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Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

Posted by thisismelissa z4a-S Twin Cities MN (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 11, 10 at 16:05

On a previous post, I shared about the demise of an important shrub in the front of my house. 2 forum members have advised replacing it. Here's the story....

In the front of my house, right where the walkway to the door meets the driveway, I have a Weeping Siberian Pea Shrub. Anyone approaching the house is taken by its uniqueness and I usually get comments. It was here when we moved in 4 years ago and while I was never a huge fan of this shrub (it's prickly and it suckers), I did like that it was a conversation piece.

Well, in the course of the thaws in the last week here in MN, the snow piled on it from the snowblower has really dragged down the branches and it has split in 3 places (see pic in another thread). A couple of other forum members have suggested not trying to repair it as it is in such a prominent spot in my front yard.

So, I'm considering what to replace it with and starting my research now, so I'm ready for spring planting.

It's pretty much a full sun spot on the east side of the house. It's probably not in shade in the summer till at least 4pm. It's a fairly smallish spot. Total diameter, maybe 5-6 feet. We have a maple in the middle of the front yard, so I don't want anything to compete with that (in the 2nd pic, the pea shrub is directly behind the maple).

In my research, I've come across a few that I find interesting, but am open to suggestions on what to replace this shrub with. I'm pretty certain I want a tree-form and am not glued to the idea of deciduous. Evergreen would be fine too. I'd love to do a pom-pom type topiary there, but they're SO expensive!

A couple of " no's ":
I like the idea of a hydrangea tree form, but my next door neighbor has this and I do not wanna look copy-catish. I should also add that I do not care for roses (this was a suggestion on the Minnesota Gardening forum and it's just not for me). Dwarf Albert Spruce get dreadfully dried out on the south side and I've already lost 1 in the last year. And I HATE arborvitae!

My list, so far:

Weeping Pussy Willow (standard)
Japanese Willow (standard)
Weeping Caragan (this is the same species as I have now, but I'd opt for the finer textured 'Walker' variety)
Burning Bush (tree form)
Weeping Larch
Dwarf Korean Lilac
high graft "lollipop" globe blue spruce

Please offer your opinions on these trees as well as suggest others. I'm particularly interested in how hardy they are and if they'd take the abuse of being piled with snow from the driveway/walkway.

Thanks!
Melissa

PICS:

Please excuse the ugly bed right out front. It has since been re-planted and looks great.

Photobucket

Photobucket


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

hey mel ....

regardless of what you choose..

the issue is that darn snowblower ...

i have a similar issue.. and i have to take a lot of extra time snowblowing.. to INSURE that the force of the airborne snow DOES NOT hit the plant ... and yet i often fail ... and incur damage

personally i like no willow ... burning bush could be invasive ...larch would be nice.. since it losses its leaves in winter .... so no burn from the blower ... but you could still impact the dormant buds ...

let me ponder a suggestion ...

ken


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

Weeping Hemlock will grow to be about 10 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 20 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 1 foot from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 50 years or more.

That hemlock looks like a cool tree, but up to 20' wide? It is a slow grower, but HOW slow is slow? Would it be more than 5' wide in 10 years?


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

how about a nice pvc arbor ... see link .. and grow something like morning glories .. annual vines ... and then put the pvc away for winter... pvc will last forever

in your zone ... or mine.. wood or metal wont last..

and getting it put away for winter avoids the snowblower...

think outside the box you have created ...

ken

Here is a link that might be useful: link


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

As Ken said, the snowblower and where to put the snow is the biggest issue to the survival of whatever you put there. My inlaws have thus far lost two weeping Japanese maples and a weeping peashrub in a similar spot due to snow from the blower hitting them. If the snow can be directed elsewhere, great! (How easy is it to retrain whoever moves snow in your household to adjust the angle of the spout every time s/he passes that spot?!) Otherwise, you will probably want to rethink the small tree/shrub option. One option is to plant perennials that have enough structure and mass to work visually like a shrub or small tree. Some of the larger grasses or tall perennial sunflowers (& I'm sure there are others) can be used this way, but will die back and can be cut down annually. As Ken suggested, vines on a trellis or obelisk (though I prefer cedar or other rot-resisitant wood, copper tubing, or heavy iron to PVC for asthetic reasons and because they will withstand the snowblower's additions) can be used here, either an annual vine or a perennial vine that gets cut back each year such as a type 3 clematis. (This would probably be my choice as it would provide a lot of year-round interest, with the flowering plant in the summer and the decorative bare trellis in the winter.) I have a total of 4 quite lovely obelisks made of welded, stout, construction grade iron that will outlast me for sure and aren't bothered by dogs, snow or any other weather. I grow type 3 clematis on them. Alternatively, a very large (structural) pot planted each year with a striking combination of big annuals and tender perennials or vines, but then stored under cover during the winter would give you the mass of a large shrub without the snow concerns.

There are also a group of shrubs that can be cut to near the ground each year when snow has broken or damaged branches, but will sprout to a good size and bloom anyway, even in our short northern growing season. I have several of these planted where the snow slams down from the roof onto the bed below during heavy snow years. These include Hydrangea arborescens (like 'Annabelle'), Hydrangea 'Endless Summer' (if it's hardy enough for your area) and spirea. [Not as exciting as some shrubs, but all of them will bloom on new wood and regrow fast enough that there are only 3 or so weeks between snow melting and the bush being large enough that the spot doesn't look empty.] Maybe one of those willows with multicolored leaves (I can't offhand remember the name) would work since you need to prune those back to get the bright new leaves.

Anything grafted is more likely to have issues with breaking under the onslaught of snow from the snowblower as the graft join is more fragile than other wood, and since most weeping or otherwise special-form evergreens are grafted, you probably want to avoid them unless you can find ones grown from cuttings.


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

  • Posted by whaas 5a Milwaukee (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 12, 10 at 15:26

Personally I don't like any of thoses choices.

Try a Firebird Crabapple or a compact carlesi


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

When I told my husband of the damage, he did say that he was not very careful about where the snow landed. But here's the thing. This damage only occurred after the thaw started. And being that all areas of our lawn, at one point had upwards of 2' of snow, I think that even re-training my wonderful hubby to not blow snow onto the replacement still won't prevent mother nature from doing so. So Ken, your idea of a structure has some merit for consideration.

If you look to the left of my driveway by my lovely garbage cans, you'll see an arbor that is covered with Morning Glory. I want to say this pic was taken in September. In June, it's covered in hot pink rose blooms.

I digress.... I like the idea of a structure in that spot, but I think an arbor would be a bad choice for us. I don't think my house has a cottage-y style that would support putting one by over the entrance to the walkway PLUS storing it in the winter would be a challenge.... but an obelisk might be a potential. Plus, I wouldn't have to worry, necessarily about digging out the rootball of that pea shrub. That's got some potential.

I've also been looking at the notion of a small crabapple... Lollipop and Tina are 2 varieties that seem to have some potential.

And the idea of a structural perennial is a good one too. In that now-replanted garden, I put in a Joe Pye Weed last year that was a lovely 3' round ball by the end of the season. We'll see how it looks when it emerges this year!

Keep the ideas comin'!


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

re-training my wonderful hubby

======>>> yeah.. good luck with that ...

put a cooler full of beer there.. and not a stitch of snow will ever cover it ... lol ...

-=============

If you look to the left of my driveway by my lovely garbage cans, you'll see an arbor that is covered with Morning Glory. -- no way.. been there.. done that huh????

the biggest problem with all your lollipop dreams.. is the 100 to 200 dollar investment in trying to train your hubbie to give a flying leap ....

whatever.. good luck

ken


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

Not "tree forms" but the plants that survive snowblower abuse next to our North Dakota driveway include baptisia australis (which makes a nice "summer shrub" when mature but grows slowly like a peony does), or for a more vertical form, Karl Foerster feather reed grass. Neither would ever outgrow the space available and both require minimal maintenance.


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

put a cooler full of beer there.. and not a stitch of snow will ever cover it ... lol ...

This would work IN THEORY.... but hubby doesn't drink.
He's really into space exploration, so maybe I should tell him our NEW obelisk is going to be his OLD telescope. ha ha!


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

Will a Vitex (chaste tree) grow where you are? They are small trees with wonderful blue flowers in late spring. A neighbor of mine on a nearby street has one that is about 9-10' tall and 6-8' wide. I is so pretty that I bought two-one for the front side yard and one for the back yard. Mine are only about three feet high since they were planted last fall. It would look lovely in the spot you have.


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

Nope cyn.... zone 6 and I'm zone 4a. Bummer.

Thanks though


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

I can't figure out what your goals are for this area. Do you want to screen the chairs from view? You said you replanted, what is there now? You will be surprised how tall Joe-Pye weed gets. It looks great with feather reed grass, coneflower and sedum. All of these perennials have good winter interest, and can take snow load. But unless you add some shrubs for structure, these may not be the best choices. I'm not sure how the maple relates to this planting area. I think you might be happier if you widen the bed to include the maple and use groups of three to five shrubs to fill in the space between. That little evergreen could use a couple of buddies, going out towards the spruce. I would love to see more repetition (small plants repeated in groups)and structure from the shrubs, instead of one of this and one of that.


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

i figured i had a one in a hundred chance that he was dry .... lol ...

put his old telescope there as garden art .... he will get the point ...

or have him design a piece of art with scrap branches in the form of a telescope ... 3 straight branches tee pee style for legs.. then a thicker body .... its really hard to define what i mean in words...

or have him design and build some kind astronomy clock .. get him involved in your garden ....

again.. think outside the box.. if a plant is problematic.. think art ....

ken

Here is a link that might be useful: how about one of these things on a pedastal


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

I can't figure out what your goals are for this area. Do you want to screen the chairs from view?

Curb appeal and interest from inside. I do not care about screening chairs from view. In fact, I do not want anything so tall and wide that we wouldn't be able to look out when sitting on our porch.

You said you replanted, what is there now? You will be surprised how tall Joe-Pye weed gets. It looks great with feather reed grass, coneflower and sedum. All of these perennials have good winter interest, and can take snow load. But unless you add some shrubs for structure, these may not be the best choices. I'm not sure how the maple relates to this planting area. I think you might be happier if you widen the bed to include the maple and use groups of three to five shrubs to fill in the space between. That little evergreen could use a couple of buddies, going out towards the spruce. I would love to see more repetition (small plants repeated in groups)and structure from the shrubs, instead of one of this and one of that.

"That little evergreen" will eventually meet her demise too. It's a dwarf Alberta Spruce and it gets terrible tip burn. I'll be replacing her within a few seasons I'm sure. Most of my neighbors have already taken theirs out.

The raised bed has a mixed bag of tricks.... Iris, Turtlehead, 2 sedum, a pinks, japanese hakone grass, joe pye weed, Tiger Eye Sumac and a couple other perennials. I knew they'd get crowded last year so I planned to thin them out this year.

I am considering widening the bed to include the maple too. Maybe in 2011. I don't want to set myself up to only half-ass these projects. And hubby hates it when I start killing grass for planting beds.... I have to choose my battle there!... that battle is probably better fought next year!

As of today, if I HAD to choose what to put in that spot, I would probably choose Silver Feather Maiden Grass. I have a 3-year old clump in my back garden that I was thinking of moving anyway, so I'm giving some very serious thought to that proposition.

And then there is still the option of a structure of some sort. I'm going to shop around a bit to see what there might be. I love Ken's idea of an armillary sphere. We have a few of them in the house as bookshelf art. And we have an armillary style sundial in our back garden. I bought it for him on our honeymoon!

I've been giving a lot of thought to paying for a designer to draw up a plan for our front yard. I know I need to remove the rock... I can't imagine how many tons of rock the previous owners had delivered to this house.... too bad it's rock mulch and not boulders. In some places, it's 8" or more thick. But, the good news is that with the heavy duty landscape plastic that was used, we RARELY have weeds. The bad news is that once I take all that up, the soil is going to not have touched oxygen for 8-9 years.

Ugh.


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

I am sorry Melissa~sounds like you have your work cut out for you. Stay determined, it will come together in the end.

If you had a plan drawn up, it could open you up to possibilities you didn't think of before, and also help you set priorities for all the related projects. Best of all, it could help the mister to visualize the results. He may love it so much he wants to rush to finish it!

I have done a few small designs of this nature, and one potential problem with a mixed bag of perennials in this prominent dooryard area, is lack of winter interest. That is why I suggested the addition of small shrub groupings, or an informal looking hedge of flowering shrubs. Are those hydrangeas there now? You could add one or two to fill in next to the slab. And then do another ring of shrubs with a Tiger Eye sumac at either end, alongside the existing wall.

I think the miscanthus would look great with the Joe-Pye weed, but would suggest NOT trying to move a 3 year old clump of it. We moved our switchgrass a couple of times, after 3 years it was a b*tch, and miscanthus is even bigger!

Another problem with that grouping is that it WILL screen the chairs from view. It would look better in front of the window to the right, where it could add a little screening at the right time of year, and give you something to look at when the snow flies. It is also a better accent than a feature, as perennials come into and go out of bloom.

Shrubs are fairly static forms, annuals could be placed to add the all important POP of color for curb appeal.


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

PrairieGirlz...
Yes, there are 3 Annabelle Hydrangea right in front of the porch. The one in the middle was just added last year, but the 2 on the ends were added 2 years ago.... last year, they were each about 4' wide. I'm hoping the one added in the middle last year makes it to that size. I'm happy with the decision to put those in and they do well in that spot with just the irrigation system water. By early winter, however, they are covered with snow, so I don't get much, if any winter interest from them.

If you look behind that Tiger Eye Sumac, you may see 3 crimson barberries. I was hoping to create a hedge there to keep people (trick-or-treaters)from walking across there. This will be their 3rd season.

I was thinking 2-3 evergreens up under that window on the right, filled in with deciduous shrubs and possibly face planted with some small perennials. Out of view (behind the big-a$$ conifer), there is a TERRIBLE yew planted. I feel like by the time I'm done landscaping the front, I will be pulling out every plant that the previous homeowner put in... and based on the labels I'm finding, I'm fairly certain they were all purchased at Home Depot!

TOday, I signed up for a garden design workshop at the nursery where I would have the plan drawn up. It'll, of course, be taught by the landscape designers, so I'm hoping I'll be able to come up with something decent in the 2 hours we're there.... Otherwise, I can go ahead and contract with them for the design.

Since you're on a roll with suggestions, could you add your 2?

I have a red twig dogwood that I've overwintered bare root. It's still alive (to my surprise!). Currently, it's about 4' tall. I was thinking of just putting it along the north side of my house, to replace another ugly yew, but if it could be well utilized in the front, I could give it a home as soon as the ground is thawed enough to dig it a hole.

Your thoughts?


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RE: Need suggestions for small tree/shrub

My first thoughts are... your Annabelles would like the north side of the house too. Plant them along the foundation with your dogwood planted away from the house (near the ugly yew?)on that side. Yews are very forgiving if you want to keep it, and make a nice background shrub. Replace the Annabelles with smaller panicled hydrangeas (H. paniculata), they retain a woody structure during winter that is very showy with the dried seedheads. Next, you need to get three compact red twigged dogwoods, to go where the rock mulch is. Put another Tiger Eye on the other end, or give yours pride of place in a pretty pot by the door. I like the idea of a more or less symmetrical grouping in that little pocket, sweeping off to the right with smaller perennials and annuals edging the retaining wall. How deep is the bed under the window on the right? How do you feel about grouping your sedum/grass/Joe-pye with the little spruce? Try to make the look intentional.


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