There’s rea­sons why ev­ery gar­den should have a pot­ted tree

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Weather - BY ADRIAN HIG­GINS

In the 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 year­round.

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 8 inches deep – and an­gled out­ward to pro­duce a tray­like pro­file redo­lent of a bon­sai dis­play. East­wood makes the planters in his work­shop.

If you want more heft in your planter tree, con­sider the work of pro­fes­sional gar­dener Nick McCul­lough, of New Al­bany, Ohio, who in­stalled full­size Ja­pa­nese maples for a client 11 years ago, and they are still go­ing strong.

He se­lected two up­right maples – pur­ple-leafed Blood­good and green­leafed Seiryu – and the clas­sic mounded green Viridis, and placed them in large, ex­trav­a­gant oaken con­tain­ers. The planters are 42 inches across and stand four feet tall.

They are used to mark key points of en­try to the ter­races around the house and the tallest, the Blood­goods, are 12 feet above the pot to cre­ate a real pres­ence.

NICK MCCUL­LOUGH

Planters, such as this one with an up­right Ja­pa­nese maple Seiryu, can de­fine key edges of the gar­den.

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