FrenchflairTraditional Landscape, Vancouver
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Botanical name: Chamaecyparis nootkatensisCommon names: Alaska cedar, Nootka false cypress, yellow cedarOrigin: The Pacific Northwest and north to AlaskaWhere it will grow: Hardy to -30 degrees Fahrenheit (USDA zones 4 to 8; find your zone)Water requirement: Average to somewhat dry soil; 1 inch of water per week until establishedLight requirement: Full sun to partial shadeMature size: Up to 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide, although many commonly available cultivars rarely grow taller than 30 feetBenefits and tolerances: Resistant to deer, rabbits, insects and most diseases; adapts well to poor and thin soils; resistant to drought once established
Designing a Garden With Acidic SoilFor a more formal garden, large clusters of rhododendron, an ericaceous plant, can be planted under skyrocketing conifers. This is a popular plant combination for a thickened border at a lawn edge or a formal, parterre-style garden.
Use evergreen trees at least twice the height of your home and plant them perpendicular to the prevailing winter winds. Tall, dense trees will guide the wind upward and over the downwind area for a distance of up to 10 times the height of the windbreak.
Evaluate Plant ShapesLarge trees such as these conifers can add a sense of grandeur to almost any garden. Trees with weeping or pendulous forms tend to help us feel relaxed.
Cultivate calm. A gentle breeze on a warm day is a welcome thing, but strong winds can turn reading the Sunday comics at the patio table into a Three Stooges comedy routine. It helps to understand the dynamics of airflow before you erect a windbreak, whether built or planted. When wind hits a solid vertical surface, it compresses and spills over the wall, causing turbulence. This means that except for a short distance immediately against the lee side of a fence, your efforts might not be very effective. A better strategy, if space allows, is gradually lifting the wind by creating a build-up of elements. On the windward side of your garden, plant knee-high plants to start lifting the wind, backed by shoulder-high, then head-high plants and finally, a taller wall or fence, if needed. This will create a laminar flow and achieve a larger quiet zone for you to enjoy in your garden. If there isn't adequate space, a diagonal board along the top of the fence, acting as an aerodynamic foil, can increase the windbreak's effectiveness. Another strategy is to filter, rather than block, the wind by planting shrubs or vines that allow some air to pass through them.
Add a weeping or pendulous tree. This may sound simplistic, but weeping and pendulous plants do help us feel relaxed, while upright spiky plants incite energy and activity. Picture yourself performing the relaxation technique of slowly breathing in and breathing out. Notice two things: the position of your body after you exhale and the accompanying feeling.Weeping and pendulous trees imitate this form. Notice the wonderful pendulous Alaskan Cedar trees (chamaecyparis nootkatensis, zones 4 to 8) in the photo. Don't they lend a sense of calm to this garden space?
While not all of us can have a decades-old garden, those who do are quite fortunate. Because planting trees first is, of course, the ultimate abundant design strategy. If you don't have a timeless garden, you can emulate this style by encouraging a naturalistic approach. Appreciate the architecture of your trees; encourage mossy rocks and ground covers to blanket the earth. Allow plants to grow to their full and inherent forms. Then give yourself a place where you can walk, contemplate and appreciate what you have. Here, the small section of green lawn is a soothing place of rest amidst the large conifers and broadleaf evergreens at its edge. Stunning!