Any­one’s gar­den can ben­e­fit from ad­di­tion of pot­ted trees

Plant­ings of­fer sturdy year-round pres­ence in yard

Pawtucket Times - - HOME & GARDEN - By ADRIAN HIG­GINS

The house­plants are back in­side, the pots of an­nu­als have been emp­tied and the con­tain­ers won’t be re­planted un­til the spring.

But in this rush to lay bare the win­ter gar­den, we may be miss­ing an enor­mous op­por­tu­nity. Any gar­den, big or small, can be trans­formed by the pres­ence of a hardy tree grown in a planter out­doors year-round.

The most ob­vi­ous value of such a fea­ture is that you get a plant of ar­chi­tec­tural stature where you don’t have soil. A tree in a planter can act as a fo­cal point to the pa­tio or any gar­den space viewed from a room in the home. Two or three of them can an­nounce your en­trance, sep­a­rate the drive­way or pro­vide in­stant screen­ing on an ex­posed ter­race.

In greater num­bers, they can turn a hot and un­wel­com­ing area into a leafy grove.

But there is a sim­pler rea­son for want­ing to do this.

“A win­ter­berry right out your back door you could look at every morn­ing, that’s pretty spec­tac­u­lar,” said Wendy Gen­try, a se­nior hor­ti­cul­tur­ist at Long­wood Gar­dens, in Ken­nett Square, Penn­syl­va­nia.

It prob­a­bly needs to be a small tree, or a sculp­tural shrub or conifer. The con­tainer should be large and frost-tol­er­ant – no frag­ile terra cotta. And let’s say right away that grow­ing trees in con­tain­ers can be pricey, though it doesn’t need to be, and is more de­mand­ing than a tree put in the ground. But the results can be fab­u­lous, with an added bonus: Un­like other in­vest­ments in the gar­den, you can take it with you when you move.

It is use­ful to think of a tree in a con­tainer as a yin-yang pair­ing: The plant and its home should be matched in size (al­low­ing room for a few inches of root spread), in pro­por­tion and in char­ac­ter. The plant is the dom­i­nant part­ner, so the con­tainer should not jar in color or form. This isn’t to say it can’t be stylish.

One of the most con­vinc­ing pair­ings I have seen is at East­woods Nurs­eries in Wash­ing­ton, Vir­ginia, where owner Henry East­wood plants va­ri­eties of Ja­pa­nese maples into hand­made planters of white oak. They are square and shal­low – just eight inches deep – and an­gled out­ward to pro­duce a tray­like pro­file redo­lent of a bon­sai dis­play. East­wood makes the planters in his work­shop.

I won­dered whether the shal­low­ness of the planters would be a prob­lem for fu­ture root growth, but East­wood, who sells 100 va­ri­eties of Ja­pa­nese maples, said the maple’s root pat­terns are much broader than deep.

“The 45-de­gree an­gle is com­pat­i­ble with what the roots do nat­u­rally,” he said. How­ever, the ef­fect of putting the trees in such a planter be­stows de­sir­able bon­sai-like qual­i­ties on them: They are stunted and take on an aged char­ac­ter early. And if you want to take the bon­sai com­par­i­son an ex­tra step, you can also re­move the tree from the planter every other year and trim the roots a cou­ple of inches to pre­vent the tree from be­com­ing pot-bound and to pro­mote new root growth, East­wood said.

Given its own pedestal, a nur­tured maple would, af­ter 10 years, be­come “an in­cred­i­ble spec­i­men,” he said.

Nick McCul­lough

Hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Nick McCul­lough used 42-inch-wide oak planters for a client’s Ja­pa­nese maples: a pair of the up­right pur­ple-leaf variety Blood­good.

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