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Apples & Peaches

Our forlorn apple tree still stands despite my constant plans for removing it. Since the trunk of it is the size of a small house, taking it out is something to think about. And heaven forbid hiring someone to trample over my plants. So it remains. Every year, in the dead of winter, I cut it back although several of the limbs are difficult to reach and some always remain. This year, I cut more than I usually do and only two or three large branches still stood, reaching straight up into the sky.  Judging from the apples this year, maybe I'm doing something right - However, it is hard to find a good apple unless it is picked from the tree (hard to reach). The ones on the ground always have bad spots on them. We've never treated the tree for disease or insects and the thought of doing that doesn't appeal to me.  I usually make at least one pie or cake every year from the unblemished apples I am able to retrieve.  My go-to apple recipe is the French Apple Tart f rom Ina Garten.

Back in the garden

It seems like it has been months since I worked outside in the garden. In addition to work and the holidays, the weather has played a significant factor. It has been typical winter weather here - cold and rainy. I've always had an aversion to working in a wet garden but I am getting used to it and I know that there simply isn't an option. 

2016 is ending and I think the general consensus is "good riddance!" A terrible year overall but one big bright spot - it started out with us moving to Washington and beginning a new life. For all the bad things that have happened this year, that one event outshines all the bad. I discovered a long time ago that when life gets rough, the garden offers lots of mental and physical comfort. So, on to 2017...

I still have plants to go in the ground and I wanted to get some evergreens and trees established before next summer. I did manage to get the pots and tender plants in the basement. The new plantings have been pushed to the side until now. We have had a few frosts and next week we are set to experience several bone-chilling nights with temps in the teens. This is harsh according to local folks. I have been covering tender plants that are already in the ground with pots and plastic sheets. I do not know if that will be sufficient to save them but I will hope for the best.

I think planting a tree is one of the most rewarding gardening activities. Since our garden space is limited, it saddens me a bit that I cannot add more. There was really just one spot left for a wider-spreading tree. This is the sloping area in the back. I have ambitious plans for the little hillside. I can see the vision of it in my head and it involves two borders with a set of steps dividing them. It will be semi-terraced and perhaps have a water feature in there somewhere. Planting has already began on one side where there is a mature dogwood, the only large tree on the property when we moved in. The other border is still open and I wanted a semi-large tree to balance the dogwood on the other side. After much contemplation, I decided on a Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum).

The Katsura tree is popular here and it is very beautiful with small leaves that resemble that of the Redbud. The fall color is spectacular. Over time, it can become a rather large tree but it is supposedly a slow grower. When I finally made my decision, I found one at my local nursery but learned that it was a newer variety called "Red Fox" which has burgundy foliage. At first, I thought this would be a better choice since it grows narrower and isn't as large. But then, I convinced myself that I wanted the regular variety. I have enough burgundy colored action going on in the front garden.

So, here it is, newly planted! Very satisfying! This border is going to be widened a bit. The center section (the grassy spot to the right) is where I want the steps. I also want a set of smaller steps on the left side and hope that I can do that without ruining the symmetry. 

I also wanted some evergreens to flank the gate of the cringe-worthy fence that separates the back from the driveway. A plan for creating a facade on this fence or just rip it out entirely is always percolating in my thoughts. This will be a future project and one that might involve winning the lottery. 

But, back to the evergreens. I chose the 'Skyrocket' juniper and was a bit miffed when I got them home and saw that they are shaped differently - one is narrow, the other one not so much. I don't know how I overlooked that at the nursery, but I figure in time they will shape up nicely.

So, with the exception of a row of arborvitae that I plan to put in the narrow strip along the west side of the house, the large planting projects are finished. As Katherine White wrote "onward and upward"...

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. I planted a Katsura last year ! I love the way the leaves seem to change color all summer …I think that might be stress though . Happy New Year !

  2. Yes to the reward of planting trees and yes to the katsura tree -- good choice. Mine has not been a slow grower at all -- maybe as it ages growth rate slows down, but initially, planted out in the open, it's pretty fast. Yours appears to be low branching, which is nice. Mine is a single trunk, limbed up to a more traditional tree shape. I love katsuras in the fall when the foliage colors and smells like burnt sugar. Great choice for your new garden!

    1. It is low branching. At first I thought I would prefer a higher branching one, but maybe not!

  3. Hi Phillip, nice to read that you have planted a tree. I agree, with you that this is a beautiful and very special thing to do!
    Looking forward to seeing how your garden develops next year!
    Happy New Year to you and your partner!
    Warm regards,

  4. Onward! Great start and lovely plant choices! We look forward to following how it all fills in (quickly around here). Happy New Year!!

  5. Trees are much more than plants, they are the garden's infrastructure. Glad for you that your move has worked out so well. Happy Gardening in 2017, hopefully there will be some roses planted!

  6. Your new garden will be so rewarding in the end. It is great fun to watch it evolve. That chain link fence reminds me of the fence around the garden we toured in Ashville, Wampoldia was the name or something like that. Maybe you could get jiggy and cover it with concrete like they did on their fence. I hope you and Michael are well and happy in your new home and garden.

  7. Finished? Gardens are never finished! You'll find other ways to make changes, trust me. Ask me how I know...


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