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: 'Dragon Lady' Crossvine and 'Gold Cone' Juniper

Crossvine comes with its own suspense this far north. It can take years of attention and protection to establish a plant, and unflinching determination to try yet again after it dies. But if you can bring the vine across a threshold of age or size or volume, then the mission suddenly changes to control.

 

Bignonia capreolata Dragon Lady Juniperus communis Gold Cone 010318 hand foliage 640

 

I have tried to establish Bignonia capreolata 'Dragon Lady' several times and in several locations. Planting at the base of one of the espaliered southern magnolias seemed sure-fire, what with that tree's thick, wind-baffling foliage and dense branching. Plus, crossvine is shade-tolerant as well as self-clinging, so I had visions of the magnolia trunks becoming veneered with growth. I'll celebrate that if the vine ever burgeons past a few ground-level tufts and a single spindly tendril reaching just kneehigh.

 

Pairing crossvine with a supremely dense conifer, though, is shaping up into a huge success. Below, a section of Juniperus communis 'Gold Cone' that now sports a thick coat of Dragon Lady. 

 

Bignonia capreolata Dragon Lady Juniperus communis Gold Cone 010318 closer 640

 

The effect has been years in the making. Gold Cone forms a tight column of growth that—unhappily at the time of its first blizzard—revealed itself to be readily splayed apart by heavy snow and ice. With a spiral-tie of twine, it was easy to put Humpty Dumpty together again, and that process also suggested how to nurture the Dragon Lady vine that, so far, had just been stumbling around at the juniper's base. Before the onset of the next winter, I had removed the twine and purposely "resplayed" the juniper. Then I drew the Dragon Lady stems upward through the exposed center, gather the splayed juniper stems back together around them, and retwined. 

 

With Dragon Lady stems muffled by the dense juniper growth, my hope was that wind chill would be defeated. (I left just the tip of each Dragon Lady stem poking out to daylight—and, yes, into that wind chill—so that, as the weather warmed, the young vines would still experience the beckoning power of direct sunlight.) It was thrilling to see that, in the year or two that followed, not only did those original exposed stem tips survive and grow but, also, new stems kept emerging higher and higher from within the juniper column. Climbing up the juniper's dark but wind-free interior while sending vigorous side branches out into the sun and open air was apparently this crossvine's idea of fun.

 

With new stems emerging up and down the juniper column, the next phase was protecting that emergent growth; by fall, it was cascading luxuriantly. As is the norm for woody plants that flower in spring, the buds themselves had already begun formation that fall. If the exposed growth were killed back to the juniper column over the winter, then there wouldn't be any flowers. 

 

Just how hardy were those stems? They weren't exposed merely at the front but with wind-proof juniper right at their backs, they were in complete free-fall in the open air. That fall, I wrapped the entire juniper in wind-baffle fabric: It seemed more important to ensure those spring flowers than to test the winter hardiness of such "plein air" growth. The sheath of gray fabric was unattractive but effective, and the Dragon Lady growth greeted the spring quite unscathed. It flowered accordingly well, too. Hooray!

 

By early winter, the free-fall had easily doubled. Below, the Gold Cone / Dragon Lady pair as of yesterday. 

 

Bignonia capreolata Dragon Lady Juniperus communis Gold Cone 010318 full 640

 

Who knows what weather these exposed stems will need to endure as winter proceeds. The intense cold that will arrive this weekend could be just a first lick. Fortunately, the foliage itself is expendable: Stems can release their leaves without dying themselves. In other words, Dragon Lady can become more and more deciduous if the winter becomes rough enough, and yet still flower normally come spring.

 

My hunch is that this Dragon Lady has achieved critical mass, and will not just survive this winter without protection. Instead, it will encircle the juniper with orange/red/yellow flowers by June. I'm encouraged in my fantasy by this fully-exposed pergola in the neighboring town, which I had discovered last June. To produce such a bountiful display, the pergola must have been besieged by crossvine for years.

 

Bignonia capreolata North Stonington 061217 640

 

I had only discovered the pergola the day of this June 12, 2017 photograph; for this plant-lover, at least, it was a pull-over-immediately moment. So I don't know if there had been struggles years ago to get the crossvines established. One thing is true: There hadn't been the advantage of any Gold Cone "mufflers" and, yet, the show this past June was uninhibited and exuberant.

 

I'm crossing fingers, then, that my Dragon Lady will put on a floral display of comparable joy this spring—after which the mission of control will be critical: The juniper could be shaded out or even killed if the Dragon Lady growth continued apace. Right after flowering, I'll prune all the Lady's exposed stems back to the surface of the juniper. New stems might still emerge quickly, and lengthen with almost defiant vigor but, in the meanwhile, the juniper will still enjoy the full sun it prefers at the height of its early summer growth spurt.

 

Keeping this partnership stylish and stable for the long term is the next phase of the adventure. I'm on it! 

 

 

 

Here's how to grow this versatile native vine, plus a closer look at its smoldering buds and trumpets.

 

Here's how I spiral-tied Gold Cone juniper so that it as well as the enfolded Dragon Lady stems were snug and secure for the winter.

 

Here's how stately in form and understated in color Gold Cone juniper is spring through fall.

 

 
 
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