Three years ago we bought a wonderful old Craftsman style house that was fairly run down. Not only was the house in need of repair, but the entire lot was an overgrown tangle of water starved plants, half -buried and uneven chunks of a concrete path, and yellow jacket nests. Our first priority was to make the house livable, but I was much more interested in the gardening potential. During the first two years most of the work involved the ongoing removal of chunks of concrete, machine parts, old stumps and roots, and badly pruned and suffering plants and trees. As I cleared the southern side of the house I amended the soil and began to plant a few things.
It made the most sense to start my new landscape design with some trees and shrubs. I was dreaming of madrona trees (arbutus menziesii) and big evergreens but knew those were not practical choices for my situation. I went to Rosso Gardens in Georgetown to figure out what trees would work with the mostly dry and sunny southern exposure and the narrowness of the area to be planted. Martha helped me choose some vine maples, a laceleaf Japanese maple, and a European Hornbeam. I brought her a picture of my house and she made suggestions on where to place the plants. I found it quite interesting, but not surprising, that her placements jibed with my 7 years of Feng Shui studies and practice. Many gardeners practice the most fundamental level of Feng Shui (which is called Land Form), without even knowing it. Now I always look for her when I go to Rosso’s.
After doing some research I discovered that I could satisfy my madrona obsession by incorporating arbutus unedo (strawberry bush) and arbutus marina into the landscape. These evergreen wonders with their reds and greens, combined with the amber trunks and peeling bark were just what I wanted and the right scale for the space. I went back to Rosso’s and once again Martha helped me choose the best of their stock of arbutus unedo. Later that summer I found a beautiful little arbutus marina at City People’s Garden Store in the Madison Valley. The colors of the unedo and the marina were the perfect compliment to the colors and style of the house and provided a theme for future plantings.
I am lucky to live in an area where there are many mature gardens – there is always something to admire and covet as I walk around in the neighborhood. When I get home I make additions to the list of plants I would like to grow. Some of the plants I was most interested to acquire this summer included chaenomeles (flowering quince) , Japanese rose (kerria japonica), potentilla (cinquefoil) and barren strawberry (waldsteinia). Without knowing it, I was falling in love with plants that were from the Rose Family. In August I went to City People’s again, just browsing, not really thinking I was going to buy anything when I saw it – a smallish tree that had the red and green colors I love plus fernlike leaves. I had never seen any thing like it and I just had to have it. It turned out to be a Catalina Ironwood (Lyonothamnus f. Var. “Asplenifolius) that was produced by Xera Plants in Oregon. Can you guess what plant family Lyonothamnus is from? If your answer is the rose family you are right. I only discovered the connection after I had acquired all of these lovelies over the course of the summer. Go figure.