The secret to Park Cities gardener Bob Grinnan’s low-maintenance landscape: CONIFERS.
The beauty of a forest lies not in its flowers but in the rich textures and shades of foliage, fronds, and bark. So it is in the Park Cities garden of Bob Grinnan. Without a lot of attention-grabbing flowers, the eye is drawn to the more subtle beauty around – beauty that is often thought of as background.
Grinnan’s garden – inspired by a story on Carl Neels that appeared in D Home’s Nov/Dec 2003 issue – is a study in junipers, a large group of plants that includes trees, shrubs, and creeping or ground cover varieties and gives landscapes seemingly endless variety and interest. (Juniper foliage ranges from silver to deepest green, with some turning a lovely plum color in the winter.) Artfully placed, conifers create a wonderful, low-maintenance garden with panache, reminiscent of the mountains of Aspen, Colorado, or perhaps even Salzburg or Kitzbuhel, Austria. Large river rocks and a natural path winding through the garden add to the mountain-landscape feel. There is a very small area for seasonal flowers that Grinnan says he can plant or not, depending on his time and mood. The look of the garden isn’t contingent on them. There is always color in his garden – the colors of the forest.
|Frosted silver-blue berries provide winter interest on an upright juniper.|
Junipers to Plant in Your Garden
Skyrocket: A tall, narrow, green variety.
Wichita blue: Lovely silver foliage.
Blue point: Very popular landscape tree with bluish foliage. Maintains its shape well.
Spartan: Dark green. Fuller than skyrocket.
Hollywood: Green. Freeform habit. Good for a natural look.
Irish: Soft green foliage. Can take some shade or dappled light.
Pfitzer: Very popular. Green, bushy. Reaches 4 to 6 feet high and up to 10 feet wide.
Blue Pfitzer: Blue variety of above.
Blue rug: Stiff, blue-green foliage.
Bar harbor: Very similar to above, but turns plum in winter.
Blue Pacific: Soft, blue-green foliage.
Andorra: Could be considered a small shrub. Grows approximately 2 to 2 1/2 feet high. Turns plum in winter.
Two Things You Need to Know
1. Junipers need sun. Without it, they will become brown, sparse, and exceedingly ugly.
2. When placing junipers – as well as cypresses, cedars, and the like – remember that their branching patterns are different from shade trees. These conifers are wide at the base and narrow at the top, rather than having a high canopy. Allow plenty of room at the base so you don’t have to prune them and ruin their shape as they grow.
|An emerald yew drapes softly over river rocks.|
Other Good Landscape Trees
Arborvitae: Bushy habit, with green, intricate, maze-like foliage. Tried-and-true in North Texas.
Deodar cedar: Talk about big! Can get up to 40 to 50 feet wide at the base and 100 feet high, but has a wonderful draping habit and appealing light bluish-green coloring.
Red cedar: Pretty, well-adapted, reliable, attractive bark. Terrific if you’re not allergic.
Arizona cypress: Beautiful, geometric, light-blue foliage. Grows big, so place it carefully.
Bald cypress: A rare deciduous conifer with soft, bright-green needles that turn burnt orange in fall. Cypress knees will stick out of the ground around the base over time.
Leyland cypress: Very pretty, if somewhat overused landscape tree. Often used as a screen.
Austrian pine: One of only a few pines that do well here. A fat, upright habit.
Japanese black pine: Another good pine for the area. Its tendency to contort is a nice addition to a natural, un-manicured look.
Yew: Likes a little protection from the hottest summer sun. Very dark green, wide needles add texture to the evergreen palette.