Tag Archive: stem


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cornus alba sibirica and green yellow stems of C. flavirameaCornus is a genus of about 30- 60 species of woody trees and shrubs, commonly known as dogwoods. Most are deciduous, but a few are more like herbaceous perennials (subshrubs) and some are evergreen. Cornus is the latin word for ‘horn’ referring to the hardness of the wood.

The name “dog-tree” was recorded in 1548, and this had changed to “dogwood” by 1614. After this the plants soon became known as the Hound’s Tree, while the fruits came to be known as dogberries or houndberries (the latter is also the name given to the fruits of the black nightshade- alluding to Hecate’s hounds).

The plants may have become known as ‘dogwoods’ from the Old English word dagwood, which refers to the ways it’s slender stems of very hard wood were used to make “dags” (daggers, skewers, and arrows).

Another, earlier name of the dogwood in English is the whipple-tree. Chaucer refers to the “whippletree” in The Canterbury Tales (‘The Knight’s Tale- verse 2065). A whippletree is also a part of a horse – drawn cart; the link between the drawpole of the cart and the harnesses of the horses lined up behind one another, and commonly carved from the Whippletree or Dogwood.

Some of the Cornus species names are:

C. alba = white

C. canadensis = of Canada

C. candidissima = very white- the flowers

C. capitata = headed- the grouping of flowers

C. florida = flowering richly

C. fragifera = strawberry-like – the fruits

C. glabrata = glabrous

C. kousa = a japanese name

C. mas = male (mascula of Linnaeus)

C. nuttallii = after Nuttall

C. sanguinea = blood-red- the twigs

Cornus are either grown for their flowers, interesting leaves (some both of interest during summer and autumn) or for their colourful winter stems. These are just coming into their own in winter gardens around Britain – including Old School Garden. I have several groups of C. alba ‘Sibirica’, C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and C. sericea ‘Flaviramea’ (some grown easily from hardwood cuttings). I ‘stool’ these (i.e. cut the stems to the base) each spring to encourage new growth, which once the leaves have fallen (these are also very colourful in the autumn), reveals bright red, orange and yellow- green stems, which really glow in the winter sunshine..

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

Seven Plants for Winter Wonder -article on Old School Garden

Cornus- RHS advice

Cornus- an essential winter shrub- Daily Telegraph

Old School Gardener

string over canes So what do you use to keep your plants supported and under control? Do you favour ‘old school ties’ (!) or prefer the wide range of modern products now on offer? Here’s a gallery of different types of tie with a few comments based on my experiences- I’d love to hear your views!

Chain lock - can cut the length you require and can be adjusted. Plastic- degrade after a season? Packs of pre cut lengths also available.

Chain lock – can cut the length you require and can be adjusted. Plastic- degrade after a season? Packs of pre cut lengths also available.

Tree belts- sturdy, diferent lengths/ thicknesses, for for use with posts/stakes.

Tree belts- sturdy, diferent lengths/ thicknesses, for for use with posts/stakes.

Plastic/wire twist on reel- can cut to length required and easy to use , but once fixed doesn't have much give, so not good where stems growth expected as it will effectively cut the stem unless loosened in time.

Plastic/wire twist on reel- can cut to length required and easy to use , but once fixed doesn’t have much give, so not good where stems growth expected as it will effectively cut the stem unless loosened in time.

Jute tree ties- softer than plastic/rubber belts, so good where stems are tender/thin. Biodegradeable.

Jute tree ties- softer than plastic/rubber belts, so good where stems are tender/thin. Biodegradeable.

Old nylons/ tights used to secure tomatoes- goos strechability and also soft, so won't damage stems. The recycler's option!

Old nylons/ tights used to secure tomatoes- good ‘stretchability’ and also soft, so won’t damage stems. The recycler’s option!

Raffia- natural product useful for slender stems and a 'natural' look- found it a bit fiddly to use myself.

Raffia- natural product useful for slender stems and a ‘natural’ look- found it a bit fiddly to use myself.

Plastic rings (wire versions also) for linking plant stems to a cane- good room for stem growth & movement, but can chafe the stems? Plastic- will eventually degrade/snap?

Plastic rings (wire versions also) for linking plant stems to a cane- good room for stem growth & movement, but can chafe the stems? Plastic- will eventually degrade/snap?

Suede plant ties- stronger and more durable than jute/cotton, and as soft. Only one length though?

Suede plant ties- stronger and more durable than jute/cotton, and as soft. Only one length though?

Plastic stem supports- fix stems to trellises, fences etc..No experience of these..

Plastic stem supports- fix stems to trellises, fences etc..No experience of these..

Good old fashioned jute twine- different thicknesses and easy to cut and tie stems in- but will only last a season- biodegradeable.

Good old fashioned jute twine- different thicknesses and easy to cut and tie stems in- but will only last a season- biodegradeable.

Individual stems held to wall/fence with nail- I've found these difficult to fix into my walls and also degrade/crack after cold weather.

Individual stems held to wall/fence with nail- I’ve found these difficult to fix into my walls and also degrade/crack after cold weather.

Velcro - easy to cut off the length you need and you can expand the space as the plant stem grows. How well do they last? Some come with a reel cutter that can be fixed to your waist belt, and also come in packs of pre cut lengths.

Velcro – easy to cut off the length you need and you can expand the space as the plant stem grows. How well do they last? Some come with a reel cutter that can be fixed to your waist belt, and also come in packs of pre cut lengths.

Biodegradeable cotton- needs a knot, and will rot fairly quickly? At least no plastics into landfill..

Biodegradeable cotton- needs a knot, and will rot fairly quickly? At least no plastics into landfill..

Strong plastic, of varying lengths/thicknesses - good for tying canes or other structures together- not good for securing plant stems -can't be adjusted

Cable ties- strong plastic, of varying lengths/thicknesses – good for tying canes or other structures together- not good for securing plant stems -can’t be adjusted

Soft tie- rubber/plastic covered wire which can be cut and bent to shape. Soft covering good for cushioning stem, but probably best used on harder stems where a more permanent fix is required- eg roses against trellis.

Soft tie- rubber/plastic covered wire which can be cut and bent to shape. Soft covering good for cushioning stem, but probably best used on harder stems where a more permanent fix is required- eg roses against trellis.

Quizzicals- two more cryptic clues for you:

  • Hello Miss Black
  • A punch up in the water

Old School Gardener

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IMG_5170As I sit and look out of my window this cold January day, the snow has started to fall once more- looks like the heaviest fall will be later today. So the firewood has been stacked and fortunately the week’s shopping was done yesterday…

At this time of year you could be forgiven for thinking there’s not much of interest in the garden. We tend to focus on the other seasons when we think about (or impulse-buy) plants. The weather itself isn’t exactly encouraging us to visit the nursery or garden centre. And anyway, they seem to be rather  forlorn places at this time of year, especially the bigger ones that have ‘diversified’ into Christmas tat- the shelves are either emptying to make way for spring gardening stock or they’re full of half price Christmas cards and tinsel…

Well, we should perhaps think about how our garden looks in every part of the year, especially the important views into it from the house, road etc. In the winter, it’s these views that count, as it’ s less likely you’ll want to venture into the wet or cold garden itself.

The choices are significant – yes you can have:

  • beautiful flowers
  • powerful fragrance
  • colourful fruit
  • vibrant stems
  • interesting bark
  • strong  form
  • fascinating  foliage

Here are seven examples of the sorts of plants that can be a winter wonder in your garden.

Dogwoods provide wonderful winter stem colour

Dogwoods provide wonderful winter stem colour

1. Dogwoods (Cornus species)- vibrant stem colours make this a winner especially where you can group several plants together and maybe combine them for subtle effects (try C. alba ‘Sibirica’ (red) surrounded with C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’– amber- orangey red). Prune the stems back to the base of the plants in spring or leave one or two stems to grow taller and then pollard it for extra height (prune ‘Midwinter Fire’ less)- you will also get some lovely autumn leaf colour.

Witch Hazels- magical spidery flowers

Witch Hazels- magical spidery flowers

2. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis in many different varieties)- beautiful spidery-like flowers are magical in woodland edges. Grow as specimens or focal points under trees or in open ground – will grow about 2 metres high and wide over time.

Crab apple 'Red Sentinel'- plum-sized fruits that birds seem to avoid

Crab apple ‘Red Sentinel’- plum-sized fruits that birds seem to avoid

3. Crab apple (Malus species and cultivars – but not the ‘orchard’ apple Malus x domestica)- some of these smallish trees are suitable for smaller gardens with their columnar growth – e.g. M. tschnoskii (which can grow to 12 metres high but only 7 metres across). The main reason for growing them, in my view, is their fruit. Plum – sized apples which seem to be just the right size to not interest birds, so you’ll hopefully be left with a great show throughout winter. I particularly like M. x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ (can grow to 7 metres high and wide). And Crab apples give great spring flowers and autumn colour too.

Mahonia x media- black fruits follow the flowers

Mahonia x media- black fruits follow the flowers

4. Oregon Grape (Mahonia species and some cultivars)- this is a winner on several counts, but mainly through its winter flowers and foliage. It’s evergreen  leaves (some spiky) will burnish orangey-red if exposed to the sun. My favourite is the hybrid M. x media ‘Charity’ which is an erect evergreen shrub with sharply toothed leaves and dense yellow flowers that cascade from the stems. One ideally for part shade, so a woodland edge is perfect.

Viburnum x bodnantense- wonderful scented flowers

Viburnum x bodnantense- wonderful scented flowers

5. Viburnum x  bodnantense ‘Dawn’ there are many different Viburnums, and they make a wonderful addition to the garden for their flowers, fragrance and foliage at different times of the year. This one is a hybrid and is chiefly grown for its wonderful scented flowers which grace the medium-sized deciduous shrub through winter on bare stems.

Box- small leaves make it ideal for strong  topiary shapes

Box- small leaves make it ideal for strong topiary shapes

6. Box (Buxus sempervirens or if you want a slower growing, more compact form go for the variety ‘Suffruticosa’)- one of the great plants for shaping into strong forms that help to carry your garden’s structure through the winter months. Also, don’t forget that some perennials will add form and structure to your garden through their dead stems and shapes. For Box start growing small and gradually develop your desired form, or buy (at some expense) some of the ‘ready- to – rock’  topiary at nurseries and garden centres. There are some wonderful examples of historic topiary in Britain such as Levens Hall, Cumbria.

320px-Paperbark_Maple_Acer_griseum_Bark_3008px

Paper-bark Maple- bark peels into subtle tones

7. Paper bark Maple  (Acer griseum)- a fantastic, slow growing tree which can reach 10 metres high and broad. Like most Acers it gives great autumn leaf colour, but it’s main attraction is the peeling bark which looks especially magical with low winter sun shining through it.

Further information;

Guardian online

Winter containers

Winter vegetables

Quizzicals:

answers to the last two-

  • Our monarch continues to work hard – Busy Lizzie
  • Nasty spot causing urination problems – Bladderwort

A couple of gardening ditties:

‘Whose sorrel now?’

‘Don’t leaf me this way’

(thanks again to buddie Les for these)

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