Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Good Together: Allée of 'Limelight' Tree Hydrangeas

Creating structural garden components of living plants, not hardscape, requires boundless optimism, diligence, and patience: The constituent plants of a hedge, arch, pergola, allée, or backdrop screen aren't available full-size, and will assume their mature forms only after years or, even, decades. And all the while, only by dint of partnership with their human stewards.

 

By optimism, I mean belief in longevity of both the plants and the humans: Faith that the plants will thrive, not just endure indefinitely. Faith that the human—this human—will, too. And that this human will stay engaged in this grand project, let alone retain ownership of the garden's property. 

 

Hydrangea paniculata Limelight Fagus grandifolia Taxodium distichum Cascade Falls both Picea glauca conica Buxus sempervirens Vardar Valley 122217 640

 

Only such optimism allows the casual use of the word, "someday," as in: Someday, this allée of tree hydrangeas will canopy the central walkway.

 

But I'm getting ahead of myself: In the distance—past the long dip of the ground cloth, and immediately past the arch swagged with weeping bald cypresses, Taxodium distichum 'Cascade Falls'—I planted four green-flowered tree hydrangeas, Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora 'Limelight', on either side of the walkway. Their still-slender trunks aren't visible from this vantage; I'm grateful, simply, that their heads of dried-in-place flowers are held high and wide enough to make a show.

 

Below, the view from even farther away, showing most of the full length of the vista leading to the hydrangea allée. At the front, a block of four of the upright barbery cultivar, Berberis thunbergii 'Helmond Pillar'. At the back of beds on either side of the pathway just beyond it is the arch of weeping redbud, Cercis canadensis 'Covey'. Then, a long frame of galvanized pipe backdropping a major east-west bluestone walkway. (The six-foot ladder is sitting on that walkway.) The frame largely hosts espaliered heart-leaf linden, Tilia cordata, except for the opening through which the vista continues. That opening is just beginning to be curtained by more Cascade Falls

 

Hydrangea paniculata Limelight Fagus grandifolia Taxodium distichum Cascade Falls Picea glauca conica Buxus sempervirens Vardar Valley Longest 122217 640

 

This entire vista isn't visible from the house in the winter, so it doesn't matter that some of these plants—the Helmond Pillars in particular—are not just deciduous, but deciduous and without interesting bare bark. (I've resolved to let the Pillars mature to their most columnar glory—perhaps half-again as tall as now—so at least they will acquire creditable form.) It also doesn't matter that, after the foliage of the bald cypress has fallen for the year, its curtain doesn't provide any actual curtaining.

 

In the shot below, the vantage is right at the taxodium curtain-to-be. Now most of the plants in view do have considerable winter interest. Immediately beyond the curtain-to-be is the black ground cloth through the giant brushpile, then the taxodium arch, then the front section of the hedge of American beech, Fagus grandifolia, that encloses the garden containing the hydrangea allée, and then the hydrangea allée itself.

 

Hydrangea paniculata Limelight Fagus grandifolia Taxodium distichum Cascade Falls Picea glauca conica Buxus sempervirens Vardar Valley Best 122217 640

 

At the end of the allée are the returns of the beech hedge; here is the left one, showing the marvelous tawny fall foliage that's more-or-less retained until spring. This unusual quality is known as marcescence; read more about it here.

 

Fagus grandifolia Buxus sempervirens Vardar Valley 122217 640

 

At the bottom of the beech-hedge return, you can see the top of the mounding form of box, Buxus sempervirens 'Vardar Valley', that I've planted at the base of each hydrangea trunk.

 

A narrow archway-in-progress separates the two returns of the beech hedge, and leads outside the enclosure. A pathway runs along the back side of the hedge; on its far side, the vista ends with a dwarf Alberta spruce, Picea glauca 'Conica'.

 

Hydrangea paniculata Limelight Fagus grandifolia Taxodium distichum Cascade Falls Picea glauca conica Buxus sempervirens Vardar Valley Best 122217 tight 640

 

This quartet of plants—beech hedge, hydrangea standards-to-be, low box, and Alberta spruce—is a solid introduction to the spectrum of possibility for winter interest: broadleaved evergreen (box), needle evergreen (spruce), cold-weather flowers (hydrangeas), marcescence (beeches), and simple, weather-proof shapes (beech walls, starbursts-on-sticks hydrangea standards, mounds of box, cone of spruce, archway of beech).

 

This cold-weather display could be the alpha and omega of its ilk by adding plants that boast "live" flowers in the winter, colorful cold-weather fruit, bark that becomes colorful when temperatures plunge below freezing, durable grassy foliage, or showy seedheads. The majority of the enclosed garden is to the left of the hydrangea allée. What plants with these additional types of winter interest could be staggered with the trunks of the four hydrangeas on that side? Could they also spill out into the view corridor down the vista? Stay tuned for these upcoming discoveries.

 

From the taxodium curtain-to-be onward, the garden is not yet deer-fenced, so the horticulture needs to be browser-proof. Hence the reliance on the beech hedge, boxwood, Alberta spruce, and taxodium.

 

It will take another three to five years for each of this octet of tree hydrangeas to have a trunk of uniform height, and old enough (and, hence, thick-barked enough) to be deer-proof. Then, the soft flower-tipped growth that will form at the top of each full-height trunk each season will be held too high to be nibbled. For now, the small garden containing the hydrangeas can exclude deer simply by blocking with mesh the two ends of the vista pathway that crosses it; the enclosing hedge's beeches were planted barely a foot apart, and have each become tall and densely-branched enough to provide the rest of the deer barrier. l put those two panels of mesh back in place after finishing this photography session.

 

With the hydrangea's increasing maturity, the visuals of their display will also become complete. Each trunk will be topped by a shade-casting starburst of young stems, each tipped with a fluffy flowerhead: in other words, an allée of eight hydrangea standards. It will be exciting that these standards' heads will jostle together overhead, forming a single canopy of bloom perhaps sixteen feet long. Just as exciting will be that the hydrangeas' individual trunks will be thick enough to be discernible even from the distances in these shots. The floral canopy will be supported, then, by an eight-"post" enfilade of hydrangea trunks.

 

As is its habit, the enclosing hedge of American beech has matured, seemingly, all of a sudden. For years, it was composed of small tentative little saplings, too spindly, short, and sparse of foliage to give hope that a mighty—let alone deerproof—hedge could ever be their unity. But here the deerproof unity is; the challenge now is the yearly pruning in winter to keep it all in check.

 

In a few years, all the rest of the "hortitecture" constructing this view will be finally, and fully, formed. What an amazing victory it will be.

 

 

 

Here's how to grow a similar tree hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora 'Unique'. Here's a look at its performance when grown (as these Limelights will be) as standards; the photos are in high summer, when the flower clusters are fresh.

 

Here's how to grow another tree hydrangea cultivar, Pink Diamond.

 

Here's a closer look at American beech when grown as a hedge.

 

 
 
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