30 November 2009

The End of November Approacheth!

If there has been a defining weather pattern colour for NOvember, it's been grey. Grey skies, often wringing rain out like water from a dirty dishrag, making me feel grey with the blahs. Thankfully, we're into the last gasp of NO(light)vember, and moving on to December and the colourful lights and decorations of Christmas.

I don't need any excuses to go visit my friend Rob Baldwin in Upper Falmouth, but there was also the happy occasion of having to pick his brain for an article I was working on. Not surprisingly, the day I visited was grey, dreary and raining. But it wasn't cold, and we walked around the nursery and winter greenhouses, and Rob's plantings and containerized plants proved a point that he's always maintained: we in Atlantic Canada can plant for brilliant colour in the fall and winter when we most need it.

Rob's a huge advocate of evergreen plants, both broadleafed and coniferous, and all you have to do is walk around the nursery and the rest of his property for a little while to see his point about their versatility and variability in colour, size, shape, texture...and then make your wish list and start filling it. (I have quite a few, but every time I go to the nursery, my list expands. What a surprise that is).

This is 'Sunkist' cedar (Thuja), one we both agree on as a must-have shrub: it holds its golden colour really well, and is a great bird plant, both for them to hide or nest in (larger plants) and for the cones they use as food sources. My own 'Sunkist' isn't huge, but after four years in my garden it's never had any problem with dieback or windburn.

This is a form of Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) that Rob grew from seed collected on our epic voyage to northern Nfld and southeastern Labrador two years ago with Captain Dick Steele and a dozen or so other intrepid plant hunters. Rob collected the seed for this off the side of a high hill at Blanc Sablon, Quebec, where we took the ferry from Labrador back to Newfoundland. I sat down at the ferry terminal and had a batch of kittens worrying about him climbing that hill after seed, but it was obviously worth it. The seedlings from that site are growing with an odd reflexed habit to their leaves, possibly to shed snow and protect themselves from the bitter winds that would scour that hill face.

This is one of the finest of native plants for a wildlife garden or just because it's gorgeous: northern Bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica. It is fragrant, has this amazing fall colour, holds its leaves for a long time before November winds take them, and has cool blue-grey berries which birds eat. People use it in decorative wreathmaking, too.

"I don't know why more people don't use Russian cypress," (Microbiota decussata) Rob said when we came to this collection of containers in one of the cold frames. "Look at its fall colour!" I totally agree with him (and it's one of the plants on my 'add this next year' list. In the summer, it's obligingly green and creeping and wellbehaved, but its fall colour is as splendid as 'Heatherbun' chamaecyparis, which I do have and love.

I happen to be very fond of native dogwoods like the red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea). Its red twigs glow beautifully especially against a backdrop of snow. This is the gold-twigged form, 'Flaviramea', which also works well; and for those of you with a flare for decorating, try adding a few twigs of both the red and gold forms to your winter flower/foliage arrangements. They're awesome.

Many rhododendrons and (especially) deciduous azaleas do really, really well here in Nova Scotia; they like the acid soil, and breeders have been propagating all kinds of good, cold-tolerant forms. This small leafed beauty is R. kiusianum, the Kyushu azalea; I was quite enchanted with the variation in foliage colour, and think I'll try it in the most sheltered part of my garden next spring.

Some of the younger and more borderline-hardy plants are spending the winter in one of the big greenhouses, where they will be protected from winds and snow. The photo doesn't really do them justice, because there are just so many forms and colours.

I've never seen this shrub before, and I want it. It's Disanthus cercidifolium, the redbud hazel, a member of the witch hazel family. Look at that fall foliage colour! Obviously I'll have to cold test this on my high hill, but it's apparently hardy to Zone 5. Want want want.

You can call this Golden fernleaf false cypress. Or Golden Dwarf Hinoki Cypress. Or, if you wanna exercise your tongue, Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Tetragona Aurea.' Just don't call it drab, boring or ugly. Because it's one of those catch-your-breath awesome chamaecyparis. Want want want WANT!

When Rob first moved to his property about 20 years ago, there wasn't much of anything there. He began planting trees and shrubs. A lot of trees and shrubs, especially evergreens, in all sizes, shapes and colours. There's always something to look at there, but this really is when the evergreens come into their own.

We came across this 'Pink Dawn' viburnum, getting a jump on spring out underneath some hardwood trees. Perhaps it knows something we don't about the coming winter. Maybe it's going to be a mild, open one. But there will still be plenty of grey days that will need alleviating by lots of colourful plants indoors and out.

Or else, like Mungus, I'll have to decide to climb into the duvet and sleep til spring.


  1. What a wonderful post Jodi! I love so many but must check if I can grow the Sunkist cedar and Golden fernleaf false cypress. Beautiful! I hope other trees and shrubs do not try to bloom now... for surely we shall have winter. Carol

  2. How precious Mungus looks all tucked into the covers. I just turned up the heat so I don't do the same.

    I love dogwoods too. I have a redtwig variety that has chartruese leaves during summer. I just love it. It also had berries etc just like the native.

    I know you will be happy that there is NO more NOvember to deal with. Time is marching on.

  3. Nice colorful post Jodi(no grey almost!)! Mungus and Thuja are my favorites here! Their colors are so similar.

  4. I'm sitting looking out the window at one of my favorite 'evergreens'. I feel about the same way the Larch looks.

    Glad you stopped by - I needed a kick to wake up some. Mungus looks pretty active compared to me lately.

  5. Mungus look very comfy! The Thuja is really cool. I may have to add that to my list. I'm a big fan of the red twig dogwoods. The yellows are cool too.

  6. Hi Jodi, this is exactly the type of post we need, showing how to have fabulous foliage color from north to south of the continent! I am a huge Chamaecyparis fan and will look for Tetragona Aurea. They could have chosen a catchier name for such an outstanding cultivar, maybe something with food in it, like Egg Yolk On A Stick. Or maybe not.

  7. Great post, very cheery & colorful. A lot of people don't like golden Thujas, they find them half-dead looking, but I really like them. I had to go with 'Yellow Ribbon,' as I needed a narrow one, but Sunkist looks beautiful too. I wish Bayberry did well here, it's such a great looking shrub.

  8. I am trying hard not to be too envious! So many lovely conifers need acid soil and sun~~We don't have enough of either here in my garden;) You've shown some wonderful and colorful beauties...I shall keep trying them. gail

  9. I enjoyed visiting Rob's place with you. My yard is too small for more trees than what we have, but there are several kinds of trees, both evergreen and deciduous in our neighborhood. He sure has a nice variety!

    Thanks for your comment on my arum post. I grew jack in the pulpit when I first started gardening, but don't remember how long it lived.

  10. You've shown an amazing collection of conifers. Each one surpasses the next in unusual color or fall habits. I really enjoyed this post. I want to thank you for your comment on my blue post. Yes, I do love blue as much as you do in the garden. I'd love to see some of yours.

  11. Delightful, jodi ... a fine farwell to November! I think I'm going to ask Santa for 'Sunkist' cedar (Thuja). I have 3 dwarf golden threadleaf cypress, similar to the dwarf Hinoki Cypress and love the color in my rock garden. At the cottage, the lake front is filled with native red twip dogwood that indeed compliments holiday arrangements. Sleep well, my friend, tomorrow is December!

  12. Jodi! Are you enjoying some beautiful weather? Your photos are all so beautifully "FALL colored! I love that Redbud Hazel, too. I may have to add this to my wish list... but will do some reading, too. Your photos are so lovely - they'd make very special photo cards. :-)

  13. I love this post, Jodi! My favorite is the 'Sunkist' cedar! I really like that gorgeous color and sounds like it is great for the birds too!

    I'm with you, those grey days really give me the blahs. I can handle the cold, but going day after day without sunshine is depressing. Mungus looks so cute and cozy.

  14. Hi Jodi ~~ I saw my first Disanthus cer. this summer, followed by a huge bout of plant lust, immediately followed by a mind scramble from planning my stealth rip-off mission. But the plant was in a 10 gallon container and stealth was out of the question. I NEED a one gallon next year! Teza has it and really made me jealous with all his bragging. LOL

    I love conifers too and the photo of Rob's property is a fabulous illustration of what can be accomplished with them.

    Loved your Twilight comments. I was starting to feel guilty for my bad mouthing it but your comments cured that. LOL

  15. A nice farewell to November, Jodi. Welcome to December !

    People either love or hate the golden evergreens and I get comments at the garden center tree division where I work that " I need to water that sickly tree. "

    The Kyushu azalea is small but packs a very colorful punch.

    In my experience the false cypress is rather difficult to grow here unless given very protective conditions and the right soil.

    I haven't seen the 'Pink Dawn ' viburnum but it's certainly intriguing, especially since only one other , the Korean Spice, is somewhat pink.

    Thanks for the lovely show.

  16. I think Mungus has the right idea for a cold, dreary November day! Jodi, I would come home with a long wish list, too, after visiting such a gorgeous place. The redbud hazel has really caught my eye; that is one I am definitely going to look for.

  17. Jodi girl .. my favorite picture is of Magnus .. trust a cat to KNOW how to be comfortable .. my girls would nod their heads in agreement : )
    I have three that I want want want from your list here .. now stop doing THAT !! haha
    P.S. I still remember the smell of the wild blueberry bushes and azalea in the summer around Louisbourg : )

  18. i was just out today admiring my Red Twig Dogwood who is shouting its winter glory. This is a nice post to remind us we'll need some green when the leaves are all gone which is very close to happening in my NC.

    But you know Jodi, I've got a ton of annuls still blooming--such as my petunias, alyssum, gallardia, and I even have some daisies trying to bud out. I may not have a long winter.

  19. Oooh... pretty! That sunkist cedar is suddenly a 'must have it!' for me, too. :)

    I'm deeply jealous that you can grow rhododendrons. I do have an Azalea preparing to bloom indoors. Such is life with alkaline soil!

  20. This post was just what I needed on a cold Alaska winter's day...thanks for the shot of nursery color. I'll be putting Thuja 'Sunkist' on my wish list.

    Cheers from Last Frontier Garden,

    Christine B.

  21. Beautiful plant photos. It's definitely fall in your area. Easy to tell in the photos.
    BTW--love the names of the kitties--Toby Soprano is hilarious!

  22. Jodi:
    You simply MUST make a return trip nexy year and pick up a Disanthus.... (really, it wasn't bragging when I spoke of it to Grace!) So similar to Cercis - wonderful heart shaped leaves, and it is said to grow to 3m with a vase shaped open habit. Needs acidic soil in a partly shaded location. It shall not disappointyou! Let me know what you think!

  23. Fantastic! This is what we need to see more of in gardens, and just everyday landscapes--play with variously sized evergreens, color, smell, texture. Lovely.


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