Conifer and maple lovers, embrace yourself! I am inviting you to take a look at a very unusual garden. I am glad I was warned by its owner about the garden being different. And, how different it is! Trying to describe my feelings during and after visiting the garden, the most suitable words could be the following: amusement, astonishment, blown away, bewildering, astounding... I visit on average 15 gardens a year, plus or minus. This garden is truly one of a kind with 2250 conifers (1300 of them of different cultivars), 450 Japanese maples (150 different cultivars) and 500 hostas (250 different varieties).The number of plants itself is very impressive. Each of them is a star. Each one has its own space and a neat label. At some point, I felt like I was in a museum. Sometimes, I felt overwhelmed and needed a short break, but not for a split second did I feel myself the least bit bored. Entertained, surprised and excited - yes!
And what a guide I had! William, the owner, is as entertaining as he is knowledgeable. I know, you want to see his garden. Let me tell you just one more thing and we will get to the photographs.
William started his garden just 3 1/2 years ago. I couldn't comprehend this fact. How much time, sweat and passion should a person with a full time job have to create such a collection of plants and acquire a keen knowledge of them!
This is the first batch of pictures. The commentary is by William himself.
Conifers are a mainstay in the garden. Wide varieties of colors, shapes, sizes and forms provide year-round interest as they are not only interesting to look at but also they get better as the years pass. They require no watering, no fertilizing, no pruning and they mulch themselves and block out weeds. In this bed by the front door, miniature conifers are highlighted. These plants range from 5-10 years old and most grow under an inch a year.
Part of the front rock garden. Nestled in amongst rocks are three conifers, notably(front left) Picea glauca 'Daisy's White', a miniature spruce that produces bright white new growth in spring.
A center island is surrounded by the only patch of grass in this garden. Conifers, heather, maples and lilac create a wave of color and texture.
This very rare and coveted little conifer will make a splash onto more gardens in the years to come. Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker', this small gem grows about two inches a year, forms a compact bun of foliage, and the needles twist inwards showing their bright undersides. This Korean fir is about four years old and the size of a grapefruit.
Conifers aren't as dull as the Bigbox stores make them out to be. This dwarf Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora 'Blue Lou') has silvery-blue foliage, grows slowly, and the purple/red pollen cones held in masses on the upper branches contrast strongly with the blue needles.
Two Japanese maples soften this corner of the house. The bright green maple is a very popular cultivar, Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium', renown for both its lacey, upright habit and its stunning fall colors. The variegated maple is Acer palmatum 'Beni Schichihenge'. Individual leaves can sport orange, peach, pink, green and white tones, sometimes a mix, sometimes just one color, but always striking and unusual.
Brunnera, variegated Japanese maples, ferns, hosta and some shade annuals fill in the shadier spots.
The backyard garden is a mixture of mass plantings, sun, part-sun and shade areas with a dry creek bed winding here and there.
Heavy use of local Kennedy creek basalt rocks continues in the back as well. This creates the illusion that the plants have been there awhile, despite the fact most were planted in the last two or three years.
Where most gardens have a handful of conifers mixed with mostly perennials, I have done the opposite with numerous conifers and rock garden plants mixed in with some flowering perennials and annuals.
A small bridge allows visitors to cross the dry creek bed.
To the right are plants that enjoy more sun, while on the left, dappled shade encourages the planting of many hostas, columbines, Japanese maples and rhododendrons.
The large rhoddies in the back were originally in the garden, along with the backdrop of enormous Douglas firs. Color and contrasts are the most important thing to me in a garden and Acer palmatum 'Otome Zakura' helps provide the brighter colors.
One thing I am proud of is that all of the design work, all of the maintenance and planting and all of the heavy-duty work was done by myself with only a wheelbarrow and elbow grease. The many rocks for the paths and the gravel walkways were difficult(but enjoyable) to create and though hardly professional, should last for years and years without too much upkeep.
The very back of the garden is one massive planting of trees, shrubs and hostas. Sunnier spots (usually towards the front) were reserved for conifers and other plants that needed more sun, while several types of hydrangeas, many hostas and over 100 Japanese maples and Dogwoods create a wave of foliage and dense pockets of comfortable shade.
More color and contrast here. Bright heuchera 'Marmalade', Picea omorika 'Nana'(center) and Picea sitchensis 'Bentham's Sunlight' are all very different in color, shape and texture.
The samaras and huge leaves of Acer japonicum 'Ed Woods #2'. Happy trees produce leaves close to one foot wide.
Spring has been hard on some of the pink/red leaved maples (the pink plant here is Acer palmatum 'Shin Deshojo') but their color is still a welcomed show from a deciduous tree.
Acer palmatum 'Corallinum', another Japanese maple with pink spring foliage.
The deeper parts of the backyard mass planting still receive dappled morning sunshine and this allows many part-sun plants to flourish.
Picea pungens 'The Blues', a new weeping variety of Colorado blue spruce grows upright at an angle and the branches cascade downward creating the look of flowing water.
Small corners and pockets of the garden allowed for the use of various groundcovers and small flowering perennials. Pelargonium "Vancouver Centennial", a geranium with great foliage, is snuck into this spot.
Conifers can present the answer to gardeners looking for plants that will stay small. While most dwarf conifers grow 2-6 inches a year, this tiny Norway Spruce (Picea abies 'Wichtel') grows about 1/8th of an inch a year. This tiny specimen, easily mistaken for a moss-covered rock, is a decade old now and about three inches wide(see the pen?).
Columbine, heucheras, hosta, Japanese maples and even shade-tolerant conifers fill the dappled shade gardens.
Heucherella 'Sweet Tea', a newer introduction, brightens this spot with peachy tones.
The golden dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush') is one of my (and visitors) favorite plants. Lacy, soft, chartreuse foliage lightens to bright gold anywhere the sun touches this tree, creating a wonderful beacon of color in mid-summer. Fast growing and appreciative of some afternoon shade, this deciduous conifer also has interesting fall color as the needles change to a red-russet color before dropping by winter.Clematis growing up and around trees is a common theme in my garden. Here vigorous clematis climbs all over Acer circinatum 'Little Gem' and Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira' (Lions Head maple), both in pots. The clematis provides flowers to otherwise green trees while not hurting or hampering the growth of these Japanese maples.
Now that you have seen part of the garden, let's look at what it was in the beginning:
***To be continued.
Photographs and introduction by TatyanaS, commentary by William.
***Copyright 2011 TatyanaS