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Topgrafted lilacs are stunning in bloom and provide great vertical interest in a perennial bed. Double flowering plum is extremely hardy (zone 2) and puts on a spectacular show each spring with double pink blossoms. I have a passion for creating different 'rooms' in the garden, each including a sitting area, perennial bed, pathway and -- the finishing touch -- a small tree to lend vertical interest as well as a four-season presence. With a topgrafted standard, the top part has been grafted onto a compatible rootstock -- the two different plant pieces then unite and grow together as a single plant.
Topgrafts must be pruned annually, not only to maintain the rounded shape of the top graft but also to ensure that stress is not placed on the grafted area.
Stubbe describes a tree form, in the simplest terms, as a shrub that has been pruned and trained, using a strong central stem, into a single-stemmed tree.
The nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) is usually grown as a medium-sized shrub but can also be bought as a tree form. When both shade and space are at a premium, particularly in a new housing development, tree forms have a distinctive presence, providing height, showy spring blossoms, foliage, possibly summer berries and even brilliant fall colour. I once purchased a Snowball Viburnum shrub with the intention of training it into a tree form but ended up yanking it out because it seemed plagued by either pests or diseases or both. The leaves are much larger than what you might see on a lilac and feature a noticeably rough texture. This one is more versatile than some of the exclusively sun-loving tree forms because it can be grown in part shade as well. Purple or plum leafed plants provide great contrast in the garden and, properly placed, can work very well with annuals and perennials, especially blues and reds, silver, grey and white. While numerous varieties of lilac topgrafts are available, with colours ranging from pale pink to purple red or a brash purple white (Sensation Lilac top graft), you can also choose an evergreen topgraft -- Globe Blue Spruce (Picea). Topgrafts and tree forms can range in price from about $69 to $129, and rabbits can kill a tree by stripping off the bark during the winter months when food is scarce.
Commercial trunk wraps are easy to apply in late fall by wrapping the trunk from the base upwards.
When it comes to lush and romantic blooms on a large scale, hydrangeas rank with peonies in terms of their arresting visual beauty in the garden. But, while herbaceous peonies die to the ground by the end of each autumn, hydrangeas are unsurpassed among flowering shrubs. Each year several new varieties of hydrangeas burst onto the gardening scene, complete with promises of sturdier stems to support the ever-larger heads, more flowers per plant, or colours that include white, green, pink, red, or a combinations of hues. Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea, for example, features tri-coloured 10-inch blooms that are a blend of vanilla and strawberry, turning to a rich strawberry-red colour that lasts from three to four weeks. Little Lime Hydrangea, a new dwarf selection that is one-third the size of Limelight Hydrangea, produces vast numbers of blooms that are about six to eight inches across. The name Incrediball, of course, suggests what is perhaps the largest bloom of any of the hydrangeas on today's market -- up to 12 inches across.
Owen Vanstone, of Vanstone Nurseries in Portage la Prairie, highly recommends the Incrediball Hydrangea. Another variety is Invincibelle Spirit, which promises blooms that will emerge bright and hot pink.
There is a certain mystery to hydrangeas, however, and it lies within the area of care and maintenance.
One of the most commonly asked questions among gardeners at this time of year is, "Should I prune my hydrangea"?
The most common types of hydrangea available in our growing zone are: the mophead (Hydrangea macrophylla var. The most popular species is the macrophylla, which means "big leaf." It produces the mophead blooms that are globular or rounded in shape and six to eight inches wide -- mostly showy, infertile flowers arranged on the outside and a small number of fertile flowers in the interior.
Because the flowers are mostly sterile, they are not pollinated and do not produce fruit and seed, so the flower heads last a very long time. Examples of the mophead type of hydrangea include Hydrangea arborescens (Annabelle, Incrediball and Invincibelle Spirit) and the Endless Summer collection, whose latest entry is Bella Anna.


The lacecap variety features a flattened flower cluster with an inner ring of small-sized, fertile flowers surrounded by an outer ring of large, showy flowers. When it comes to an early blooming time, Philip Ronald, of Jeffries Nursery in Portage la Prairie, recommends Quickfire. Another variety that is making more of an appearance at the garden centre is the climbing hydrangea (H. The next step to identifying and caring for your hydrangea is to determine whether it blooms on new or old wood -- or both. For example, the Endless Summer hydrangea, discovered by plantsman Michael Dirr at Bailey Nurseries in Minnesota, has pink or blue blooms (depending on soil acidity) and blooms on new wood of the current season and old wood of the previous season. Pruning should be done as soon as flowering is finished, prior to flower bud formation for the following year. In the spring, wait until new leaves have fully expanded before cutting any dead-looking stems to the ground -- they may not be dead. The easiest hydrangeas to prune are those that bloom on new wood -- the Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens cultivars. Glutball Joe Pye Weed features beautiful plumes of lightly-scented plum purple flowers at the ends of the stems from late summer to late fall, which emerge from distinctive rose flower buds, and which are most effective when planted in groupings.
Glutball Joe Pye Weed is an herbaceous perennial with an upright spreading habit of growth.
This is a relatively low maintenance perennial, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. Glutball Joe Pye Weed will grow to be about 6 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 4 feet. False Sunflower features beautiful gold daisy flowers with brown eyes and yellow anthers at the ends of the stems from early summer to mid fall, which are most effective when planted in groupings. False Sunflower will grow to be about 24 inches tall at maturity extending to 3 feet tall with the flowers, with a spread of 3 feet.
The Dwarf Korean Lilac was situated in the centre of a sunny bed with a white porch as a backdrop. While some gardeners may want to experiment with their own grafting or try their hand at training a shrub into a tree form (a process that can take anywhere from three to five years), these specialized trees are readily available at nurseries. In my case, I allowed the leafy part of the Dwarf Korean Lilac to grow too large, likely resulting in a crack in the grafted area. Two varieties of weeping caragana, 'Pendula' and 'Walker', are topgrafted onto the trunk of a common caragana standard with an upright form, producing a small weeping tree. This is advantageous for small yards since the shrub can grow to a height and spread of eight to 10 feet.
Instead, I purchased a hardy, less-temperamental Mohican Viburnum tree form which has performed so spectacularly (and overwintered without a hint of winterkill) that I recently purchased another. White flower buds form in the early spring with a most unusual prehistoric appearance before opening.
Diabolo Ninebark (Physocarpus) in tree form has great character with its peeling bark, pinkish white flowers in spring, and purple leaves with saw-tooth edges.
Limelight hydrangea, to name just one variety, is a standout plant with glorious lime-green blooms that fade to ivory in the fall. Vital, installed a globe-shaped Blue Spruce in her garden about five years ago only to witness a rabbit move into the tree one winter, hungrily eating the needles and branches. Remove it in spring, though, as trunk wraps can retain moisture on the bark with the potential for fungal growth later in the growing season. Their large showy blooms show from midsummer to fall and evolve in colour as the season changes.
Flowers start out green-white but take on pinkish tones by fall -- great for a small garden space or even a container.
Their blooms start out lime-green, change to pure snowy white, and then fade to shades of pale green. Again, if you're not sure, it's essential you simply do nothing until the plant begins blooming.


Failure to bloom (always distressing) results when new flower buds forming at the tips of stems in late summer are pruned off. Its wonderfully bold, coarse texture can be very effective in a balanced garden composition. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies to your yard, but is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats.
It tends to be leggy, with a typical clearance of 1 feet from the ground, and should be underplanted with lower-growing perennials.
It is quite adaptable, prefering to grow in average to wet conditions, and will even tolerate some standing water.
Its medium texture blends into the garden, but can always be balanced by a couple of finer or coarser plants for an effective composition.
It is very adaptable to both dry and moist locations, and should do just fine under typical garden conditions. Don't allow the topgraft portion to get too big as this will only place undue stress on the graft.
My relationship, though, was short-lived because I didn't understand what I was installing in my garden.
Its modest height and leafy canopy lent just enough of a privacy screen without shading the nearby flowering perennials. Examples of commonly available topgrafted standards include lilac, caragana, hydrangea and double flowering plum. The tree form, however, will take up much less horizontal space but still grows to 10 feet in height. It grows eight to 10 feet tall and, while it will withstand a part-shade location, it prefers evenly moist soil. It's large serrated narrow leaves emerge dark green in spring, turning forest green in colour throughout the season. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 15 years. The flower stalks can be weak and so it may require staking in exposed sites or excessively rich soils.
It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for a low-water garden or xeriscape application. If you choose the Pee Gee variety, which is also available as a tree form, be patient in the spring. The globe shape is now non-existent, but some judicious pruning has given it more of a tiered look -- call it architectural.
Depending on the amount of snow cover any given winter, the fencing needs to be an adequate height. But, if not, your best bet is to exercise patience until the plant begins blooming so you can see the shape and colour of the inflorescence -- key to identifying your hydrangea. Others include the incomparable Limelight and its dwarf selections, Little Lime and Little Lamb, as well as Bombshell, Pinky Winky, Vanilla Strawberry and Quickfire. Removing the spent blooms of the first flower flush is essential for the production of flower buds on the new growth.
Hard pruning to six to eight inches above the ground will encourage long stems on older plants and giant blooms. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years.
Since Pee Gee blooms later in the season, you may have to wait until early June before you see signs of leaf budding. It also needs to be placed in the ground at a depth of at least two inches so that rabbits cannot dig underneath.




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