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GardenSMART Episode

Show #52/6213. Planning And Planting A Garden #6

Summary of Show

Why Dwarf Conifers - Evergreen For A Garden
Jim responds - Dwarf conifers, of course, offer the EVERGREEN FOR A GARDEN in the winter time. So in the winter, when there are no leaves on any of the trees, you can look at this garden and see color and interest. People will love to come and walk in this garden. It's just exciting. When he planned the Japanese garden, which has been in for probably 25 years, the first thing he did was decide what evergreens he would put in that garden. For More Information Click Here

Conifers Are The Bones
The CONIFERS ARE THE BONES of the garden, they hold the structure of the garden together. Gibbs Gardens has trees, conifers that are 60, 80 feet, almost a hundred feet tall. If you put three of those in an area, that's all you could get in the space. Here on an acre and a half Jim has over 200 named cultivars. For More Information Click Here

Overview Of Garden
Eric knows we don't have time to walk through all 200 selections in this garden, but give us just a bit of an OVERVIEW, a 30,000 foot look at the breadth of what's planted here. A great majority of conifers, the generic names would be the genus of each of these plants. As an example, you have so many different names, varieties, cultivars of pine. That's in the genus pinus. Then you have the spruce, and you have so many of the spruce, dwarf spruce which comes from the big, huge spruce. And those are the pinaceae. Then you have the fir, which are the abies. For More Information Click Here

Some Of His Favorites
Eric would like for Jim to share SOME OF HIS FAVORITES. Of this whole collection, which ones are you most excited about? Jim likes to mix them up. There are so many pines, pinus. There are the sort of globe shaped, then some pines are very twisted and gnarled. There are so many interesting growth characteristics in pines. For More Information Click Here

Right Plant For The Right Place
One of the most important components for having success in gardening is selecting the RIGHT PLANT FOR THE RIGHT PLACE. Eric is sure this was a tremendous endeavor putting all of this together, there was a lot of thought that had to go into making sure that this collection was well curated. Eric would like for Jim to talk us through that process. What did Jim do to make sure he was selecting the right group of plants? Jim explains, he's been designing and installing landscapes for over 50 years. Even though he has the experience and he has a lot of knowledge, he still needed to gain more knowledge. And with dwarf conifers he knew he did not have enough knowledge. He did know he wanted over 200 varieties of plants. For More Information Click Here

Plant Tag
Most plants today have A TAG on them and a picture of, in this case, a dwarf conifer. The tag says, Catherine Elizabeth, Japanese white pine. The common name is Japanese white pine and the cultivar is Catherine Elizabeth. Turn over the little triangle or tag and on the other side it provides the information you need to select plants. It says Catherine Elizabeth, and Japanese white pine, then under that it provides the botanical name. So it's pinus parviflora, Catherine Elizabeth. So, go to your computer, put in pinus parviflora, Catherine Elizabeth and you will see all kinds of pictures about small ones that are probably three gallon, or five gallon, 20 gallon, or whatever. For More Information Click Here

Zone
The next thing you've got to think about - Jim just mentioned that we're in ZONE seven and eight, so we've got to think about freezing here. This plant as with most conifers, will go to very cold temperatures. This plant would go to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. In this area of the country we don't really worry about conifers freezing, instead we must think more about the sun in the south. For More Information Click Here

Sun Requirements - Full Sun, Etc.
FULL SUN means that you need six hours or more per day of sunlight, part sun is saying it needs four to six hours per day. If you want to go to part shade, you're going to need to get into more of a four to six hours of filtered sunlight. It’s got to be filtered, high trees, to let light in. You've got to think about the light requirements. It's very important, Jim can't stress enough light requirements and the zone you live in. Look at the tag. For More Information Click Here

Grouping Plants
Eric would next like to talk about GROUPING PLANTS and what we need to consider. For Eric this is the creative, fun part, but also sometimes it can be daunting. And he can imagine when Jim had 200 different selections moved in, figuring it all out was a very important part of making this garden work the way he wanted it to. Jim says this is a difficult part of the process. He finds it's easier to group four to six plants together depending on their sun requirements. Think about the sun requirements of four to six plants. If in a full sun area those plants must to be able to take full sun, if part sun the plants must be suitable for part sun, part shade, the same. For More Information Click Here

Maintenance
One of the wonderful things about dwarf conifers is that they are pretty low MAINTENANCE, and that should make them very appealing to most gardeners. Very few of us are looking for super high maintenance plants for our garden. Eric wonders - Are there any considerations, anything we should be thinking about as far as care and maintenance goes? Jim agrees, what Eric said is so true, the cost of maintenance is going up every year because labor costs are going up so people want to avoid high labor costs. One of the reasons Jim wanted dwarf conifers is they require very, very little pruning. One reason little pruning is necessary is because they are dwarf plants. As they continue to grow, they grow into their natural form and their shape and you don't want to destroy that. For More Information Click Here

LINKS:

Gibbs Gardens
World-Class Garden | North GA Destinations | Gibbs Gardens

Jim Gibbs
Jim Gibbs | Gibbs Gardens

Buddy Lee - Encore Azaleas
Meet the Man Behind the South's Iconic Encore Azalea | Southern Living

Brent Markus - Rare Tree Nursery - Japanese Maples
Japanese Maples – Rare Tree Nursery

Tom Cox - Conifers
Cox Arboretum |

Plant List

Show #52/6213. Planning And Planting A Garden #6

Transcript of Show

This Episode is the final installment of our GardenSMART, garden design series, and we've saved the best for last, dwarf conifers. It's been a real treat watching the birth and growth at the Inspiration Garden at Gibbs Gardens; a rare opportunity to see the whole process unfold and learn from one of the nation's most talented garden designers, Jim Gibbs. Jim's passion for plants is evident in every aspect of his work and his commitment to delivering a world-class experience to every visitor is an important part of his legacy as a designer and a plantsman. He has graciously shared his lifetime of experience with us, and we've seen his vision for the Inspiration Garden turn into a reality. One of the true stars of this garden are the dwarf conifers, they provide year-round interest with an incredible range of diversity. Eric joins Jim as they take a closer look at this amazing collection.

Eric welcomes Jim back to the show. Thanks so much for joining us. Jim reciprocates, it's nice to be back again.

In this Episode we're talking about the amazing world of dwarf conifers. Of course, you've just finished the installation of an amazing collection of dwarf conifers and Eric would like for Jim to talk about - Why dwarf conifers?

Jim responds - Dwarf conifers, of course, offer the EVERGREEN FOR A GARDEN in the winter time. So in the winter, when there are no leaves on any of the trees, you can look at this garden and see color and interest. People will love to come and walk in this garden. It's just exciting. When he planned the Japanese garden, which has been in for probably 25 years, the first thing he did was decide what evergreens he would put in that garden. Pinus parviflora has a blue-green sort of color and it has short needles and works well for bonsai. The first thing he did was position those where he wanted them in the garden. Everything started with that evergreen, and he then worked in more evergreens.

In a conifer garden you have a huge selection of a dwarf conifers and you can add the companion plants and make it even more exciting. Jim’s goal was to create a garden, a plant collection, that would generate enough interest in the winter that people would want to come to Gibbs Gardens just to see the conifer garden. Gibbs Gardens is, of course, a public garden so Jim wants to feature plant collections and this is a great plant collection for people to come and study, then they can google and check out the plants they liked best and find out more about them.

Evergreens are so important to the structure of any garden. If you ever see a garden or a plant collection that doesn't have an ample representation of evergreens it's not a year round garden, or it can look very, very barren in the winter. One of the huge advantages in featuring evergreens is that this is truly a year round garden. Also when we think about dwarf conifers with as many selections as they have here, if Jim had gone with full-size conifers, it would have taken five times the amount of space and also it would have been very difficult to show off the individual selections, to compose them in a way where people really get to see what had been planted.

The CONIFERS ARE THE BONES of the garden, they hold the structure of the garden together. Gibbs Gardens has trees, conifers that are 60, 80 feet, almost a hundred feet tall. If you put three of those in an area, that's all you could get in the space. Here on an acre and a half Jim has over 200 named cultivars. So you've got to think about your space. In a residential landscape design, a dwarf conifer is going to work much better in that garden for size and scale rather than something like a bald Cyprus or a dawn redwood, that will grow to 80 to a hundred feet tall. So we've got to think about size and space.

Eric knows we don't have time to walk through all 200 selections in this garden, but give us just a bit of an OVERVIEW, a 30,000 foot look at the breadth of what's planted here. A great majority of conifers, the generic names would be the genus of each of these plants. As an example, you have so many different names, varieties, cultivars of pine. That's in the genus pinus. Then you have the spruce, and you have so many of the spruce, dwarf spruce which comes from the big, huge spruce. And those are the pinaceae. Then you have the fir, which are the abies. Then to go on down and you have hemlock, which everybody knows about. Think about big, tall hemlocks. Next to Eric are the little dwarf hemlocks that don't get any taller than three feet high. They have junipers, which most people are familiar with, they're in the conifer family and they are more prostrate, they spread more. They have the Cyprus, they have the yews many, many yews, great yews to use. And they have podocarpus. What Jim would suggest is go back to your computer, go to google and put those in and you're going to be able to select the ones you like for the form, for the texture and the color. That's what's important in planning for any kind of conifer garden. Eric agrees this is a wonderful collection, it offers the viewer an exciting opportunity to be able to see all of these broader categories.

Eric would like for Jim to share SOME OF HIS FAVORITES. Of this whole collection, which ones are you most excited about? Jim likes to mix them up. There are so many pines, pinus. There are the sort of globe shaped, then some pines are very twisted and gnarled. There are so many interesting growth characteristics in pines. The spruce actually comes up and hangs and it's very graceful. So it's just the selection of all the shapes and forms and colors that make a conifer garden interesting. This garden really pops, everybody is going to want to go to the dwarf conifer garden.

One of the most important components for having success in gardening is selecting the RIGHT PLANT FOR THE RIGHT PLACE. Eric is sure this was a tremendous endeavor putting all of this together, there was a lot of thought that had to go into making sure that this collection was well curated. Eric would like for Jim to talk us through that process. What did Jim do to make sure he was selecting the right group of plants? Jim explains, he's been designing and installing landscapes for over 50 years. Even though he has the experience and he has a lot of knowledge, he still needed to gain more knowledge. And with dwarf conifers he knew he did not have enough knowledge. He did know he wanted over 200 varieties of plants. So the first thought was to find the best person to talk with to come up with the list of plants that will grow in zone seven and eight. That's the zone Jim is in. Now, if you're in zone five or six or four, you want to be thinking about what will grow in that zone. In his area they're warmer in the summers, and most of these plants come from the Portland, Oregon area, which is an ideal place to grow conifers. Jim didn't want to just start looking at plants, he wanted to go to a person that's grown conifers. So Tom Cox is a dendrologist and an expert on conifers, Jim asked Tom to consult with him, to help him come up with the selection of all of these plants. Then Jim would take that selection and work them into the garden depending on their sun requirements. Do they need full sun, or do they need part sun, or do they need part shade, but wanted Tom to help him with the list. Tom knows what will live and not live in Georgia, especially in zone seven and eight. Tom only lives about 15 minutes from here and has a huge collection, over 4,000 conifers, in his gardens. So Tom came up with a list and Jim started working from that list.

Most plants today have A TAG on them and a picture of, in this case, a dwarf conifer. The tag says, Catherine Elizabeth, Japanese white pine. The common name is Japanese white pine and the cultivar is Catherine Elizabeth. Turn over the little triangle or tag and on the other side it provides the information you need to select plants. It says Catherine Elizabeth, and Japanese white pine, then under that it provides the botanical name. So it's pinus parviflora, Catherine Elizabeth. So, go to your computer, put in pinus parviflora, Catherine Elizabeth and you will see all kinds of pictures about small ones that are probably three gallon, or five gallon, 20 gallon, or whatever. Look below that and it will also provide the growth habit. It is a globe shape, then under that, it provides the growth rate. This little plant only grows one to three inches per year. That's all. Under that is the garden rate. For a garden in 10 years, this plant is only going to be two feet high times two feet wide. So if you bought three plants you've got to make sure, even though they're small when you buy them, that you put them at least two feet apart. That's two feet on center, which is from the center of one plant to the center of the next plant. And in 10 years you will form a grouping of these three plants coming together. Now, if you want to speed the process up, you pay more money and get bigger plants. But if you go with a three gallon, it will take that long.

The next thing you've got to think about - Jim just mentioned that we're in ZONE seven and eight, so we've got to think about freezing here. This plant as with most conifers, will go to very cold temperatures. This plant would go to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. In this area of the country we don't really worry about conifers freezing, instead we must think more about the sun in the south. Sunlight you want to check and this plant has to have full sun. If put in shade, it will die. Even if planted in part sun it is not going to perform well. So, it’s important to look at that and look at your site. You've got to think about - Do I have a full sun section? Right here works well. Every plant Jim plants in this section requires full sun. If anything else is planted in there, it's going to die. Now, when Jim goes across the garden that's part sun.

FULL SUN means that you need six hours or more per day of sunlight, part sun is saying it needs four to six hours per day. If you want to go to part shade, you're going to need to get into more of a four to six hours of filtered sunlight. It’s got to be filtered, high trees, to let light in. You've got to think about the light requirements. It's very important, Jim can't stress enough light requirements and the zone you live in. Look at the tag. Most garden centers will probably let you take one of these home. Then take them, put them on the ground, play with them and know that this plant works here, this plant works in this area. Go in and put four to six plants together. Selection of plants is very, very important and we have to study it. Remember research and knowledge. There is nothing like gaining knowledge on plant material, but you've got to go to your books or the internet and check everything out. Eric agrees, public gardens are a wonderful resource. He loves going to public gardens, like Gibbs Gardens, that are in his backyard because a lot of the heavy lifting and the hard work of that research, has already been done.

Eric would next like to talk about GROUPING PLANTS and what we need to consider. For Eric this is the creative, fun part, but also sometimes it can be daunting. And he can imagine when Jim had 200 different selections moved in, figuring it all out was a very important part of making this garden work the way he wanted it to. Jim says this is a difficult part of the process. He finds it's easier to group four to six plants together depending on their sun requirements. Think about the sun requirements of four to six plants. If in a full sun area those plants must to be able to take full sun, if part sun the plants must be suitable for part sun, part shade, the same. They had 2 trailers of dwarf conifers come in from the Portland, Oregon area. They first unloaded the trailers in a parking lot because the trailers were so large. They then transferred them to an area close to the dwarf conifer garden that was level and flat. He knew he was going to have to set up a holding area so that he could get his notes together, go out and look at all the plants and put all the plants that needed full sun in one area, then in another area the plants that wanted part sun and in a third area all the plants that wanted part shade. Jim then started grouping four to six full sun plants that first of all had interesting form, texture, and color. The most important thing to do in the group of four to six plants is to create different greens and different shapes that work together. Once that was accomplished he started moving those groups of four to six plants to the garden where they’re standing. But before planting Jim needed to address how far to plant on center each plant. You have to do that because you've got to realize these plants are going to grow a certain height and spread in 10 years. Once that was accomplished he started putting the groups together. But by putting them all out there first and looking at the colors, you can arrange them easier. You don't want to plant them and then have to dig them up and move them all around. Looking at where they're standing one notices lots of groups of four to six plants planted next to each other according to the space in which they should be grown. All these fabulous forms come together, you have all of these different colors and you have all of these textures. Jim points out one grouping that has a feathery blue-gray texture, then the chartreuse green texture and the dark green fir hanging over there. In the same area are dissectum maples, which are companion plants to give fall color and interesting texture. Next to that is a dwarf ginkgo which will be turning yellow in about a week. All of these plants provide wonderful texture everywhere. Look at this hillside, it's nothing but groupings of four to six plants and they are next to each other. One doesn't need to worry so much if you've done your homework and thought about it and made sure each group works. Once you’ve done all that you can take them and put them in the correct site, and that's what Jim did.

Doing that thoughtfully allows each plant to really increase its' ability to shine. If all the chartreuse plants were planted together, they would tend to blend in. If we plant a bunch similar plants together using all the same texture it would start to look a bit boring, even monochromatic, but using the juxtaposition, the contrast between this blue-green foliage and this chartreuse, it actually accentuates both of them. It brings both of them more to the forefront and allows them their moment in the sun.

One of the wonderful things about dwarf conifers is that they are pretty low MAINTENANCE, and that should make them very appealing to most gardeners. Very few of us are looking for super high maintenance plants for our garden. Eric wonders - Are there any considerations, anything we should be thinking about as far as care and maintenance goes? Jim agrees, what Eric said is so true, the cost of maintenance is going up every year because labor costs are going up so people want to avoid high labor costs. One of the reasons Jim wanted dwarf conifers is they require very, very little pruning. One reason little pruning is necessary is because they are dwarf plants. As they continue to grow, they grow into their natural form and shape, you don't want to destroy that. So there's very, very minimum amount of pruning and that's a big cost you cut out. After you do that you look around and think how often should I fertilize? Twice a year is all you have to fertilize and use a slow release fertilizer. By doing this you're providing nitrogen phosphorus and potassium to the plants a little bit each week. By doing this it will keep them a nice green, the nice color that you want. Then think about diseases. Primarily one could need to deal with fungus. You do need to watch for fungus, if it appears spray with a fungicide. If you have insects, which you sort of know which plants have certain insects that are attracted to them, be on the lookout for that. But think about identifying the insect and just spray it with an insecticide to kill insects. Maintenance is one of the reasons Jim loves the conifer garden. It's very, very low maintenance. Jim would like to be here years from now to see how this garden matures, to see all of these plants coming together, all the different shapes and forms and colors, all of that. We don't want to destroy that evolution, we just want to have more time to experience over the time the beauty of plants as they become sculptures. After all, these are living sculptures and we're going to have them scattered all over these hills. And that's going to be a great thing to see.

Eric agrees, Jim you've done such a phenomenal job, Eric can't wait to come back and visit this garden every year and kind of grow with it and see it growing into its own and becoming this beautiful work of art that we know it already is. Jim says he wants Eric back and he wants other people too. Gibbs Gardens is a public garden. So visit often and check out the plants you like, and then you can buy those plants and put them in your garden. Remember, again, these are evergreens, they provide year-round interest, you're going to always have interest with evergreens.

Eric thanks Jim. What an amazing journey it's been watching the Inspiration Garden come to life and learning from a pro how to find success in our own gardens. Thank you so much Jim, it’s been a wonderful afternoon and experience. Jim in turn thanks Eric. It’s great to see him again. He’s truly enjoyed showing GardenSMART his Inspiration Garden.

LINKS:

Gibbs Gardens
World-Class Garden | North GA Destinations | Gibbs Gardens

Jim Gibbs
Jim Gibbs | Gibbs Gardens

Buddy Lee - Encore Azaleas
Meet the Man Behind the South's Iconic Encore Azalea | Southern Living

Brent Markus - Rare Tree Nursery - Japanese Maples
Japanese Maples – Rare Tree Nursery

Tom Cox - Conifers
Cox Arboretum |

Plant List


   
 
FEATURED ARTICLE
GardenSMART Featured Article

By Kelsey Minalga, Ball Ingenuity
Photographs courtesy of Ball Ingenuity

The flower industry is busy bringing new and exciting fall plants to the mix. And one of the most popular accent plants for the season is celosia, also know by the common name cockscomb. To learn more click here .


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