Thursday, April 12, 2012

What You Are Looking For...

A blue aster and goldenrod 'Fireworks' share the autum spotlight in this one-year-old drain field cutting garden.

Before picture of drain field July 7, 2009.

Drain field after pictures taken October 7, 2010.

I often check the stats part of Blogger to see what keywords brought my readers to my blog. Of course, the next part of my mental process wonders if they found what they are looking for. As I substitute teach school, I know that a lot of times students are just looking for a picture for a presentation. Gardeners may be looking for an example of a plant not the picture being marketed by the seller of that plant. Or like myself, I look for inspiration.

So today's blog article is the answer to questions I think it is possible the searcher was searching for...

Can I plant a tree in on my drain field? Which tree can I plant on my drain field?

NO TREES GET PLANTED ON OR NEAR THE DRAIN FIELD. NONE! NADA! I did this beautiful bee/and bird cutting garden that has a lot of structural components for a drain field, but as a homeowner you just can not plant a tree on a drain field. I know those mound systems and even the systems level with the surround area can be a huge expanse of your yard, but no tree near there. Even those of you on city sewer systems should think carefully about placement of trees where roots can run into the connection points in underground sewer lines. I sit on the Sewer Committee here in the Village and we have the line camera scoped and have to deal with tree roots all the time. I have had a very candid talk with a Master Plumber here in the Village as well. It can cost you a couple hundred to several thousand dollars, if you have to repair the damage done to lateral that are on your property that connect to the sewer main lines.

No trees.

(Okay, now the list of trees that are the very worst for your project: maples, elms, willows, and white pine.)

Next question: Where can I find a smokebush 'Nordine" in a 5-gallon size?

Smokebush 'Nordine' was first developed by the Morton Arboretum in Illinois. It is reputed to be the most cold hardy of the smokebushes with the best purple color. I think you will have luck with it growing back from winter kill even in zone 3 and 4 where it is not particularly cold hardy. All you lose those years is the smoke; something gardeners in the UK willingly give up for the intense color of the new foliage of this plant. The more common cultivar marketed these days is 'Royal Purple'. A little more intensely purple, I'm not sure there is any difference in their hardiness, particularly once it is in the ground a year or two.

Now here's the think about smokebush: They do NOT transplant particularly well. The bigger they are the harder they are to transplant. Also they are definitely better transplanted while dormant. Typically, they emerge from dormancy late, sometimes as late as June here in central Wisconsin. I would not buy a smokebush bigger than a gallon size. Watering weekly is also a enormous factor in establishing a smokebush, which can be fairly drought resistant once established. Luckily, they really do grow quite quickly. I almost always have some tip die-back, yet always have "smoke". I regularly prune to the ground a few of the older shoots, too. I have seen smokebushes more the size of small trees, as large as 30' tall (There's one at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Milwaukee.).

Next question....

What is a good companion plant for akebia?

Akebia in almost any garden much farther south than here in central WI is a THUG! I regularly find mine 30 feet away, running along my fence or up an arborvitae. When I was living in IL in grew into the garage through a crack between the wall and roof that a mouse couldn't have entered! The best companion for akebia? A pruners!

That said, I really like my akebia quinata. I can have a fence only 6' tall here in the village. My neighbor's kitchen windows look right into one of my bedrooms. The akebia has jumped up on top of the fence and made a nice hurdy gurdy mound of itself another couple feet tall. Privacy. It nearly evergreen, even here in the frozen north. I would always grow akebia where it can climb AND you can see what it is up to! However, the bottom part of the plant is not always so rambunctious, so when you look for a companion plant I would be thinking of something to plant at it's base. Mine is underplanted with a mounding hosta 'Fried Green Tomatoes'. Any plant that has a strong upright structure will just be a secondary climbing aparatus for akebia's plan for Total World Domination. Other good combinations might be some of the ground hugging Wave petunias, which would provide color after the bloom of akebia has passed.

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