

These large-flowered bellworts came into bloom
just after our mid-season daffodils.
In an area just outside our kitchen window we have a large, somewhat wild perennial garden backed up by pine trees.  The shadier areas are dominated by several species of lamium and ground ivy.  I have had some success with shade-tolerant goldenrods here, particularly blue-stemmed and zigzag goldenrods.  To introduce some more natives to this area of potentially dry shade (assuming it will stop raining at some point), I ordered a few large-flowered bellwort, Uvularia grandiflora, as bare root plants.  We'll see how well these compete.  They have done well so far, all of them sprouted and bloomed this first year.

They say, planting trees is planning for the future, even one that I am not likely to see.  I have been dismayed that some of the big old trees here are dying.  Don't know if it's just their time or if there is something going on.  Besides the loss of their biological function, many of these trees are on a slope where they are helping to hold the soil.  Emerald Ash Borer is definitely one of the problems, causing a early death of many established ash trees.  But we have lost some big oaks and black cherries as well.  Besides these trees going away I am also actively targeting the invasive Alianthus trees and this is opening up the canopy even more.  While natural succession is kicking in, this is slowed by the number of deer that eat the tree seedlings.  I am more than a little concerned how many of these seedlings will reach maturity.  So I am looking for some shade tolerant trees that I can put in and protect to help nature along. 

I got these bare root American beech in the
ground the day they arrived. 
In the woods right now there are a lot of new beech trees, Fagus grandifolia.  These are quite shade tolerant, and seem to be well adapted to our location.  I found a source of bare root beech trees in southern Virginia, Mid-Atlantic Natives, so I ordered a few to see how that works out.  They were planted in early March and are just leafing out now, a bit behind the established beeches.  Beech are fairly slow growing trees, but will mature to be dominant elements in the canopy. 

These are the maple seedlings I gathered from around the property.  These may include
Red, Sugar, Silver and the hybrid Freeman maples. (Also one tulip tree in the mix.)
Red maples, Acer rubrum, are also quite shade tolerant but are much faster growing.  I am looking to add a few of these to fill in the gaps.  Sugar maples are another possibility.  These are slower growing, but better adapted to the near neutral soil pH we have here. (Based on the natural distribution of trees here (Box elder, Hickories, American hornbeam and Tulip tree) soil pH is probably running 6-7.5.)  My regular source of native trees, Stadler Nursery, is cutting back on its supply of reforestation plants (I don't know why), so I decided to harvest some of my own seedlings and nurse them along a little before planting them out.  I've got several species of maples growing here, so at this point I can't say for sure what each of these seedlings are.  Tulip trees also do well here and I've got lots of these seedlings too, so I could move those to some of the more open areas in the woods.

This Henry's Garnet Virginia sweetspire has flopped a little due to the weight of the rain. 
It is nearly full height, at 4' and should spread to about 6'. 
The racemes of white flowers are about to pop.

Another area that I have been trying to bulk up with native species is a  slope that has been built up with sandy clay and is dominated with Japanese stiltgrass, Japanese honeysuckle and garlic mustard.  I've been putting divisions of wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, and they are taking hold. I am focusing on shrubs that are colonizers.  These spread out by underground shoots and should help stabilize the soil to erosion.  This year I'm adding a Henry's Garnet sweetspire, Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet', gray dogwood, Cornus racemosa, and some bare root smooth sumac, Rhus glabra.  Unfortunately my deer do like to munch on these so I need to stay on top of these with either fencing or repellent sprays until they get established.

Since deer like to browse on my gray dogwood I
put some fencing around this one right away.
You can see that the leaf buds on this smooth sumac
are about to pop.  I should get some fencing around this
one soon (in addition to the repellent spray).

In my battle with Japanese stiltgrass, I am planting native species to help displace that invasive grass.  One grass that does well in shadier locations is bottlebrush grass, Elymus hystrix.  I started some from seed this winter and planted them out in early spring.  These make take a year to get established, but should help fill in areas where the stiltgrass has been (is being) removed. 

I started this bottlebrush grass from seed in February and planted it out in April.
It may not get too big this year, but should form a dense clump next spring.

Last year I put in a Red Sprite winterberry holly along a sloping path.  I already had a mate, the early blooming Jim Dandy cultivar, Ilex verticillata 'Jim Dandy'.  To improve berry availability for winter time birds I added another early blooming female cultivar called Afterglow, Ilex verticillata 'Afterglow'.  This cultivar is also compact, like 'Red Sprite' and is supposed to be very dense with flowers and berries.

Also on the holly front, I put in some inkberries, Ilex glabra, in a shady location, near an English walnut tree, last year.  Of the three cultivars I put in, Shamrock and Nigra did well, but the Densa cultivar died.  I don't know if it was just the amount of shade or sensitivity to the juglone from the walnut.  I replaced it with another Nigra cultivar this spring, so we'll see if that one does better.