May 11, 2016

A Weeping Mulberry weeps in Scarborough

A raised garden bed makeover involving the death of a Mulberry tree


If there's a small tree that I dislike intensely, it would be a Weeping Mulberry (Morus alba 'Pendula'). I'm not a big fan of weeping forms of trees in the first place but this living "green umbrella" of a tree is overused, needs regular pruning of dead branches, often planted in locations that don't consider its mature width, has boring bark and dull fall foliage. So when Carol, one of my clients, asked me what we should do with this raised bed (which receives 6 plus hours of direct sunlight), I knew that mulberry had to be shovel pruned.

Here's the "before" picture:



Scarborough rock garden with weeping mulberry before by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Scarborough rock garden
with weeping mulberry before 


There's a lot going on here.  A weigela in the lower right, a clematis that is supposed to go up the right trellis, two large "Blue Star" junipers on the left, a Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold' (golden yellow cedar) against the shed near the back and, of course, that darn weeping mulberry.

It's not a large area but can be a focal point when seen from the patio. I decided to really simplify things by:

  • removing the juniper
  • removing the weigela
  • moving the clematis to another bed
  • keeping the cedar
  • keeping the small mockorange (behind the junipers above) and, lastly
  • removing the mulberry

So what would be the specimen here? Carol and I decided on a "Waterfall" Japanese Maple ( Acer palmatum "Waterfall" or "Viridis". I can't distinguish between the two green leaved lace-cut maples)   because she still likes the weeping shape. I like it because it has a great "billowing" form, doesn't cast a huge shadow and small enough for this raised bed. The orange fall foliage isn't too shabby either as shown below.

After a lot of digging, swearing, cutting tree roots, more swearing and transplanting, we get this: 



Scarborough rock garden after removing weeping mulberry by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Scarborough rock garden after
removing weeping mulberry 


We're still short a few plants but the concept is to carry the Japanese Forest Grass all the way across the top of the highest row of boulders. Eventually, the grasses' foliage will spill over the boulder tops and soften their look.

I hope you can make out the "Waterfall" Japanese maple in the centre. It hasn't leafed out yet and is a little taller than normal. Eventually, we hope it gets fat and happy like this guy/gal from another garden, but this will take many years.



"Waterfall" laceleaf Japanese maple ( Acer palmatum var. dissectum  "Waterfall" )  autumn foliage  by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog.
"Waterfall" laceleaf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum var. dissectum  "Waterfall" )   autumn foliage


So who would be the supporting players?

The rest of the bed will be filled up with two types of sedges: Gold Fountains Sedge (Carex dolichostachya ‘Kaga-nishiki’)  which I've used in the past and a new one (to me): Carex oshimensis EverColor® (‘Everillo’ sedge) which has a wonderful lime-green leaf.

Carol and I noticed that the bed really "popped" out because of the yellow/limey green foliage which will only be enhanced with the direct sunlight. The cedar will become even more yellow since the mulberry's shade is a thing of the past. I'll prune the mockorange every spring to give us better foliage at the expense of flowers.

Here's the "after", from another perspective. With time and more plants, this will be a bright and exciting bed.

And the mulberry won't know any better...



Scarborough Toronto rock garden after removing weeping mulberry by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Scarborough Toronto rock garden
after removing weeping mulberry