Wednesday Vignette – foliar fun for the front

I agonized about this for a while, but then finally, last fall, I offered up my little Red Dragon maple to my friend Jason. He has way more garden space than I do, and is almost always a grateful yet discerning recipient of my discards. This little maple was one of the first things I ever planted after building what I call my “container wall” – a stretch of backfilled rock wall that turned my sloping, north-facing front yard into a nice level surface – AND gave me a nearly foot and a half head start on the street-side privacy screen I was shooting for.

Here is Jason, battling the Red Dragon.

Red Dragon is a very slow growing red little lace leaf maple that tops out at about 8-10′. I had it for about 12 years, and it helped hold together my front garden quite nicely while it was there. The color scheme in the front originated with the red brick entrance, and the dark, glossy green foliage of the giant magnolia and its white flowers. Red Dragons moppy red goodness was quite instrumental in keeping it all together. It was also a testament to the fact that I’m just like everyone else who moves to the Pacific NW. Newbie Oregonians tend to just LOVE Japanese maples! I did too. In fact, I still love them in the right place. This was the right place, and the little tree had served me well all these years – its only fault was that I wanted the space it was in for other things. I have some idea of what those “things” might be, but it’s mostly still TBD. The biggest conundrum was to find something that would give me that same red presence and keep a relatively compact size.

Scarletta and the TBDs, all grouped together for the photo op. The Drimys and the Agave are the two that I would really have to take a chance on, but damn – don’t they look smashing together?

Being a self-described plant whore, there is never a shortage of ideas – and often plants – to play with, but somehow, I hadn’t quite found the right thing yet. I had ideas, but there was always something that didn’t pan out; not enough light, wrong shape, too big, boring leaves… whatever… Then today, I felt I had spent far too much time in front of the computer, so I snuck out to my favorite little neighborhood nursery – Garden Fever. I needed some retail therapy, and they always have great things there. Go figure – they had this one shrub I had kept my eyes peeled for, for a while – a Leucothoe ‘Scarletta’. I have a few other Leucothoes with various attributes, but this one is spesh… It has these marvelously glossy red leaves that are positively scrumptious. And, it’s evergreen, and only grows to about 4′ across. Perfect! I brought it home. I set it with a few other lovelies I’ve been considering for the front. Some of these I know would work great in the front, for others I know I would be taking chances. But, half the fun of gardening is pushing your luck and your boundaries, so why not? I just might give it a shot and see how it goes. All I know is that that big hole the Red Dragon left – both in my yard and in my heart – will need to be filled – and quick. It has taken far too long already!

A closeup of her Majesty’s fab foliage. Aren’t those red leaves something…?

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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18 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – foliar fun for the front

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Even though I used to grow Japanese maples, I really do not like them because they are so common here, and in our chaparral climate, there really are not many ‘right’ places for them.

    • annamadeit says:

      Yeah, I think CA is probably too hot for them… They thrive here, though, and are often gorgeous when done right. Then again, many are often sited terribly, and have become your stereotypical front yard blob. They deserve better, IMHO.

      • tonytomeo says:

        The aridity is more of a problem in some areas. They do not mind the warmth if more humid climates. It really does not get very hot here, just very dry. Some Japanese maples are very pretty, but like you say, they have become too common.

        • annamadeit says:

          Yup, I can totally see that they would struggle in all that drought. It’s funny, here I drool over other bloggers’ photos of all those Leucadendrons, Grevilleas, Bauhinias, Agaves, Sotols, Aloes, and many, many other lovelies that seem to grow beautifully in those conditions, and think, why even bother with a Maple. I suppose the grass really IS always greener… 🙂

          • tonytomeo says:

            Most people here are from somewhere else where other types of plants were more popular. They want to grow what they are familiar with. We do not have a drought here We merely have too many people competing for a limited supply of water. My region is naturally a chaparral. Los Angeles is naturally a desert. It is not the result of a drought It is just how our region is naturally. My ancestors knew how to use their water responsibly, and did not landscape lavishly.

          • annamadeit says:

            Now, that is a VERY good point. I wish you all success in the world spreading and making people understand that message. It is super important!

  2. A generous gift which appears to be doing well. Our red maple is in the process of dying. Planted by predecessors in very shallow soil over concrete!

    • annamadeit says:

      If I hadn’t known it would be in good hands in its new home, I probably wouldn’t have had the heart to take it out. ❤️ I can’t believe someone would plant a maple over concrete… I know it is possible to grow things on hard surfaces, but jeez… Any way you can rescue it and just move it?

  3. Rose says:

    I would have had trouble giving up that beautiful red maple! But then, being from the Midwest where we are pushing our luck even growing Japanese maples, I am envious of anyone who can grow them easily. Glad you found something you love to replace it.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Rose – except, I’m not sure that Scarletta will do the trick quite as well. Maybe it was a really stupid decision… It really did earn its keep. (Having second thoughts here…) But no, I wanted to switch it up a little, so I’m sticking to my guns. I just wonder if I will be able to top what I had, or if I have to settle for less. The available light out there truly is challenging… Time will tell…

  4. Peter Herpst says:

    It’s always hard to say goodbye to an old plant friend but very exciting to find a great evergreen (red) replacement. It’s nice that your maple will live on in the garden of a friend where you can visit it.

    • annamadeit says:

      That is so true – but eve so, I’m still questioning the wisdom of that decision. Oh well, done is done. Now I have a new challenge – to make the only part of the garden that used to look relatively decent, look good again. It will be hard to find a replacement for that bright autumnal red of the Red Dragon. Especially with how much shade I have there. I planted a Rhododendron ‘Everred’, earlier, which should bring me some of that red – in spring at least. But yes, I will be visiting my maple here and there, so I can explain to it that I still love it. “It’s not you – it’s me” – kind of thing…

  5. Love that Leucothoe! My WV is a flashback to last summer’s GBFling:
    http://www.thedangergarden.com/2018/01/wednesday-vignette-mushrooms-and.html

  6. Kris P says:

    That ‘Red Dragon’ maple is gorgeous. I’m glad it found a good home. I love Japanese maples too but they struggle here and need protection from our summer heat. I hope the Drimys does well for you. I had one but moved it when it didn’t create the impact I wanted – and it didn’t like being moved. If only I could plant one with that Leucothoe!

  7. Alison says:

    I can’t believe you gave away that beautiful little red maple! i hope it thrives for its new owner. That’s an interesting Leucothoe. I’ve tried a couple of different ones in the past, but they don’t seem to do well for me. Maybe I just haven’t found the right spot. I like the deep color on your new one, I hope it stays that red. My Wednesday Vignette is here: http://bonneylassie.blogspot.com/2018/01/wednesday-vignettefoliage-followup.html

    • annamadeit says:

      I know… I shouldn’t have messed with it. I guess boredom and cramped quarters made me ultimately do it – I wanted space to experiment with new things. I do miss it though, but am not worried about it’s wellbeing. It is in very good hands – Jason has five green thumbs on each hand.

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