Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Brutal Choices

One day all the energy that goes into building a cabin and a place to lay my head will be directed towards having a real garden. Without much choice I have taken the proverbial advice of getting to know a place through the seasons before making choices about what to plant and where.

In the winter my thoughts turn easily to garden design, not because I am stuck inside, because the once verdant forest and meadow is reduced to a blank slate and a private sanctuary becomes a roadside spectacle.

The cozy cabin is farther away from the road than many houses in these hills. There are some where it would not be the least bit difficult for a big ol' truck to come to rest in the barcalounger in someone's living room. For me being this exposed is disconcerting.

The forested half of the garden to be follows from left to right.

Right now the center section looks very open with plenty of space between the trees. Despite that open appearance it is still full shade. During the summer only glimpses of the road and passing traffic are visible. The rest of the year it doesn't even amount to a good twig fence. Half a year of privacy just won't be enough.

The bottom of the property is center right where the half fallen tree is caught up in another just below the road. I do not want to create a solid evergreen hedgerow. Instead I would prefer strategically placed groups of mixed evergreens with open spaces between that can act as the backdrop to the interior gardens and the backbone of the garden in the winter.

As you head towards the sunny utility meadow and the cabin from the road the lower property line runs along the line of the double trunks on the ground at the edge of the forest and the big hairball looking pile in the lower right.

There is just one problem with conifers and many evergreens. They need sun to grow. The forest that creates my privacy in the summer is going to have to be thinned in order to get enough sun to have more privacy in the winter. There will be a period of double exposure while a garden grows.

Now go back through these pictures and decide which trees have to go. The Black Locust are definitely on the hit list. They are not very attractive trees. Some are quite large though and present a challenge. The thorny Hawthorns have a strike against them. The misshapen and badly located will be sacrificed. The many trees that stay can be limbed up and given light corrective haircuts. In my quest for more sun and replanting I hope there will be room to add some other nice deciduous trees like dogwood, sourwood, silverbell and Nyssa for diversity and seasonal interest.

Before I crank up the chainsaw there are some tough decisions to make.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I noticed you are pretty exposed in winter. Would be good to plant stuff now so it can be growing while you're a-finishin' the habitat, even if you have to take down trees around them later.
I have the same shade problem and, although I suspect hardiness may be at issue where you are, here's what's worked for me: American holly, evergreen viburnums, illicium (they get big when mature), rhododendron/kalmia, and even mature azaleas get big. I guess Magnolia grandiflora wouldn't make it in your zone, but they can grow surprisingly fast. And maybe even some of Ackerman's hardiest camellias, even if they didn't bloom. There are some 20 ft high in a nearby garden. I went to a lecture once that said cryptomeria is the best evergreen for shade, but even then probably not much shade.
I'm with you; I don't like exposure!


Anonymous said...

A couple corrections; I typed too fast. I didn't mean plant right now; next spring obviously. Also, cryptomeria was indicated as the best conifer for shade, not best evergreen.


Christopher C. NC said...

Bev I was thinking of taking out some trees this winter while they are bare and easier to deal with. Then I could plant some things in the spring.

I looked up the Cryptomeria and it said zones 6 to 9. There are plenty of conifers to look at though. Spruce is ok, but I want to avoid that rigid christmas tree look. Even Ilex opaca, American Holly is marginal up here though I may plant some anyway. I also have a height issue in that the road is higher than the garden area and the bank below the road is very steep and highly suseptible to being hacked by the mowers. They came through this fall and just butchered anything in their reach. So I need to plant taller things at the bottom of that slope.

Japanese Black Pine is one thing I like though slower growing. I am also looking at these cold hardy clumping bamboos.

I think with pine, bamboo, rhododendron and some other taller conifer I could get the screening and look I want.

Lola said...

I'm sure whatever you choose will work great.
I agree cutting the unwanted trees now would be a lot easier. As they came down there would be less damage to others.
I would tend to cut the larger ones so the smaller ones could grow. Also I don't like double trunk ones. I would take out anything that is leaning. That's my reverence.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Nothing worse than a hairball in ones garden. I giggled at that description. You have so much fun to look forward to, designing your garden.

Anonymous said...

Hawthorns out now! Maybe you could save me a pile of four to six inch diameter black locust stems until I can get there again. That road closed is a bugger. I wish I could be there and help, this is a project we have done a couple of times, thinning the trees for sun and really just the health of the remaining trees. For the fastest privacy screen, Leyland Cypress. Your idea of clumps, not a hedge sounds perfect. American hollies are slow growing and not that dense. The Allegheney viburnums are good but not that tall. Some of the larger gold Chamaecyparis grow fast and would add color. Maybe at some point there will be a bug resistant Hemlock. Arizona Cypress?


Les said...

Would mahonia be hardy for you? You may also want to consider yews and I know you can grow rhodies. Your situations does not offer a lot of choice. Good luck!

Phrago said...

Hey Chris, If you can grow Pinus strobus down there you would be happy with the speed at which they grow and how beautiful they are, three planted a part from each other would give a pretty good visual block. Also, they drop needles that are two years old which make great mulch for your beds. Fun to climb when they're older too... Patrick

chuck b. said...

When you say black locust, is that Robinia pseudoacacia? I think that's such a pretty tree when it flowers. And the foliage is nice too, like I giant pea. But I have very little experience with it. Too bad about Cryptomeria. It turns beautiful colors throughout the year.

chuck b. said...

Have you looked through the Smithsonian Institute's Archive of American Gardens, recently linked on Garden Rant? I've been copying images for my "scrapbook" collection. Lots of compelling pictures in the archive from Eleuthrian Mills in Delaware. What zone is Delaware? Surely it's colder there than NC. Take a look.