Specimen trees and lush hydrangeas create a cozy garden in the Park Cities.
Though Paula Mosle was happy in her urban neighborhood, she longed for a more country-like setting, a place where she could create the kind of cottage garden she had known as a child at her grandmother’s home. She found just what she was looking for, tucked away on a tiny street, only four houses long. The Park Cities house, which looks as though it was picked up and moved from Nantucket, is on a corner lot that faces a golf course and backs onto a heavily wooded lot. Best of all, unlike the more common north/south grid of neighborhood streets, the house faces east, which Mosle believes is a major factor in the success of her garden. “It is the best exposure for gardens in Dallas,” she says, “Anything will grow on the east side because there is ample light in the morning and protection from the searing afternoon sun.”
In addition to the unusual orientation of the house, many beautiful specimen trees provide the lot with dappled light, a wooded feel without problems created by large, dense shade trees, such as exposed roots and insufficient growing light. Like Mosle, the garden is elegant, yet accessible. Abundant with a wide array of blooming trees, shrubs, bulbs, perennials, and annuals, her garden is known throughout the neighborhood for its beautiful flowers, especially the hydrangeas, which flourish on the north side. Although many people grow hydrangeas in Dallas, few manage to achieve the height and profusion of blooms seen in gardening magazines and catalogs – or Paula Mosle’s cottage garden.
Secrets for showstopping hydrangeas in Dallas
Hydrangeas must be protected from too much heat. Northeastern exposure is ideal. Light from the north or east is second best.
They need a great deal of water. Mosle sets the sprinkler on manual for her hydrangeas. She keeps a close watch and waters them as needed. Plants show drought by a slight dulling of the leaves and/or a slight drooping of foliage. Do not wait until the blooms or leaves begin to wilt. Water deeply at the first sign of thirst.
Hydrangeas are deciduous, which means you must be willing to have bare stems in the winter. If this phase bothers you, plant a low evergreen shrub, such as Indian hawthorn pinkie or Clara, or a dwarf pittosporum in front to camouflage part of the dormant plant.
To prune or not to prune, experts don’t always agree. However, Mosle strictly adheres to the no-pruning school of thought with her macrophylla hydrangeas. They bloom on old wood, and left up to nature, they have become full and lush.
Contrary to what some nurseries may tell you, only blue plants will generate blue blossoms. You cannot turn a pink hydrangea blue by adding acid to the soil. Adding acid will turn pink hydrangeas lavender, purple, (and even some shades of blue). If you want a true blue, add acid to the soil of a plant such as Nikko Blue. Adding acid regularly maintains color. Mosle uses aluminum sulfate in mid-February, before bloom time at a rate of approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups per bush, depending on size and age. (Hers are 20 years old.) After they have bloomed, feed with a balanced acid fertilizer, such as NutriStar Azalea plant food, once a month through June, July, and August.
Spectacular Specimen Trees
In gardening, “specimen” can be used to describe a plant or tree that is an aesthetic centerpiece, one that is rare or of exceptionally fine quality, or even an unusual form of a common species. Additionally, specimen are also generally small and decorative, such as flowering varieties or those with finely cut or brightly colored foliage. Paula Mosle loves how the views from her window and the light in her house change with each season. Below is a list of the small and medium trees that bring beauty, interest, and light correction to her garden.
Cloud-like pink blossoms in spring
Spring flowering, pink and white
An old reliable in this area with a profusion of blooms in reds, pinks, purple, lavender, and white all summer
Artful branching and large, white or pink blooms make this spring herald a classic
Double pink, red blossoms in spring
Left unmolested by hedge clippers, Burford hollies grow into exceedingly beautiful berry-
Mosle has several varieties, but the Coral Bark, with its bright red winter bark, is a favorite
Large evergreen leaves, good for flower arranging
An old-fashioned favorite, with tall pointed clusters of purple/blue blooms in late spring