June 16, 2013

My beloved children

Father's Day in the garden: reflections

I always grumble and mumble that Father's Day is given short shrift compared to Mother's Day. Now, before you mothers (mine included) send me a gift of variegated goutweed, this thought disappears quickly when my kids give me their annual recognition of the work and effort I've expended in raising them to be good responsible Canadian citizens: the proverbial hand-crafted Father's Day card made in school.

I do love them! (Kids and cards.)

They are at such a wonderful age (10 and 13), expressing beauty and attitude...which, naturally, brings me to our garden.

Fellow southern Ontario garden blogger, Barry, always talks about his cherished plants as his "kids" and you can really tell how proud a papa he is, detailing their strengths and accomplishments, never their weaknesses and failures (all our kids are special, no?)

I suppose it would be bad parenting to favour one child over the other/s (although my mother never learned about this!) but human nature being what it is, it's tempting and sometimes inevitable. I don't consider the perennials, shrubs and trees in our backyard as "kids" but I do have a strong emotional bond with certain "members" of the family.

(I do understand why it's so very hard for some of my elderly clients to accept my recommendation that it's time to prune their prized Bridal Wreath spiraea. You know, the one that hasn't been touched in over 20 years and is threatening to hide the house?) 

Sure, we're anthropomorphisizing  (big word) these silly garden plants but as far as erratic human behaviours go, it's normally harmless.

I freely admit that I have some favourites in the garden. Some have been profiled before, like my beloved "Arnold Promise" witch hazel and my "Popcorn" doublefile viburnum

Let me introduce you to my other favourite garden child (now a teen) showing her (always a her!) beauty. 

Say hello to my Chinese Dogwood or Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa var. chinensis): 

Cornus kousa var. chinensis Chinese dogwood by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
My kousa dogwood absolutely loaded with bracts

Cornus kousa var. chinensis Chinese dogwood bracts by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
If you have the space for a mid-sized tree, please consider  me!

After a few years of growing moderately (but with no/few flowers), the kousa has taken off and giving my neighbours a spectacular show. I'm seeing plain old kousa blooming gloriously right now in nicer gardens over the city, along with pink hybrids like "Satomi" used as standards. C. kousa does get to be a mid-sized tree or multi-stemmed shrub but is pest free with beautiful fall colour and can be loaded with fruit.

Another of my favourite garden children you should consider growing in dappled shade is Acer palmatum "Ukigumo" or Floating Cloud Japanese maple. 

You can see, hopefully, why this cultivar is called Floating  Cloud.

If I was to plant this specimen again, I would site it in front of a very dark backdrop like painted/stained black fence or maybe a yew hedge to really make the leaves stand out. But this baby ain't moving! 

Underneath a big Japanese Tree lilac, my Ukigumo seems to be thriving.

I think dappled shade in a protected zone 5 (better with 6) site is ideal for Ukigumo. Growing it in an exposed site in full sun, with these variegated leaves, likely wouldn't work, unless you're aiming for Acer palmatum "Crispy".

Summer foliage of "Ukigumo", turning a creamy yellow in the fall

So if you have "kids" in your gardens, it's ok to have favourites.

 I hope you celebrate Father's Day in your own way.

By Paul Jung, author of "garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog"
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