May 21, 2012

Overnight Sensation

The shrub bed, otherwise known as 'Long Island' on May 21, 2012

The shrub bed at the front of our property was our first ‘big’ project.  It was a broad expanse of grass in 1999 – twenty feet deep and more than a hundred feet in length, with a small copse of trees for a backdrop.  We decided that shrubs – with different color and textures – would make a more attractive impression from the street.

Using a rototiller, we began turning over the soil and quickly found that the builder had placed an inch or two of loam over what can only be described as ‘crud’ – dirt with no organics to speak of and rocks of every size.  Over the course of a year of often back-breaking work, we created soil and built a very impressive stone fence from the rocks we excavated.

The shrub bed – formally known as Long Island because its shape – is now mature and low-maintenance.  We removed a Norway maple (see ‘Adjo, Acer Plantanoides’) three years ago which brought increased light into the site.  Each spring, we add a fresh inch of mulch, we keep shrubs in shape through aggressive trimming, and then we sit back and enjoy the results.

Wigela 'Wine and Roses'
We see the first blooms in February when a witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) produces its pale yellow flowers, and a spirea ‘Ogon Mellow Yellow’ puts of a burst of white flowers at the end of March, but the real explosion comes at the end of May.  This weekend, the bed was in its full glory.

Cotinus coggyria
There are three wigelas, one of them a ‘Pink Princess’ that dates to 1999, and two more recently planted ‘Wine and Roses’.  All three are blooming brightly.  Another original tenant, a smokebush (Cotinus coggyria ‘Royal Purple’) is in full regalia.  A third old-timer, Calycanthus (Carolina sweetshrub or spicebush), produces a long-lasting but subdued cinnamon-colored flower that is also lightly scented. 

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Dart's Gold'
in full bloom
There are two devil’s ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) in the bed, a ‘Dart’s Gold’ as well as its more familiar, dark-leafed ‘Diabolo’.  Dart’s Gold is currently dazzling with flowers that look white from a distance but are specked with yellow and red on closer inspection.  Nearby, a new Enkianthus campanulatus has finally established itself after a rough start (a summer drought and hungry deer) and has produced a terrific clutch of yellow and pink bell-like flowers.

Potentilla 'Abbotswood' and Duetzia
gracilis 'Nana' in bloom
Two adjacent shrubs are flowering white.  A Potentilla ‘Abbotswood’ has sent out sprays of showy, rose-like blooms with yellow centers.  Next to it, Duetzia gracilis ‘Nana’ has double white blooms against dark green foliage.  Both are low-growing but stunning.

Scotch broom with the rock wall
as backdrop
Finally, a Cytisis scoparius, better known as Scotch broom, is making its presence known.  The shrub was there when we bought the house, lurking at the edge of the woods.  It was ungainly and bloomed an unpleasant shade of yellow and so we cut it to the ground, expecting it to die.  To add insult to (fatal) injury, we built the stone wall on top of the stump.  Two years later, an amazing transformation happened:  the broom came back, but bearing entirely new flowers.  Because we didn’t plant it, we can’t say what it is exactly, but it looks like Cytisis ‘Lena’.  The bloom is prolific but brief.

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