Texture and Line in the Garden

bahia(SF Bay Area)June 4, 2011

Plants aren't always just foliage or flowers as a point of interest, although bark texture and trunks don't often get the respect they deserve in a garden setting. These two plants in combination provide wonderfully compatible lines as well as textural contrast in my back garden. I find that the year round interest of colorful trunks or interesting bark are particularly valuable in seasons when there isn't much in bloom. The particular plantings in this shot aren't something that translates across the country, but there are equally hardy plants that could also give the same sorts of effects in a northeast garden.

This is a combination of a South African tree from the veldt of the low lands of the Eastern Cape, Cussonia spicata, or the Lowveldt Cabbage Tree. It has both fascinating bark, nearly always leaning trunks, and tropical looking foliage on a mop head that makes it look vaguely palm-like until it starts branching, and it is related to the common Ivy, as the eventual blooms make obvious. The bamboo in this photo is one that has become quite popular for use in coastal California, and is a selected form named for a prominent San Diego landscape designer and horticulturist, Bill Teague. It comes from the foothills of the Himalayas, Himalayacalamus hookerianus 'Bill Teague', The culms of this bamboo have a waxy coating that is a brilliant blue once the sheaths drop off, and will retain the coloring if not rubbed off. This bamboo is particularly useful as it tends not to obscure the beautiful trunks with lower side branching, and is demurely clumping rather than aggressively spreading, and reaches about 20 foot in height at maturity.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blue Bamboo and Cabbage Tree

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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I'm begining to feel like ideasshare - I think I've been the first responder on most of your threads :-)

The combination in that picture doesn't do anything for me I'm afraid. Each looks interesting on their own but together they most bring to mind a clutter of bamboo poles and posts in the shed - sorry :-)

Bamboo, even the clumping kind, worries me. It is attractive but I'm suspicious that it would be darned hard to dig up a clump of something that gets that tall, and I'm not sure that cutting it down would ever get rid of it. So, while I find it attractive, I feel its too risky to consider for my garden. I'm content to just enjoy it when I see it in someone else's garden.

The ornamental grass trend gives me the same sort of concerns. When some of those big clumps of grass get old and start dieing out at the center, a backhoe is likely going to be required to lift and divide some of them! I think the next generation of gardeners are likely going to have unflattering things to say about the people that planted lots of grasses, in much the same way as this generation has unflattering things to say about overgrown evergreens at the foundation of the house.

I have mixed feelings about tree trunks (or colored stems of shrubs) as a feature attraction. Some are indeed interesting but, for me at least, it's largely something I note in passing ('oh that looks interesting/nice...') but the plant has to have some other primary reason to belong in the garden. Attractive bark is a nice-to-have but not sufficient on its own for me.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 10:45PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I like to think that some of these things might be universal, but obviously not for everyone. Both of these plants have become hot ticket items in gardens here in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they combine nicely with more contemporary architecture. I've intentionally planted these where they provide a semi-transparent screen between me and my neighbors, without getting so big or wide that they shade out the rest of my garden or theirs. They are also located adjacent my raised deck so they are the first thing I see when I walk out the door.

Other trees that I especially love for their bark would include the 'Marina' Madrone, a shot of which I will include here. Even if it didn't also have flowers and showy fruits, I would find the smooth cinnamon colored bark reason enough to grow it...

Now the thought of grasses being overused, I also have those I'm not particularly fond of, such as Miscanthus sinensis, more for being dead and deciduous in the middle of our winter growing season, they just don't look right to me in a California landscape. Evergreen grasses on the other hand, such as the equally large growing but blue foliaged Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince', is a personal favorite, or the seed heads of smaller grasses such as Deschampsia flexuosa which sparkle when backlit.

Here is a link that might be useful: Beautiful tree trunks

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 3:11AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

From the explanations under some of your pictures, I gather you have a long-term relationship with some of these gardens...? Do you offer maintenance service in addition to design?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 9:56AM
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