A Touch of the Orient

Among the loveliest landscape specimens in old-town Chico, the Japanese Maple (Acer palmatumcvs.) has become an iconic Oriental accent. With slow, hardy growth and lacy foliage, this diverse species ranges from stooped, gnarled pondside specimens to upright trees perfectly scaled to the urban backyard. Long-lived, these are also invaluable in containers and shaded corners, requiring little pruning and providing brilliant Fall color (green varieties) as well as a striking architectural element in the winter garden. While most of the cultivars available need some shelter from the summer sun in the North Valley, there are several new varieties which tolerate longer exposure.

Emperor One Japanese Maple - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Since its inception, Magnolia has offered an extensive and unusual selection of Japanese Maples. One major division may be made between the many varieties that come through the nursery in a year. Laceleaf-type maples generally exhibit the distinctive mounding, trailing form as they age, and remain fairly small. These are especially well-suited to landscape mounds, rock gardens, water features and patios, where their weeping habit can be unhampered. The finely-cut leaves in shades of red, purple or green are quite sensitive to wind-burn or sun-burn, and the plant should be provided full afternoon shade during the growing season. Prune seldom and selectively—the natural grace of these trees is accentuated by their tiered branches as they mature. Provided well-drained soil rich in organic matter, the laceleaf-type maples require little fertilizer.

The other group of Japanese Maples are the broadleaf-type. These are generally upright, with strong, straight branching patterns, and develop rugged, wizened trunks as they age. These are preferred for small shade trees, not only for their accommodating growth habit, but also because they are considerably hardier to wind and sun stresses. Filtered to full afternoon shade is still recommended during the growing season, but two new cultivars have shown increased resilience under sun exposure. “Emporer One” is a full, vigorous red-leaved variety which has demonstrated the greatest tolerance of the maples with colored foliage.

Though traditionally associated with Oriental gardens, the plethora of modern cultivars has extended the Japanese Maple’s appeal to other landscape styles. Whether you keep a natural woodland garden, or a neatly manicured border of Gardenias and Hostas, these trees add enduring beauty, distinct structural elements and lovely texture to the yard or patio. During the whole month of May, a wide selection of five-gallon Japanese Maples will be on special, so don’t miss this opportunity to bring home a touch of the Orient.

Ace palmatum 'Garnet' Japanese Maples - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Monocot Madness: Grasses to Know and Love

Grasses - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Whether spilling from an urn or bordering a stone walk, fringing a shaded pond or covering a sunny hillside, there are few plants in the garden that impart the sense of grace or the fluid motion of ornamental grasses. Their fine, linear structure makes an effective foil to coarser-leaved shrubs or perennials, and adds three-season visual interest. Striking in a mass planting, eye-catching as a specimen, these cultivated monocots are surprisingly low maintenance. Offering growth habits and colors aplenty, handling exposures from full sun to full shade, and tolerating a range of irrigation regimes, there is undoubtedly a long-leafed beauty prepared to infuse your yard with dynamic texture.

Grasses - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Black Mondo Grass - Magnolia Gift and Garden
A Magnolia favorite, Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) is one of the unsung wonders of the Northern California garden. The sun-shunning foliage lives up to its name, maturing to a deep black, highlighted by lime-colored new growth. This clumping evergreen will reach some 12” high and wide, and is reliably cold-hardy. Diminutive pale pink flowers, followed by striking black berries, emerge in early summer. Provide regular water during the warm seasons.

chondropetalum tectorum

The Cape Rush (Chondropetalum tectorum) forms a dense clump of reed-like stems about 4-5’ high and wide. The strongly vertical growth bears branched leaflets at the joints, lending a prehistoric air to this shade-dweller. Especially striking in aquatic settings, this false rush nonetheless requires very little water once it is established.
 
 

Hakonechloa_macra
Fubuki Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra FUBUKI ‘Briform’) is a descriptive moniker—the first word translates “snow storm,” which is easily envisioned when admiring the white-striped foliage of this cascading shade perennial. Come fall, the creamy bands color up to a soft pink. More compact than the species, Fubuki will spread to roughly 16”, and not quite as tall. Ensure that this one has moist, well-drained soil for superb performance.
 
 

orange-sedge
Heat- and drought-tolerant, Orange Sedge (Carex testacea ‘Orange Sedge’) is one of the best choices for a tough and nearly maintenance-free mass planting. New growth emerges a golden-green, turning orange in Autumn, and a toffee color over the winter. Mow this one before spring to rejuvenate the growth, or just let the new shoots infiltrate the bronzy clump, which will reach roughly 2’. In time, it creates soft hassocks of threadlike leaves that curl down to the ground.
 
 

Red Fountain Grass
Red Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) remains one of the loveliest perennial grasses, with tan and purple plumes swaying above rich red foliage in a 5’ clump. Once established, it demands little water. Though this graceful specimen does occasionally succumb to winter-cold in the North Valley, it is worth the risk. A green-leaved cultivar—‘Ruppelii’—is also available, displaying straw-colored seed plumes brushed with a deep rose.

 

Helictotrichon-sempervirens-habit
Valued for its round, pincushion form, Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrihon sempervirens) is semi-evergreen in our region. The steel-blue clump will reach some 2-3’ at maturity, and prominently displays golden plumes over the erect foliage in spring. Moderate water over summer will keep this one looking great. It should not be overlooked as a container subject; the bold texture and silvery tones make an architectural statement in any setting.

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Melynn’s Favorite Plants

Melynn’s Top 5 Must Have Plants

 

Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’
· This small shrub has all season color. In warm weather leaves have a soft chartreuse variegated color. In the cooler weather leaves take on a pinkish maroon color.
· Low maintenance plant. Growth habit is neat and compact. Plant reaches 2′-3′ tall and wide.
·Great evergreen shrub for small areas.

 


Loropetalum ‘Burgundy’
· Holds beautiful burgundy leaf color all year.
· Withstands full sun to almost all day shade
· Unique neon pink fringe flowers
· Low maintenance and little pruning required
· Although evergreen this shrub gets great fall color


Coleus

· Endless array of color combinations

· Brightens up dark shady areas

· Fast growing and has many different height selections

· Can be a stunning houseplant

· Last a very long time in flower arrangements


Acacia baileyana
· Tough drought tolerant evergreen tree

· Beautiful soft texture leaves with a grayish-blue color

· Spring flowers are in bright yellow globular clusters

· Good choice for small yards reaching only 20′-30′ tall


Gingko biloba
· Spectacular glowing yellow autumn color

· Fan-shaped leaves are very unique

· Disease resistant and very few pests

· The oldest tree in the world. Over 2oo million years ago these trees kept the dinosaurs company.