© — Photo by Janice Wells/Special to The Telegram
Can you believe this lush specimen is actually three native spruce planted together and carefully pruned over the years?
I haven’t had much to do with planting evergreen shrubs or trees in my own gardens. I don’t know why I didn’t get into them in my Sudbury Street garden; I had the space and some bank areas that would have benefited greatly from low, spreading junipers.
I guess it was primarily my obsessive love of all things cottage garden.
Plus, now that I’m looking back and remembering the sorry state of my finances and my desire for instant gratification, I can see why I never bought even the tiny specimens that I might have afforded when they were on sale at the end of the season.
Evergreens are not cheap, and they take so long to grow.
But now, with the wisdom of my years, I do realize it is worth it because nothing sets off a garden or a house like mature evergreens.
Of course, in my case, having moved seven times in about twice as many years, gathering no moss as it were, I wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy my hard-earned investment anyway.
Then, when I moved into this garden, I wanted some height and something evergreen for winter interest. I have very little space, so tall and narrow fit the bill, and I chose three cedars.
The one inside the back fence is OK, except for a bare bottom which I hide (sort of) with bleeding heart and holly.
The one on the front corner isn’t bad, but hasn’t grown nearly as tall as the back one, and the one I planted in a pot has survived in spite of gross neglect, so I can’t really criticize it.
But I’ve often thought if I was starting over, I’d probably go with Skyrocket juniper.
Only recently did I stumble across Sky Pencil Holly online. This Japanese holly grows to 10 feet with an average width of two feet, and can be kept shorter with pruning.
It is Zone 5-9 and looks ideal for tiny downtown gardens or a striking accent in any garden. I haven’t seen it in local nurseries, but, in fairness, I haven’t asked for it, either.
I got thinking about all this last week when I was in Stephenville planning some restoration of my parents’ gravesite. It’s on a sunny, exposed site and I noticed all the cedars planted around there were in terrible shape.
Some headstones were flanked by dwarf Alberta spruce, and they were all doing very well, some of them obviously having been there for years with probably very little maintenance.
I was impressed with the contrast between it and the cedars. The Alberta spruce is good to Zone 2, can handle high winds, heat and/or drought periods.
Then I stopped in to visit an old friend in Corner Brook who has a wonderful garden. I remembered that decades ago when she was a beginning gardener, she’d dug up three small native evergreens (black spruce, I think) and planted them in a very close triangle in her back garden. Her plan was to keep pruning them until they filled in enough to appear to be one thick specimen.
Even with all the other beautiful developments in the years since I’d been in her garden, I was wondering how that tree experiment had worked. All I can say is, wow!
Constant pruning is how Christmas tree farmers get that fullness that typifies what we always call “Nova Scotia trees.” (You know, the ones that have no room between the branches to hang ornaments bigger than a plum. The type that Martha Stewart used to demonstrate how to thin out branches so you’d end up with a good tree for displaying ornaments; in other words, how to prune an expensive cultivated tree so it would look like a cheaper “local tree.”)
What am I doing, writing about Christmas trees in August! Oh, you know how my mind works.
Now, two requests:
1) Let me know of anyone growing or selling Sky Pencil holly in Newfoundland, and
2) Please send me emails and/or pictures of balcony gardening. I am bold about snapping garden pictures from the street, but not bold enough to climb onto your balcony, and a balcony gardening article is long overdue.
Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.