Note the tree's habit-- incredibly open and rangy. Looks terrible in winter.
It can also, under the right growing conditions, reach an alarming height
quickly. Basically, it looks good for about 3 weeks out of 52.
Although one poster mentioned pauwlonia, I think an equally likely candidate
is redbud, which would probably just be finishing up bloom in the mountains
of the south. (It blooms in March in North Florida, April in north Georgia).
Although the name sounds like it should have red blossoms, in actuality it
has pinkish/purple blossoms - more or less the color of wisteria. (probably
a shade darker purple).
Sounds like Paulownia tomentosa. The only other candidate that comes to mind
would be the Robinia x hispid or neomexicana and cultivars...but you'd never
see them en masse in the hills. Planted landscapes only.
Mike LaMana, MS
Heartwood Consulting Services, LLC
I think it's the Poulownia. I Googled on Robinia, though, and it is a pretty
plant -- I am looking for something showy and generally that
color to line a long driveway and separate microenvironments in a large
yard. I just bought a house on 5 acres on a hill that is divided
equally between a poorly maintained lawn and uncleared brush/forest.
I'm planning on breaking the land into small microenvironments
separated by high borders with one fairly large but manageable lawn.
Thus I'm looking for interesting plants to form high barriers along the
As I noted in a different post, most of the sites seemed to frown on
using Paulownia in landscaping, though I am not sure why. The Robinia
looked nice -- and as a tall shrub rather than tree I'm wondering if it
can be formed into a decent hedge. Do you know?
I seem to be coming late to this discussion Bill, but if I read it
correctly, you're looking for a suitable alle tree for a long drive.
Certainly, Pawlonia and Robinia are both right out-- they're pioneer species
both that have weak wood and are rather ungainly with age. Having said that.
I hdo have several large Robinia on my property-- they're not without charm,
and in bloom are lovely in their own way-- the mature bark is also very
attractive, ropey and muscular. You *will* have large branches and trunks
shedding from time to time, however, as it's the nature of this tree to
slough off weakened, aged, or damaged wood.
Classic choices for an alle include:
Golden Chain Tree, Laburnum x watereri:
shows a somewhat young alle using this tree.
Zelkova serrata, especially 'Vaseyi'.
Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
Many of the Red Oaks
You can also think about evergreens or conifers, which would produce quite a
Thanks for the advice. Yes, I am looking for something to line a
driveway, but am also looking for creative ways of making relatively
high sight borders to separate small areas of the yard. Basically,
this place I recently bought is on a knob on the side of a hill and has
about 5 acres of land. There is about 2 acres of *relatively* flat
land, with the land behind the house angling slightly up, and the land
in the front falling off into a small ravine that separates my land
from the next door neighbor. A good part of the front is cleared, with
a poorly-kept lawn. The rest is in brush and forest, with the brush so
thick it is impossible to walk through.
The interesting thing I have seen so far with the property is that
there are lots of little microenvironments that are very different
because of light, drainage, slope, etc.:
The area behind the house has a lot of large old oaks, poplar, dogwood,
and some other trees I haven't identified (I'm fairly new at this--my
background is in microbiology and medicine, not botany). It is very
shaded, relatively cool and moist, and has abundant natural ferns and
delicate natural plants with fairly subtle flowers that I also haven't
identified. It's biggest problem is that it is getting overgrown with
english ivy and has a *lot* of poison ivy -- which is not a big problem
for me, but my wife reacts to it.
The area in front of the house is cleared except for a couple of large
old trees that are not oaks, but I'm not sure what they are, yet. They
are around 60 ft tall and very gnarled. The trunks are about 6 ft in
diameter. It is the dome of this little knob, and is thus very well
drained and tends to be hot and dry compared with the rest of the
yard. Part is in the drainage field of the septic tank, which provides
slightly different growth.
As one goes more towards the ravine, and gets into the brush, there's a
lot of shade growth, but it is clearly a lot drier than the area behind
the house. Lots of morning glories, wild strawberry, wild blackberry
and such except where overtaken by dense woody brush. Lots of redbud,
dogwood, magnolia, oak, pine, and things I don't know. The trees are
awfully crowded, and many are clearly not healthy. Lots of dead wood;
the previous owner must have dumped the logs from clearing the open
area in the brush around the house. The brush is a significant habitat
-- with wild turkey, numerous birds, deer, raccoon, etc.
Continuing on down the ravine (which is *fairly* gentle), it starts to
get darker and moister again.
Finally, there was apparently a house built here in the mid 1800s that
was bulldozed and replaced by the original owner of the current house.
Scattered throughout the yard are the remnants of the original
hardscape -- parts of old fieldstone/flagstone retaining walls and
raised beds, ruined ornaments (I cut my way down the ravine one day and
ran across a stone sculpted birdbath covered with poision ivy), a
partially ruined hand-dug well with brick wall, etc. Some need to be
removed, and I am getting the well cleaned out and reinforced, but some
are attractive as ruins.
So, I plan to separate the yard and deal with each of the
microenvironments individually. I plan to put a shade/fern garden in
the back, break up the front lawn with different ground covers, do a
little terracing, etc. and connect the areas with footpaths. I would
like to have significant semi-formal sight borders between the areas.
I also want to maintain enough brush (preferably controlled, such as in
these larger borders) to provide habitat and cover for the critters
that are there now. I figure that having multiple small protected
areas as mini-gardens would be more conducive to critters than a large
open area. I have read, for instance, that it is better to build
borders by weaving limbs back into the border rather than pruning them
in order to create areas that birds like to nest in...
The other reason I plan to do it this way is that this is all fairly
new to me (my last yard was 0.25 acres), and concentrating on small
areas is more manageable and provides better learning that trying to
deal with everything all at once.
Finding trees to line the driveway isn't the big problem. The problem
I am concentrating on is figuring out the right kind of thing to build
the borders with, the right trees and hardscape to use as accents in
and along the borders, and how to plan the small areas and paths to
provide good visual effect.
I plan to be working incrementally on this for some years, and will
obviously be re-doing a lot of things as I learn, but some of this
early planning, particularly with the positioning of the paths and the
planting of the borders and trees, are things I will want to stick with
for some time. I want to plan it well.
I'm prinnting your description out and will answer when I can. I'm a
Landscape Architect, I'd be happy to comsult with you on this if you'd
like-- I love the residual elements from the historic owners of the space--
Thanks, but this is being done on a *very* limited budget. This is one of
those "the joy is in the building as much as in the product" kind of efforts.
That's one of the reasons I'm breaking it into small chunks, so that each
will be manageable in time and resources.
Lots of similarities between our situations Bill, right down to the
spouse who is reactive to poison ivy and the background in biology
(mine's molec. genetics, actually) and medicine. Of course, your yard
sounds a whole lot more interesting than mine, especially with the
interesting ruins. Perhaps you can learn from some of my experiences,
especially the mistakes.
Brush clearing is a slow, difficult, and painstaking process, unless you
enlist help. Every year, I go around and start cutting down the stuff
closest to the clearing. If you can get a mower in there at that point,
it is easy to maintain control. Otherwise, it becomes an ongoing
battle. The one exception to this approach has been what I've done with
the vines that were strangling the trees. Some of these things were a
good 50 or 60 ft. tall with trunks as big around as my arm, and they had
to go so the trees could be salvaged. Although I am not a big fan of
herbicides, I've resorted to them, in order to keep the vines from
regrowing as if nothing has happened. After 4 years of doing this, it
still looks like a jungle in there, but it is becoming more passable.
Unless you are really handy with the chainsaw, get someone to come in
and take out the dead/diseased trees. You'll have a better sense of how
much space you're dealing with.
Although I have approached gardening on this property in a piecemeal
fashion, my one regret is that I didn't get around to putting in the
backbones (trees and shrubs) sooner. I am just now getting to it, after
4 years of being here and of course, doing this while brood X is about
to emerge may not be the smartest idea. I am holding out on some of the
major ornamental trees, and probably won't plant them until after the
cicadas are gone, or maybe next year. Although the brush you have is
supporting a lot of wildlife, you can add ornamental shrubs that will
also be able to support them, and won't attempt to run away with the
property. Have a master plan in mind, and work towards putting in all
the high impact elements first. Your plan will most likely evolve, but
if your initial choices are well researched, you will still be able to
work with/around them.
Take time to do things right. Amend the soil if you have to, for your
perennial beds (if any). It may mean that you won't do much by the way
of planting this year, but you won't regret it later.
Heh. I've already found that. I was talking to my neighbor recently,
who told me that the previous owner had spent most of his time of
ownership just trying to clear the land. The problem is magnified
because either he or the first owner seems to have dumped all the
old wood from the clearing right at the edge -- so I not only
have to fight all the brush, but have what seems like hundreds
of old dead trunks lying right out of sight on the other side
of the visual barrier of the first layer of brush.
It's a problem. The one good thing is that the county dump here
welcomes brush and old tree trunks, if they are sawed down small enough
to fit in the back of a pickup. The county grinds it all and then
gives away the result as free mulch. You can come on Saturday
mornings; they have a frontloader that will fill a pickup with
mulch for you. Thus, if I can cut things down to a reasonable
size, I can at least get rid of it.
Right. I am concentrating on the basic hardscape -- paths, trellises,
fences, retaining walls, etc. as well as the larger borders first,
mostly because it will define the space and the border and focus plants
take longest to mature.
That's what I'm hoping. It's also another one of the reasons I'm
working with small spaces -- I hope that when people aren't in one of
the spaces, being in a nearby one will not disrupt wildlife nearby.
Yes, I already made that mistake and learned from it. I started with a
few beds right next to the house -- the space between the garage and
front porch, etc. -- and planted some perennials and groundcover just
to keep the grass and clover out. The clay was so hard I had to turn
it with a pick before I could use a tiller on it. I didn't have any
sand handy, and didn't have money to buy any that week, so I mixed it
with topsoil and some mulch I had on hand. It has already settled and
is hard as rock again (though the plants are doing fine). The next
area I did later and I added sand to it; it is doing better.
Get as much of that mulch as you can. It's great for your garden. The
county gives away free mulch and free leaf mold (fall-early spring), and
I've basically been using these for building my flower beds out of icky,
clay soil. You won't believe the difference between the mulched areas
and the unmulched areas after a couple of years.
I am going through my ForestFarm catalog, crosschecking the plants
against my Sunset Gardening Guide, and making lists of plants that are
wildlife friendly. It's a slow process, but I'm enjoying it, and
learning a lot.
Keep topdressing the beds with compost, and use mulch for weed
suppression. The quality of the soil will improve greatly over time.
I've basically been building the flower beds by laying down layers of
newspaper, putting down leaf mold on top of it, and leaving the whole
thing alone for at least 6 months, generally a year. Between the
freeze-thaw and all the earthworm activity, this stuff gets down fairly
deep, and improves the soil. You can plant right into the top layer,
and it saves an awful lot of work.
Could it have been some type of Vitex? These grow mostly in moist and
shaded areas in the Southeast, along rivers and streams. There are about 16
types (from what I can find out about them) and range from bush size to tree
size with clusters of fruits (berries?) that sort of resemble pecans.
Sometimes the flowers are white. Smell great. Common name is Lilac Chaste
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