Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Tale of Two Sisters

I've had these two red cestrums in the planters for almost a year now. The one on the right, in front of the white fence was transplanted from a bed along the northern wall as it was not happy there. I thought it would do better in a shadier position, and it has...however, now that I have a sister plant to compare it to, it once again looks rather sad.

The plant on the left, the same type, was bought last year in a 1 gal. pot. It has been thriving since being planted, despite the frequent beatings it has suffered from the mirror behind it blowing down on top of it, thus the 'snail sculpture' in front propping it up after being flattened twice. After pruning the right one down to nothing last year I got some beautiful, lush full growth in spring and thought that this is what these plants needed to stay healthy and bushy, but perhaps it's just a weaker plant, now that the one on the left is going gangbusteres with very few dropped leaves. I pull handfulls of yellow leaves off the right plant every time I go into the garden, and am now constantly nipping in back hoping it will bush out like its sister, but so far with not luck. Their sun posistions are so similar that I can't blame it on light, and the only other difference could be neighboring plants....another one for the mystery file, and perhaps the pull and replant file come spring.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Northern Wall

The northern wall of my garden is any pruning-happy gardener's dream. That would be me. I don't know why I like to prune plants so heavily, other than the fact that if there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that a well-pruned garden is usually a healthy garden. (It is also a very cathartic activity for stress-reduction, but that’s another story). Even when I hesitate for years to touch a plant, it is when I finally summon the courage to lop off it's top, that the plant comes back with a flush of vigorous growth. I learned this earlier this year with my Abutilon 'nabob', and have learned it over and over again with this wall of green that towers over my garden, two stories high, on the lattice bolted to an adjacent warehouse.

I didn't plant any of the plants that make up this vertical jungle, but I have been very active at trying to control and compose them over the years. The most dominant plant is the Italian Jasmine, or Jasminium 'humile' . It seems to be an older variety, as I've not seen it available in the nurseries in the past few years. It is very easy to grow, and extremely forgiving. As with most Jasmines, it thrives on severe styles of plant management (ie pruning), which results in hundreds of yellow blossom-laden branches reaching towards the sun that continue to produce through late fall. (Though it missed a season the year I pruned it just before it was getting ready to and learn).

The supporting roles are played by a trumpet vine (Distictis buccinatoria), and a star jasmine in the western corner, which more often than not is in need of a bad haircut. It gets a matted look in only a season, and a very tall ladder and chainsaw are the only solutions. Recently a neighbor’s honeysuckle has taken up residence among the jasmine making it harder to cut back, but I will no doubt summon the courage anyway as it’s really a mess. When up on the ladder, I spend some time arranging the cascading fronds of the trumpet vine from the top down, interweaving them amongst the other plants. But despite my careful arranging, it has recently spread across the small fence to the east, separating mine from a neighbor’s garden. I still don’t know what the base of the vine looks like, but assume it is planted among my Loropetalum and Aziganothus. Just yesterday I noticed the neighbors virginia creeper amongst the thatch, and though it is lovely in the midst of changing color, it needs to go. Ah, another plant to manage...

It is only recently that I have started to appreciate the immense sense of privacy and shelter that this wall brings the garden. I’ve taken it for granted all this time because the plants just do their own thing, requiring little on my part but a strong hand and sharp blade.