Friday, December 12, 2008

Grass Green in Winter?

Few evergreens remain grass-green in winter but one is just that: a grass!

This is a (now) massive stand of Yellow-groove Bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) growing as a screen behind the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This woody grass can grow up to 25 feet tall (these are a mere 15 feet). It is a running bamboo so be prepared to control it or cut the new culms (sprouts) in spring. We are harvesting canes off this massing for uses in garden staking and trellising.

A closeup of its culm (stem) reveals a flat side that is yellow -- this is how the Yellow-groove Bamboo gets its name. The invasive shoots of this plant in spring are edible but the main species utilized in Asian cooking as bamboo shoots is Sweet Shoot Bamboo Phyllostachys dulcis. Edible shoot bamboos will be on display in the new Heartland Harvest Garden.

The feathery mass of green is the native bamboo Switchcane (Arundinaria gigantea). This grass is native in southern and southeastern Missouri and quite hardy here. This massing is a backdrop in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. Switchcane is the only evergreen shrub of any size (8 feet) native to Missouri. It provides good cover for wildlife and makes a good screen in natural landscapes.

Steeple-shaped evergreens of Green Giant Arborvitae (a hybrid between Giant Arborvitae a.k.a. to lumbermen Western Redcedar Thuja plicata and Japanese Arborvitae Thuja standishii) really put on a show along the trolley drive to the Chapel. This was originally a mass planting of Scotch Pine. Knowing that disease was ravaging that pine, we planted little one gallon trees of Green Giant Arborvitae from the Botany Shop in Joplin, MO, in between the Scotch pines. The Arborvitae are now 18 feet tall while most of the Scotch Pines are dead (except the one on the right). Green Giant Arborvitae also are shunned by deer!

The blue-green needles of Vanderwolf Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis) are quite showy in this season. We actually have had trouble with Limber Pines getting a needle blight but this one has so far been immune. As with most plants from high mountains, they should be planted in full sun with good air circulation in our hot, humid climate zone.

One of our bluest needled evergreens is the 'Hoopsii' Blue Spruce (Picea pungens) the state tree of Utah and Colorado. Its icy blue needles are so beautiful and striking in the winter landscape.

Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) has been a good performer for our heavy clay soils but is pushing its northern limits here. I actually like its apple/yellow-green, long needles. Trees at Powell Gardens (along the nature trail and other wild areas) were planted by the Boy Scouts long ago and the tree depicted is actually a self-sown seedling transplanted to this location south of the Rock & Waterfall Trolley Stop.

Evergreen certainly does not mean "green." The evergreen Leatherleaf Viburnum (Viburnum x rhitidophylloides) leaves turn shades of purple in winter -- this year more red than purple!

Here is a closeup of the winter foliage of the Leatherleaf Viburnum this year. It has beautiful texture as well as color for the winter landscape.

Powell Gardens is a perfect place to see a variety of evergreens in the winter landscape; and you will notice many of them certainly are not green in the winter but a wonderful array of green blended colors including reddish, orangish, yellow, bluish and purplish! All photos taken by Alan Branhagen on December 12, 2008.

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