Dormant-Season Renovation of Privet Hedges

Privet hedges are used all over the island as a beautiful way to border properties and break up large landscapes into smaller spaces.  In a lot of ways, privet is an ideal plant for tall hedges because it grows quickly and can be maintained at a relatively narrow width.  However, even well-maintained hedges slowly widen over the years, and established plantings will need a harder pruning every so often to stay healthy and in bounds.

Shearing hedges is a necessary part of maintenance, but this practice can cause problems in the long run.  When woody plants are repeatedly sheared, a dense layer of tiny twigs builds up on the outside, shading the interior stems and inhibiting dormant buds from sprouting.  As hedges age, dead wood can also accumulate in the center.  It’s not so much that it’s wrong to shear hedges; it’s more a matter of realizing that in order to keep a hedge healthy in the long run, renovation is required from time to time.  Removing the dense growth on the outside allows sunlight to fall on the dormant buds below, stimulating strong, healthy, new growth.  It also makes it much easier to saw out dead branches and scout for insect pests like scale and thrips that live directly on the bark.  This procedure is best done during the dormant season.

There are several ways to approach renovating a privet hedge.  Because privet grows rapidly, a declining hedge could be cut to within a few inches of the ground and allowed to completely regenerate.  If well irrigated and fertilized, one might expect 4-5 feet of growth in a single growing season.  This drastic approach won’t be acceptable in most situations.  I usually suggest that a hedge be renovated over 2 or three seasons, making deep cuts on one side per year.  Leaving one side un-pruned guarantees continued screening during the summer.  Although it can be nerve-wracking to make big cuts, be assured there are hundreds of dormant buds waiting just below the surface of each trunk and branch that will sprout once the sun shines upon them.

Be sure to use the proper tools for the job.  Branches narrower than ½” in diameter can be cut with regular hand pruners.  Branches up to 1” should be cut with sharp loppers.  Anything  wider than an inch should be cut with a hand-held pruning saw or chainsaw.

Consider following these steps:

  1. Choose the side that will be worked on. Rake all the debris out from under that side.
  2. Determine how much wood will be removed and set a string line along the ground as a guide for pruning. Make sure it is tight, and hovers above the ground without snagging on the lower branches of the hedge. 
  3. A second line can be strung at chest-height as well, but it’s a challenge to get it in place before pruning. Tie the string line onto sturdy stakes that won’t pull in allowing the line to sag as you are working.   Prune around the line, so that hangs freely and doesn’t snag on the branches.
  4. Start pruning on one end. Work from the ground up to as high as you can reach, establishing a vertical plane with the string lines as reference.  NOTE:  A properly pruned hedge has a narrow “A” shape; tighter at the top than it is at the bottom.  It is acceptable to maintain a 90 degree angle to the grade, but never allow the top portion of the hedge to splay out wider than the bottom.
  5. From time to time stand back and scrutinize your work. When you are right next to the hedge, it’s hard to judge whether or not it’s straight.  It’s much easier to stand at the end that’s completd and look down the length of the privet with one eye closed.  Move back and forth slowly and you can see any spots that still poke out past the string line.
  6. On taller hedges, you may need to make a second pass above your first to finish the job. Pole saws and pruners can be used.  There is even a chainsaw available that is on a long pole.  Personally, I much prefer using a sturdy ladder, or scaffolding made between two Little Giant ladders.  NEVER EXTEND A CONVENTIONAL CHAINSAW ABOVE MID-TORSO TO MAKE A CUT OR STRAIN TO TRIM A BRANCH JUST OUT OF REACH.  Always move your ladder to a comfortable working distance.  Don’t forget; the top should be narrower than the bottom.
  7. I suggest pruning the top each time you do a renovation, even if you don’t want to reduce the overall height. This extra step allows maximum sun penetration over the upcoming season.
  8. Once the major pruning operation is complete, make sure all dead wood is removed and take a good look at the bare wood remaining. Scale insects and thrips have become more of a problem on Privet over the last few years.  If large populations of any pest are found, consider applying a control.
  9. Power-washing has become widely used as a means of destroying tiny insects that overwinter on woody plants. Although I haven’t tried this approach, I have heard good things about its’ efficacy.  Power-washing is best done while the plants are still dormant.  If you are considering it, do your research and complete the process before buds begin to break in spring.

How to Prune Chaste Tree, Vitex agnus-castus








Now that the weather is cool and we’ve had a good hard frost, most shrubs have shed their leaves.  If you like to do your pruning in the fall, it’s time to get started. I’ve been cleaning up our garden over the last little while, and decided to prune our Vitex the other day.  It seemed like a good opportunity to review the best pruning practices for these great plants.

Before making any cuts, make sure you have your objective in mind.  For Vitex, pruning is generally done to accomplish a few goals – keep the plant healthy and shapely, with a great show of flowers the upcoming year.








First remove any dead, broken or whiskery twigs.  Weak growth will not be able to support a flower or fill out the main framework, so it’s best to direct the plants energy into stronger branches.  If there are any old branches in an area where new growth has begun to fill out the shrub, remove them right at ground level, in favor of the younger growth.

Next, consider the size and shape you want the plant to be in the next growing season.  Generally, the shrub will be rounded when pruning is completed with a balanced framework of branches that grow up and outward from the base.  Pruning cuts should be made just above a pair of buds.  Dormant buds can be hard to recognize at first; they look like little scaly bumps on the smooth branches.  Those buds will wake up next season and the new growth will have a huge flower on the tip in August.  If you were happy with the size and shape of the plant this past season, use previous cuts as a guide, trimming back side shoots to a single set of buds where they emerge from a main branch.  Most branches will have little “Y’s” at the top after this style of pruning.

Over years of pruning this way, the tips of the branches where the pruning cuts are made will form pollards (where many stubs have accumulated from regrowth at that node year after year)  When strong new growth no longer sprouts from the pollard, make a cut below, at the next set of buds, removing the pollard and allowing the plant to produce strong new stems.  If you find that your plant is getting a little leggy and bare at the bottom, make a few cuts closer to the ground, to encourage new shoots to fill out the bottom.








Vitex can also be grown as small multi-stem trees.  In that case, remove all but a few trunks rising from the base, and prune the upper branches less, to form a canopy.


We’re always on the lookout for plants that can solve problems for our customers.  We think spicebush, Lindera spp, might be one of those plants!  This wonderful native plant grows naturally from Maine to Ontario and Kansas and south to Florida and Texas.

This medium to large shrub, flowers in April on bare stems.  The yellow flowers remind me just a little bit of witchhazel, or winterhazel, but are smaller and held close to the twigs.  They are a good nectar source for insects waking up from their winter nap.  The mid-green, ovate, fragrant leaves turn yellow in the fall.  This plant is the sole food source for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly, and worthy of planting just to feed their caterpillars!  Similar to hollies, spicebush are dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female plants.  The males have somewhat showier flowers, but the females will produce red, elongated berries in the fall that feed migrating birds.

Spicebush is easy enough to grow in a wide range of soils and conditions.  Although they will have a denser habit in more sun, they perform well in part shade and do well in areas with moist soils.  Try planting it with arrowwood viburnum and Clethra in dappled sun.  Tall native perennials like Joe Pye weed and rose mallow would also make good companions.

Hydrangea Flower Color

Hydrangeas are funny ducks.  Sometimes their flowers are blue.  Sometimes they are pink.  Sometimes they are purple.  Sometimes they are red, sometimes they are fuchsia.  Sometimes they are white.  Sometimes they are a combination of all these colors.  We love the great variety of colors that these quintessentially Nantucket plants can bring to the garden, but many gardeners prefer one over another.  Traditionally, pastel blue has been the most sought after.  It seems simple enough.  Buy a blue hydrangea, plant it – done!  But with Hydrangeas it’s just not that simple.  So often, a gardener will buy a blue-flowered Hydrangea, plant it and find it bloom some other color the following year.  They puzzle over it.  They come in to the nursery saying, “I’m sure I planted ‘Nikko Blue’ it was perfect last year, now it’s pink!”  So what’s going on?

There are several factors that affect Hydrangea flower color.  The species of Hydrangea, the availability of aluminum in the soil, the time of year, and the amount of pigment in the flowers.

Not all Hydrangeas are able to change their flower color in the same way.  Mop head Hydrangeas, Hydrangea macrophylla (the ones with big, round, squishy flower heads), are very susceptible to aluminum. If mop head Hydrangeas absorb aluminum from the soil, the flowers will be blue or purple.  If there is no aluminum in the soil, or it is chemically unavailable to the plant, the flowers will be pink.  In addition, the soil must be acidic or the plant cannot absorb aluminum.  In soils 5.5 and higher on the ph scale the aluminum is “locked up” and cannot be absorbed.  Planted in soil that has a ph lower than 5.5, the aluminum is easily taken up by the plants causing blue flowers, even in plants that are meant to be pink.  So, you can easily have a blue ‘Forever Pink’ Hydrangea.  The reverse is also true.  A ‘Nikko Blue’ Hydrangea will be pink in alkaline soils.

‘Ayesha’ in pink
‘Ayesha’ in blue









Generally, Nantucket’s soils are lean and acidic, but not always!  If your blue Hydrangeas come out pink, aluminum sulfate can be added to the soil, changing them to blue.  It may take several applications, a few weeks apart, or even a whole growing season to get the color you are looking for.  Simply dilute the product in water and drench the soil around each plant, making sure to avoid the leaves.  Take care to follow the application rate on the package, as too much can burn the roots.  If your pink Hydrangea blooms blue, add lime to bring the ph closer to neutral.  Phosphorous also affects the availability of aluminum.  In order to keep the aluminum available, (and flowers blue) make sure to use a low-phosphorous fertilizer.  Choose a fertilizer with higher phosphorous to inhibit the aluminum, if you prefer pink.

The age of the flower and the time of year will also affect color.  Early in summer, most varieties will appear paler, almost bi-color, with most of the color showing at the edges of each floret.  As the flowers mature, the color generally becomes more even.  Later, as cooler nights arrive, the flowers enter their antique phase, and often appear reddish or deep purple.






The quality of the color is affected by the amount of pigment in the flower.  Each cultivar is different, but there are basically two groups as far as color saturation is concerned; Pastel and deeply saturated. In cultivars like ‘Glowing Embers’ there is a lot of pigment present in the flowers, allowing for very intense purples and/or pinky-reds. These plants will never be baby blue like ‘Endless Summer’.  No matter how much the soil chemistry is changed, there will always be a lot of pigment in these flowers, so they will always have deeply saturated color.  Conversely, cultivars similar to Endless Summer® can only produce pastel hues of blue, lilac and soft pink, there just isn’t enough pigment present in the flowers to allow for intense shades.


And then there is the whole question of white.  ‘Madame Emile Mouliere’, ‘Sister Theresa’ and Endless Summer® Blushing Bride, all purport to have white flowers.  Unfortunately, none of these stay clear white all season.  With afternoon shade, ‘Madame Emile Mouliere’ and ‘Sister Theresa’ will remain white for several weeks, but eventually take on a tinge of pink, or less often, blue.  ‘Blushing Bride’ usually takes on a pale pink hue, as well.  We are not aware of any way to keep the flowers white on these plants all season.




The take away:  If you want a blue Hydrangea, choose one that is bred to be blue, and plant it in acidic soil, using an acidifying fertilizer low in phosphorous.  If you’re shooting for pink, choose a variety bred to be pink, plant it in soil closer to neutral and use a balanced fertilizer, with higher amounts of phosphorous.  For white blooms, choose ‘Madame Emile Mouliere’, ‘Sister Theresa’ or ‘Blushing Bride’ be sure to give them afternoon shade.

Deutzia gracilis cvs.

Deutzia gracilis

This time of year the island is popping with excitement.  It’s almost Figawi, and town is starting to fill up with the summer crowd.  Although it feels like we have only been graced with two days of sun all spring, our garden on Somerset Road is coming along nicely.  The border of lady’s mantle is all budded up and the ferns, Astilbe and Hosta have begun to fill in the shady areas.  Deutzia gracilis, one of our favorite shrubs, is just about to reach full bloom in the border.

If your garden could use a big splash of white for Memorial Day, Deutzia gracilis (Slender Deutzia) might be just the right plant for you.  This medium to small sized shrub does very well in sunny locations with average soil and even moisture.  But slender Deutzia also does just fine in part shade with sporadic water.  We notice that our Deutzia that gets more shade tends to arch wider than it is tall, while the one that gets more sun is somewhat rounder.

The species is a shrub of medium size, reaching 4 to 5′ tall and wide with arching branches that are covered their full length in white bell-shaped flowers in late May.  After the flowers fade, it’s medium green, ovate leaves provide a calm space in the garden that provides a great backdrop for summer-flowering perennials like Nepeta, Calamintha,  or Geranium ‘Rozanne’.  For smaller gardens, ‘Nikko’ is a tried and true compact cultivar that stays under three feet.  In the past few years we have sold the Proven Winners selection, Yuki Snowflake® which seems to be just as strong as ‘Nikko’ with the same compact habit.  “But I need more color!”  No problem!  Chardonnay Pearls®, another Proven Winners plant, has chartreuse leaves all season.  A google search for “Pink Deutzia gracilis” pulls up Yuki Cherry Blossom® a selection with pink bicolor flowers.  There is even a variegated selection, ‘Nikko Dawn’.

So, there you go!  A beautiful shrub that won’t take over your garden, is deer resistant and never seems to get any bugs.  That’s Deutzia gracilis.  Try it, I think you’ll really like it.

Crape Myrtles


Crape Myrtle for Fall advert-001-EditThere are very few trees that can put on a show quite as spectacular as a Crape Myrtle.  They range in size from miniature shrubs, suited to container gardening, to medium-sized trees.  They have lustrous, dark green leaves and huge flowers that can be seen from quite a distance when they cover the whole canopy in late summer and early fall.

My first experience with Crape Myrtles was in Florida many years ago.  I remember thinking that the trees in most of suburbs looked like they had been plucked out of a Dr. Seuss book!  In that part of the country, these trees are often drastically pruned into wacky shapes.  That’s not my favorite look, but it’s definitely an option.

I’ve gained a wider appreciation for Crape Myrtles after noticing several of them around Nantucket town.  When left to grow in their natural shape, they are quite elegant.  As these trees size up, their bark begins to exfoliate, sloughing off like cinnamon sticks and leaving behind a beautiful mottled pattern.  They are often grown with multiple trunks to best display this attribute.  Their canopy is most often vase-shaped or rounded, sometimes reaching as wide as they are tall.  If careful pruning is done, the branch structure itself can be a lovely feature.

And then there are the flowers.  Botanists refer to their shape as paniculate; meaning there are many individual flowers all connected to a main stem in the middle by individual little stalks, very much like a PeeGee Hydrangea flower.   They come in an array of colors mostly in shades of red, pink, purple, and fuchsia.  There are also white cultivars for those who prefer a quieter statement in the garden.  Flowers are borne on new wood and appear in late summer and early fall, just as many high summer perennials are getting tired.  By the end of September, the flowers fade but are still of interest as their tiny fruit cling to the bare panicles.  Later on, they wake up the garden all over again as their leaves change to hues of red and orange before falling to the ground as winter sets in.

Crape Myrtles perform well on Nantucket with some shelter from harsh winds.  They are considered marginally hardy here, but I’ve seen many in town that are a great many years old and doing well.  During prolonged cold winters, they may experience some die-back in the canopy, but they rebound very quickly once summer arrives.  If you have a sunny spot with reasonably good soil, a Crape Myrtle is a great way to add some spunk to your garden.

Check out our Crape Myrtle Pinterest Board for photos and more information on cultivars we’ve carried in the past.

Spiraea 101

The increasing size of the white-tailed deer herd on Nantucket has had a huge impact on gardening.  These large herbivores seem to much prefer eating our well tended plants over the natural vegetation.  It can be devastating to walk into the garden in the morning to find whole groups of plants completely torn to the ground overnight.  These large animals sneak in and out of our gardens in the dead of night, like ghosts, often leaving behind only shreds of our prized flowers and veggies.  What are we to do?  Many gardeners have simply given up.  For those that enjoy growing food and flowers for the home, the best bet is a tall, sturdy fence and a dedicated garden.  But do we really have to forgo a beautiful landscape with successive seasons of bloom and interest?  I don’t think so.  Where deer pressure is high, I suggest planting more deer-resistant shrubs and less perennials.  Spiraeas are a fantastic way to go.

There are many species of Spiraea, but the majority of those cultivated are Spiraea japonica.  The top sellers for us are x bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’, ‘Neon Flash’ and ‘Little Princess’.  All three flower in hues of pink and red over a long period in the summer.  However, there are a great many other Spiraeas to take advantage of.  There are large varieties that will arch over the back of the border, dwarf forms that can be used as ground covers, and a lot of rounded forms that seem to be at home almost anywhere in the landscape.  They come in a range of colors from shades of red to clear white and everything in between.  With a little planning and strategic maintenance, the clever gardener can have flowers from March until September with this versatile plant.

Generally Spiraea prefer a sunny location with average to fertile soil.  That being said, they are extremely forgiving.  As long as they get a little water during droughts, they will thrive in lean soils with a good layer of organic mulch over their roots.  Part sun is just fine for most varieties, although they may tend to stretch a little more than their peers growing in the sun.  Overall, Spiraeas are pest and disease free, and require more or less the same amount of maintenance than perennials to perform their best.

A few cultural notes:

  • In the nursery, we notice Thunberg’s Ogon Spiraea tends to get powdery mildew early in the season and aphids can be a problem.  Consider spraying a fungicide like copper at the first sign of mildew and scouting for aphids while new growth is tender.  Insecticidal soap does a great job controlling these little buggers.
  • Bumalda hybrids can get fungal spots when they are packed tightly together with overhead water.  We suggest drip tubes for irrigation and a renewal pruning every few years, to keep these plants looking their best.  If the spent flowers are a problem, shear them off as the petals fall;  this haircut will tidy the plants and promote another bloom cycle five or six weeks later the same season.
  • Early flowering types like ‘Ogon’, Snowmound’, vanhouteii and ‘Tor’ can be pruned while dormant just like their summer flowering cousins, but all the growth removed would have flowered in spring.  For the largest flower display, hold off pruning until just after flowers have faded.  The ideal way to prune these graceful shrubs is by thinning, rather than shearing.  Shearing destroys the natural form and promotes a ‘witches broom’ appearance as many twigs regrow at the ends of trimmed branches.  In situations where these plants are used as hedging or topiary, ignore these suggestions; shear the plants into the desired shape while dormant and follow up in early summer with another cut.

For Photos of all these plants, check out our Pinterest Page:  Spiraea Pinterest Board

Common varieties are listed below:

Japonica and Japonica hybrids (Japanese Spiraea)

♠ These plants benefit from a light shearing after their first flush of flowers.  This treatment removes deadheads and promotes a second flush of bloom later in the season. ♠

Spiraea x bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer‘ : This widely planted Spiraea, grows 4-5’ tall and wide with Carmine-pink flowers in summer. New growth is red, changing to bronze and maturing green. This variety is prone to branch sports with variegated leaves.

Spiraea Double Play ™ Artist aka Spiraea japonica ‘Galen’:  A newer introduction with purple-red foliage in spring, that matures to a bluish green in summer.  Low, mounded form 2- 21/2′ tall and wide with rich pink flowers.

Spiraea x japonica ‘Gold Mound’:  Hybrid between S. j. var. alpina and S. xbumalda ‘Goldflame’.  New leaves emerge bright yellow and mature to a light green in summer.  Flowers are lavender pink.  These Spiraea grow 2.5-3′ tall.

Spirea japonica ‘Golden Princess’:  The dainty foliage emerges orangy-red, but matures to yellow.  Bares pink flowers.  Mounded habit, growing to 30″.

Spiraea japonica ‘Goldflame‘:  New leaves are orangy-red, changing to yellow and mature to light green in summer.   Pink flowers.  3′-4’ tall and wide.

Spiraea japonica ‘Little Princess’:  Small leaves.  Pink flowers in summer. This compact form will grow to about 3′ tall and wide.

Spiraea Magic Carpet ™:  Dirr remarks, “Almost a ground cover variation of ‘Goldflame’.”  New leaves are orangy-red, changing to yellow and mature to light green in summer.  Pink flowers.  Mounded habit, growing to 2.5-3′ tall and wide.

Spiraea japonica ‘Neon Flash’:  Extremely similar to ‘Anthony Waterer’ but has less branch sports. Carmine pink flowers in summer.  Foliage emerges red, changes to bronze and matures green.  Rich red flowers on 5′ tall, rounded plants.

Spiraea japonica ‘Shirobana’ aka ‘Shibori’: A small shrub growing 2.5-3.5′ tall and wide.  Bears pink and white flowers on the same plant.  Some plants will display quite a lot of white, while some are mostly pink.

Nipponica (Nippon Spiraea)

Spiraea nipponica ‘Snowmound’:  These large arching Spiraea will grow from 5-7′ tall and wide.  Blue green foliage is somewhat ovate, with slightly toothed edges.  White flowers appear along the branches in late May or June, making the plant look somewhat like a gushing fountain.  Dirr claims ‘Snowmound’ is a superior plant to x vanhouteii, another white Spiraea that flowers in early summer.  Pruning may be done while the plant is dormant, but all the growth removed would have flowered in early summer.  For the largest flower display, hold off pruning until just after flowers have faded.   Shearing destroys the natural form and promotes a ‘witches broom’ appearance as many twigs regrow at the ends of trimmed branches.  In situations where these plants are used as hedging or topiary, ignore these suggestions; shear the plants into the desired shape while dormant and follow up in early summer with another cut.

Prunifolia (Bridalwreath Spiraea)

Spiraea prunifolia:  This old favorite is a large rangy plant.  The double, white flowers appear in mid April on bare stems.  Although there are always a few customers each year that request this plant, we don’t often stock it.  Other white-flowered Spiraeas are much better landscape plants.

Thunbergiana (Thunberg’s Spiraea)

Spiraea thunbergiana ‘Ogon’ aka Mellow Yellow®:  I love this plant!  The fine textured foliage is soft yellow maturing to light green.  Tiny white flowers appear on bare stems in early spring.  This arching shrub gets 3-5′ tall, but is best maintained by periodic pruning at 3′.  In the nursery, we notice Thunberg’s Ogon Spiraea tends to get powdery mildew early in the season and aphids can be a problem.  Consider spraying a fungicide like copper at the first sign of mildew and scouting for aphids while new growth is tender.  Insecticidal soap does a great job controlling these little buggers.

x Vanhouteii (Vanhoutte Spiraea)

Spiraea xvanhouteii:  Leaves are bluish green, lobed and wider than ‘Snowmound’ This large shrub grows 6-8′ tall and just as wide.  The small white flowers appear in April or early May, along the arching branches.    Pruning may be done while the plant is dormant, but all the growth removed would have flowered in early summer.  For the largest flower display, hold off pruning until just after flowers have faded.  Shearing destroys the natural form and promotes a ‘witches broom’ appearance as many twigs regrow at the ends of trimmed branches.  In situations where these plants are used as hedging or topiary, ignore these suggestions; shear the plants into the desired shape while dormant and follow up in early summer with another cut.

Betulifolia (Birch leafed Spiraea)

Spiraea betulifolia ‘Tor’:  Leaves are green, wider, and stubbier than many other spiraea, but still slightly lobed and toothed.  White flowers Appear in May among the leaves.  These plants are compact, 24-36″ tall and wide with a rounded habit.

Spiraea betulifolia Glow Girl® :  A Proven Winners introduction.  Very similar to ‘Tor’ but with yellow foliage.  White flowers in May, 24-36″ tall and wide.  Rounded Habit.

Rosa rugosa ‘Hansa’

Rosa rugosa is one of Nantucket’s quintessential plants, right up there with blue Hydrangeas.   These Asian roses have been grown on Nantucket since the beginning of the last century, and possibly earlier.  They do very well in our inhospitable maritime environment.  They tolerate salty winds freezing winters and drought, all the while producing loads of flowers and disease-free foliage.  They can be found planted all over the island and have naturalized in many of our dunes.

Rosa rugosa 'Hansa' flowers
Rosa rugosa ‘Hansa’ flowers

The botanical Latin term, “rugosa” means wrinkled.  It refers to the quilted look of the shiny green leaves.  Rosa rugosa has a beautiful pink single, or sometimes white flower.  The white-flowered plants are often labeled as the cultivar, ‘Alba.’  The fragrant, single flowers are very beautiful, but there are many cultivars available with different flowering characteristics.

We currently have a large group of ‘Hansa’ in stock.  This stunning rose was introduced in 1904, making it more than a century old!   ‘Hansa’ sports huge, fully double flowers in a deep pink color.  They flower throughout the summer perfuming the air with a clove-like fragrance.  After the flowers fade, their hips enlarge and turn shades of orange and red, making them even more interesting to look at.

For more information check out our Blog post Rosa rugosa 101

Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’

Pauls Hymalayan MuskWe sell loads and loads of climbing roses here at Surfing Hydrangea.  Happily, antique climbers grown on their own roots are coming back into popularity.  Many of these are rambling roses with long flexible canes that lend well to growing on split rail fences, up into trees and over pergolas.  These guys are large, but if planted in the right place and allowed to sprawl, they make a spectacular show in June.
We’ve just stocked a group of ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ roses that are sure to please.  This variety was introduced around the turn of the century and has been growing strong ever since.  This rose is disease resistant and very adaptable – said to bloom heavily with only half day of sun.  Although rambling roses only bloom once, they are well worth the wait.  ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ covers itself in double pink blossoms that produce an intoxicating scent.  A 30′ tall cascading curtain of roses can’t be missed!

Japanese Plum Yew

Cephalotaxus sps.

Cephalataxus harringtonia for webIsland gardeners tend to grow few evergreen trees and shrubs compared to their counterparts in America.  Admittedly, it can be difficult to grow robust conifers and broad-leafed evergreens on Nantucket.  Desiccating salty winds and hungry deer can do a real number on them, especially in the winter.   But in town, or in a protected garden, free from deer, evergreens can be grown successfully on The Grey Lady

One of my favorite evergreen shrubs in Japanese plum yew.  This elegant evergreen very much resembles it’s namesake.  Like Yews (Taxus sps.), there are several species and forms on the market today.  We tend to carry Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata’ for use as a spreading form and Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’  for it’s columnar shape.

These cultivars are males, and will not bear fruit as many yews do.  The broad needles are a slightly shiny deep green color and look just like exaggerated yew foliage.  The green color persists in winter as long as the plants aren’t in an exposed location.  This makes them a nice alternative to boxwood, which can bronze or even turn bright orange in winter.  Although we can’t say Japanese plum yew is the answer to all your evergreen desires, it has proved to be very durable and somewhat deer-resistant in one neighborhood in Tom Nevers.

This plant will tolerate a number of conditions, but is best grown in shade.  It will flourish in moist, well drained soil and, once established, won’t miss a beat during short dry spells.  Try pairing the spreading types with plants that have broad, variegated or colored leaves like Hostas.  Why not go for the gold and pop in some spring bulbs like Scilla or Snow Drops to bloom in bare areas while the Hostas are still asleep in early spring?  The dainty flowers would look great set off by the deep green needles of the Japanese plum yew.  The upright form ‘Fastigiata’ makes a superb punctuation in the garden.  Plant it next to an entry or a funky container; it would also make a great hedge if well-maintained.