Driving from Farmington, Maine to Portland this past weekend, I was in awe of the onslaught of fall colors. This 60 mile Northeast strip is legendary for its autumn display; locals even bragged that I was a week early for the big show. But it got me thinking of the more subtle, but longer lived color display, put on by cold hardy Eucalyptus trees.
(Eucalyptus camphora & mannifera)
I know fall color is more an attribute associated with deciduous trees, and one doesn’t look to Hollies or Pines for autumn inspiration, but in Eucalyptus trees, coppers, reds, burgundies and even purples in both leaves and branches appear as soon as temperatures drop below freezing. To the best of my knowledge it’s a form of “protection” from the elements; kind of like the healthy look of blushed cheeks on a cold winter’s day.
(Eucalyptus nicholii 'Angus' & rubida 'Cab Sav')
Now I’m not saying the colors of Eucalyptus are going to challenge those offered by Mother Nature in Maine, Colorado, or the NC mountains. But I know I will be enjoying the subtle hues and evergreen foliage well into the winter months when very little else in my landscape is offering up seasonal interest.
In between growing Eucalyptus and producing TV, I find some time to do a little design work for friends and family. Recently, I was helping out a few such friends: one a talented graphic artist and musician, and the other, one of the country's top metal fabricators. Now both of these guys are the kind of dudes that just ooze with creativity, so I was surprised when I saw their hesitation with designing with plants. Sure, they get textures, tones, and balance, but not knowing about a plant's palette, care, and tendencies can throw up the white flag with the creative mind. The experience got me thinking about three little things homeowners, DIYers, and new gardeners can do, before they spend a penny, that will make a considerable impact on the landscape.
Thin - If it looks crowded or you're grooming it more often than yourself, get rid of it! Many new homes are left with "builders specials" where the landscape design was the last and least thing they thought about.
Limb - Don't look past a tree or shrub's trunk.. In my last blog I wrote about the wonderful contorted trunks and exfoliating bark of Eucalyptus trees http://southerneucs.com/blogs/news/27233028-move-over-crepe-myrtle. The same could be said for Japanese Maples, birches, and elms. Start by removing any crossing or diseased branches. Then remove any lower branches. With trees, prune to the point where you can walk under. With large shrubs, prune to point where you can add underpaintings.
Trim - Like the way you feel after a good haircut? So do your beds. Define them with a steep 3-5" trench. Use a sharp, flat shovel to get a good clean line. Refresh the beds with your mulch of choice. The method is very effective for those with a running grass like Bermuda. An occasional application of Roundup to the trench will keep the Bermuda out of your beds.