Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day & Foliage Follow-Up May 2018: The Garden Comes to Life!

Welcome to My May Garden!
May has arrived and it's time for another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up! The garden has come alive with a succession of new growth, buds and blooms daily. After one of the coldest April's on record, the month of May is bursting out all over with temperatures in the 70's and blue skies, accompanied by occasional spring showers to help the flowers grow. Come along for a walk in my Long Island May garden.
Perennial Border May
The tour starts with the perennial garden bordering the patio in the backyard. There is a variety of new growth to be seen as the new silvery-white foliage of Stachys (Lamb's Ear) and white trim of variegated hosta emerge. Along with Lamb's Ear and Hosta, Astilbe, Daylily, Salvia, Echinacea, Balloon Flower, Mont Blanc Allium and Peony Itoh 'Bartella' are making their appearance.
Itoh Peony 'Bartella' May
The foliage of the Peony is amazing at this time of year with burgundy hue and green undertones, which will eventually turn to a deep green. Buds are forming and will start to open in a few weeks.
Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' May Blooms
Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' forms a mat of purplish-blue blooms in May. I use them as a ground cover around boulders in the raised garden bed. The pop of color is always amazing!
Garden Gal with Black Mondo Grass
Garden Gal is displaying her Black Mondo Grass in planter. Behind the statue is Peony 'Karl Rosenfeld' getting ready to bloom.
May Foliage Combination
Here is one of my favorite foliage trios. Try mixing the foliage of Heuchera 'Caramel' (backdrop), Sedum 'Brilliant' (center) and Heuchera 'Palace Purple' (front). The colors complement each other and are especially vibrant in spring. I talk a lot about foliage combinations in my newest book Landscape Design Combinations
Weeping Evergreens in Pool Garden
In the pool garden is Weeping Norway Spruce (center) with Weeping White Pine (backdrop) and Golden Hinoki Cypress (center). 'Stella D'Oro' Daylily and 'Globemaster' Allium are along with the evergreens for some spring and summer blooms, and you will also notice some grasses and azalea in the distance. We will get a closer look in a bit as we walk to the other side of the garden.
Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms May
This is the second year for the Kwanzan Cherry I planted last year. It has already gotten even more magnificent and will continue to get better each year as it matures. I think it has some of the most beautiful blooms out of all the flowering trees. It's sad that the old maple tree that once existed in the space had finally reached its time, but I am so happy with its replacement!
Kwanzan Cherry Tree in its Second Season (Planted 2017)
Here is a full view of the tree as seen from the back corner garden.
Fragrant Viburnum 'Carlesii'
Back around the other side of the garden is Viburnum 'Carlesii' with its highly fragrant blooms that adorn the shrub in spring. When there is a breeze, you can smell its sweetness  across the property. 
Japanese Forest Grass
When it comes to foliage, Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass) displays wispy golden fronds with green stripes on a rounded plant, which adds brightness to a shady spot.
Patio Garden 
Along the patio garden, compact Hosta 'Golden Tiara' emerges in front of Caramel Coral Bells and alongside ornamental grasses, Juniperus 'Blue Star', ornamental onion and lilies. A mature grafted Montgomery Globe Spruce towers over the perennials. I enjoy when it gets all its new "candles" of growth in springtime.
Azalea 'Girard Fuchsia'
In the back garden is Azalea 'Girard Fuchsia' with its colorful blooms. Azaleas are short flowering, but I do love their brilliant color, which is a sure sign of spring!
Limemound Spirea and Allium Globemaster Buds

Soon Ornamental onion 'Globemaster' will put on its show. The buds are forming now and will be in bloom next month. Behind the bulbs is Spirea 'Limemound'. It's all about the foliage right now, but pink blooms will follow.
Pool Garden
As we pass by the pool garden once again, you can now get a long view of the space. The garden is starting to come into its element.
Front Entrance Garden
Now its time to take a stroll up to the front of the property. As we approach the front walkway, there are weeping trees, Japanese Garden Juniper and 'Caramel' Coral Bells.
Weeping Japanese Maples on Front Lawn
On the front lawn are two Weeping Japanese Maples that were planted over twenty years ago. The green 'Viridis' variety to the right towers above me at about eight feet tall while the red variety stands at about six feet. The twisted trunks bring interest to the garden in winter, but the new spring foliage is breathtaking!
Lamp post Garden
Here is Weeping Norway Spruce with Heuchera 'Palace Purple'. Also in this lamp post bed is Japanese Garden Juniper, 'Magic Carpet' Spirea, Salvia 'Caradonna' and Variegated Iris.  
Spirea 'Magic Carpet' and Variegated Iris
Here is the Spirea and Variegated Iris at a closer view. I noticed the iris has formed its first bud for Bloom Day!
Weeping Japanese Maple 'Viridis'
As we circle back around, here is another view of the larger of the two Weeping Japanese Maples with a closer view of its twisted trunk.
Fernspray Hinoki Cypress and Spirea Double Play 'Big Bang'
Walking towards the corner raised garden is Spirea Big Bang 'Double Play' with its vibrant foliage and soon to be large pink blooms...while Salvia 'May Night' is getting ready for its magnificent purple blooms at the end of May.
Salvia 'May Night'
There is always something to look forward to in the garden, which is why it is such a passion for me. Now that the gardening season has begun, I look forward to new blooms daily and time well spent nurturing the garden. 
May 2018 Garden: Hope You Enjoyed the Visit!
Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoyed this month's tour. Special thanks go out to our hostesses Carol at May Dreams Gardens, who makes it possible to see blooms on the 15th of every month with her meme Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-Up. I am also linking with some other wonderful hosts and hostesses at Floral Friday Fotos, Macro Monday 2, and Nature Notes at Rambling Woods. Also check out Garden Bloggers' Foliage Day at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides, Wednesday Around the WorldDishing It & Digging It and Image-in-ing weekly photo share every Tuesday.

Sharing my passion with my two books: (Available on Amazon!)

~As Always...Happy Gardening!~

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

This Month in the Garden: A Brief Guide to Growing and Caring for Bonsai Trees

A Brief Guide to Growing and Caring for Bonsai Trees 
Bonsai trees can be a beautiful and compact addition to any garden or arboretum, or as a decorative house-plant with a bit of a twist. The origin of the word bonsai is often misunderstood, with the phrase being used as a catch-all for a wide range of miniature trees and flowers. In fact, the cultural origin of bonsai trees is slightly more complicated, and certainly more interesting, than people may at first realize.

The origin of the term “bonsai”
Bonsai is a Japanese phrase, meaning “tray-planting”. Japanese bonsai is itself a re-interpretation of the Chinese “penjing” (or penzai) art form, which followed similar principles. It was in the Chinese empire where these artistically designed trees were thought to have originated, since the Chinese used special techniques to grow their penzai trees in shallow containers. From the 6th century onwards, Japanese students and diplomats visited the Chinese mainland and brought back many Chinese art forms, ideas and religious souvenirs. Slowly, over subsequent centuries, the concept of tray planting began to be incorporated into Japanese culture. Bonsai is the Japanese translation of the Chinese “penzai” art form. The bonsai art form was fused with Zen Buddhism, and Buddhist monks passed on bonsai cutting and planting to Japanese political leaders. The growth and maintenance of bonsai trees became more mainstream over subsequent centuries. By the eighteenth century, bonsai show cases and fairs were being held in Kyoto, then Japan’s capital city. In the aftermath of the Great Earthquake of 1923, Omiya Bonsai Village became a home for a multitude of bonsai nurseries in the suburb of Omiya just outside of Tokyo. By the 1930s, a bonsai exhibition had begun to be held annually at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Bonsai growth and cultivation:
A Bonsai tree is grown from source material, a plant which the grower may wish to cultivate into Bonsai form. The source material for a Bonsai plant is usually already partially grown; cultivating a Bonsai tree from seeds will take much longer (as much as three years). The more favoured cultivation techniques include:

Cuttingpart of a growing plant is cut off and placed in a growing medium, usually a shallow tray (hence the phrase bonsai). The thicker the branch cutting, the more likely it is to grow into a richer bonsai tree. Spring and summer are the best times to cultivate your plant cutting.

Layeringa branch of the tree/plant is encouraged to take root whilst it is still attached to the main body of the plant. After this rooting, the branch is then allowed to grow independently.

Popular styles of Bonsai tree:

Ficus bonsai:The ficus tree belongs to the mulberry family and is the most popular Bonsai species for beginners and growers who are new to the art form. There are hundreds of Ficus species, but the most popular is the Ficus retusa, which is often shaped in an S-shaped trunk. The ficus Bonsai is an indoor plant and cannot cope very well with cold temperatures. If kept outside, it needs to be in temperatures above 15 degrees Celsius. They also need a lot of light in order to grow. They should be watered regularly and re-potted every spring in basic soil.

Juniper bonsaiThe juniper tree exists in the cypress family of trees, and there are between 50 and 70 varieties. Juniper bonsai are coniferous (evergreen) which are popular for Bonsai purposes. Unlike ficus Bonsai, junipers are well suited to growing outside. They will also change colour during the winter months as part of a defense against frost and the more extreme temperatures. It’s important that you don’t water juniper bonsai too much, as their roots don’t thrive in excessively wet soil.

Japanese Maple
Japanese Maple Bonsai: The green Japanese maple bonsai is well-known for the orange, yellow and red autumn colours. It is best grown in sunny, airy conditions, and should be placed in light shade. It can withstand cold temperatures, but should not be left in hard, frosty conditions. Japanese maple Bonsai need to be watered daily.

Chinese Elm
Chinese Elm Bonsai: The Chinese elm is native to south east Asia. Whilst the Chinese elm is also a mighty tree in its own right, its small leaves also make it a good choice for Bonsai potting. The Chinese Elm bonsai grows well both in sunlight and moderate shade. Chinese elm can endure being raised and grown in cold temperatures, but this may depend on which part of the world it was originally grown in. Chinese Elm need to be watered generously.

What soil do Bonsai trees need?
If you are unfamiliar with caring for a bonsai, one of the first and most important factors you will need to consider is the type of soil in which to place it. Bonsai will not flower and prosper if they are not placed in the right soil, as soil is vital for supplying your trees with the right nutrients, aeration and water retention. Bonsai trees placed in “traditional” soil are unlikely to last long; hence, it is important to understand how to create the right soil conditions for your tree. After all, Bonsai trees are arguably a piece of art, and their unique structure depends on them being well-watered and well-maintained. There are a number of factors, which we have already touched on above, which are essential for your Bonsai tree to thrive.

Water retention: Water retention is essential for Bonsai soil, as the soil structure needs to be able to hold moisture in between watering.

Aeration: The particles of Bonsai soil need to allow for oxygen to pass through the soil, ensuring that sufficient oxygen is transported to the roots of the Bonsai tree.

Drainage: It may seem confusing, but it’s also important to remember that drainage is also important in choosing and preparing the right Bonsai soil. Excess water must be able to drain away from the Bonsai’s roots. This means that heavily compacted soil isn’t usually suitable for your Bonsai tree.

The composition of Bonsai soil: There’s no single way to arrange your Bonsai soil to create the conditions outlined above, but there are certain soil components which can increase your Bonsai tree’s growth and health. A Bonsai soil with the optimum conditions to allow for water retention, aeration and drainage will usually contain a mixture of organic and inorganic soil components.

Organic components:

The organic components of good bonsai soil include any of the following.

Conifer barkConifer bark is a good soil conditioner, which allows for both good drainage and the retention of water.

Peat mossthis helps to retain water, and bonds the different components of your Bonsai soil together. It should be used sparingly, as it can prevent sufficient drainage if not used correctly.

Potting soilthis adds bulk to the Bonsai soil, and helps to retain water. This component should also be used in small quantities, as too much could prevent drainage.

Inorganic components- Inorganic soil components do not break down and are more likely to provide aeration and necessary drainage for your Bonsai tree. This means that inorganic components are great for helping your Bonsai’s root growth.

Akadama ClayAkadama is hard-baked Japanese clay which is specifically produced for the purpose of growing Bonsai trees. It’s worth noting that Akadama clay will break down, but only after two years or so. This works out nicely, as Akadama clay can be quite expensive!

Lava rockthis can help with water retention, and further re-enforces the soil structure for your bonsai tree, as roots can’t grow into it.

Pumicea soft volcanic product which can absorb water and nutrients, once again helping water retention.

Fine gravelGravel can help with drainage and aeration for your Bonsai. It’s best placed at the bottom of the plant pot.

It’s worth noting that different soil mixtures will be needed for different types of bonsai. There are different soil compositions for deciduous and coniferous Bonsai trees (for example deciduous Bonsai trees will require a higher ratio of akadama clay). Since Bonsai trees are a whole family of trees, there’s no uniform soil composition for every size and shape. In the end, Bonsai trees depend most of all on their owners using the most care and craftsmanship in tending to them.

Thanks to Kaizen Bonsai for providing this valuable reference. After more than 20 years in the bonsai business, they continue to educate the public on the care and maintenance of these beautiful trees. For more on bonsai, be sure to visit their informative website at Kaizen Bonsai.

~As Always...Happy Gardening!~