Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ilex 'Sparkleberry' for winter interest indoors and out

Horticulture magazine just posted an article on their website highlighting Ilex verticillata 'Sparkleberry', a lovely addition to brighten up the winter landscape or to bring branches indoors for decoration.  This prompted me to do a little more research since I am familiar with the evergreen hollies for our area but haven't delved into the deciduous varieties as much.  Since 'Sparkleberry' is a deciduous shrub, the red berries that persist through the winter really stand out adding a lovely red sparkle to the landscape.

There is disagreement as to which zone it grows best in.  I've seen it listed as growing in zones 3 - 8 but most of the listings show it as zones 5 - 9.  It is widely adaptable to varying soil conditions but since it is an Asian cross it prefers more moisture.  For best fruiting plant it in full sun and since this is a female variety, it needs to be paired with a male for pollination.  Ilex 'Apollo' has been bred to be used as the best male pollinator but other male hollies will work as well.

Sparkleberry may get up to 8 feet tall (it's listed as 12 but that is "valley speak", plants in Central Oregon never grow as big as listed on the tags) and wide and is a nice dark green turning yellow in autumn.

As with most hollies, the berries are a great food source for birds and will bring in a large variety of birds to feed on the shrub.  Another delightful addition to the landscape!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January Thoughts

Ahhh, January.  The month for skiing, relaxing and reflecting.  The holidays are over, the garden has been long wrapped up and it's still too early to do any real gardening. 
At least that's what you think. 
This is actually a time to be busy thinking about how your garden and landscape performed this past year and to make plans for this upcoming season.  Did your landscape provide you with good Spring, Summer and Fall interest?  Is it interesting in it's Winter state right now?  Do you want more color, texture, height or shade?  These are all great questions to think about and to help you create a more appealing landscape that you really want to spend time in. 
Right now when you can see the true "bones" or structure of your landscape, is a great time to consider what you might need to add, adjust or build in order to have an appealing Winter landscape.  Some of my favorites are personal art pieces be they sculptures or found junk.  These items add a real nice touch and a sense of "terroir" (sense of place) to individualize your garden and make it a true extension of your home. 

At Garden Fun they have a whimsical collection of garden art, stakes, bird feeders and more.  They have a lovely blue/green peacock sculpture that would really liven up any landscape.  Their site wouldn't let me copy the image so go here to see it.

Here are some other examples of fun and beautiful art for the landscape:

This Heron sculpture is from Big Bird Studios.

These pieces are from Craft Works Gallery.

Finally, don't limit yourself to 3D items, use the walls of your home to display art.  This image is from Inside Out Garden Art in the UK.  I love how this piece of art creates a room in this garden:

These are the kinds of things I think about in the winter as well as the plants that really help make a winter landscape more interesting. 
One of my all time favorite trees is the Mountain Ash.  I love the white umbrel shape of the flowers in the spring, the dense canopy for summer shade,  the orange, red blend of autumn foliage, and the red berries that persist into the winter adding natural holiday ornaments to the landscape. 

Along Simpson avenue here in Bend, between Columbia and Colorado, are stands of Mountain Ash trees.  They don't all still have their berries, usually the berries are perfectly ripe and soft by now and the birds swarm in to get a little winter fat.  I remember a couple of winters ago, we had a white Christmas and the Mountain Ash outside my dining room windows was full of red berries.  About mid January, for about two weeks, the tree was full of birds gorging themselves on the berries.  It added so much beauty and interest to my winter landscape that I try to put a Mountain Ash in every landscape if it is appropriate.  You can also get them in shrub form.  And guess what? They are native to Oregon!

There is also the favorite Red Twig Dogwood which provides the nice red branches to use for holiday decorations or outdoor viewing pleasure.  There is also the Yellow Twig, Mid Winter Fire and Arctic Fire which offer different colored branches.  Remember that the new branches are what provide the good coloring so you need to prune back the oldest canes in Spring.

Red Twig Dogwood:

 Yellow Twig Dogwood:

Mid Winter Fire Dogwood:

There there are also the trusty evergreens in tree or shrub form:

Hoopsii Blue Spruce:

Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar"

Golden Korean Fir:

The naturally sculptural Manzanita:

Blue Star Juniper:

Procumbens Blue Spruce:

 Pinus strobus 'Niagara Falls', a new introduction by Iseli Nursery out in Boring Oregon and was selected as the Collector's Conifer of the Year in 2009.  A very interesting variety of the Cascading White Pine:

Gold Strike Juniper, also a new introduction from Iseli Nursery.  The brilliant yellow needles take on coral tones later in the year.  What a great little landscape brightener!

If you have any questions about what plants might be most appropriate for your landscape or would like me to take a look to improve your winter landscape, please contact me at tanya@carlsengdesigns.com.

As always, enjoy!