Monday, September 17, 2012

Defensive Landscaping Part II

Here comes autumn and not a moment to soon if you ask me. We have the fortune to be in an area where the few deciduous trees that are visible and present will likely be exceptionally vibrant making them an exceptional treat. But thoughts of fall aside it’s time for another episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market.

Before we start with this week’s episode, here is a run down of what is in the upcoming second edition of Southward Skies.
  1. 120 pages with 49 new pictures.
  2. Reorganized plants section
  3. New plant pests section
  4. New Chemicals Section
  5. Reorganized Weeds Section

Of course if you were unable to get the first edition you will get a kick out of the second edition. It has a lot of things that didn’t make the cut the first time as well as a new plant data format that should prove more useful.

Today’s Topic is a continuation of last week’s conversation about defensive landscaping. For those reading defensive landscaping was defined as the following in last week’s post.

“Defensive landscaping is in the intentional placement of plants that passively discourage passage by animals or persons by way of thorns, density or sheer unpleasantness while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing form.”

So knowing that what is a gardener to do? well the easy part is to pick plants that have aesthetically pleasing qualities but also have defencive features such as thick dense growth, or particularly dangerous thorns.

HollyIlex spp.
So we have the holly family, you knew there would be a holly in this list. Holly is here with preference to the most vicious members of the family such as the original ‘China Girl’ or ‘China Boy’ varieties. Not all hollies are quite as dangerous as the ink berries, gall berries and the yaupon type hollies have no thorns at all. For our purposes holly is the best choice for making thorny walls that will become nearly impenetrable with age. Adding to this anything that is able to break through a stand of hollies will also make quite a bit of noise as the wood in the older branches is quite dense. A final bonus of the group is that the angular leaves are actually attractive albeit from a distance. The bright red berries borne in the fall into winter are a second bonus and thankfully the berries are not a great issue in the mess department. As a final note, hollies are very pliable for pruning and shaping purposes and can be grown to fill areas but do their best when gut into a triangular shape.

False Holly Osmanthus – Osmanthus heterophyllus
You might know the Osmanthus family for the famed Sweet Tea Olive, which has no thorns but incredibly sweet scented flowers. The false holly Osmanthus is an that without tagging could be mistaken very easily for a holly. The leaves are as thorny as ‘China Girl’, they are shaped the same almost and it is a striking evergreen. The difference is that the most common variety ‘Goshiki’ bears the most striking variegation imaginable. Unlike the normal variegation, ‘Goshiki’ has this blend of white and shades of green with rare yellow-green tinges making each leaf look like green-white marble. As a defensive landscaping plant Goshiki is a slow-growing but incredibly thorny foundation planting asset. It can add color to an otherwise boring lineup.

Mock Orange - Poncirus trifoliata
Mock orange is as its name suggests is a plant that due to its small fuzzy yellow-orange colored fruit resembles true oranges at least partially. The big difference is the presence of numerous rather large thorns that can make passing through risky business. The real value of mock orange is that it can be trained to form a small tree or bush. This ability to be shaped does allow the mock orange to serve multiple purposes as a deciduous asset. In winter when framed by snow or a light background the bare branches of the Mock Orange are quite striking as a structural asset, varieties such as ‘Flying Dragon’ are even more so. As a final note the flowers of the Mock orange are no slouch either and have a decent sweet scent.

QuinceCydonia oblonga
As some of you know quince are essentially super tart apples and in some very early references to them are confused with actual apples. To that extent some suggest the quince was cultivated much earlier then apples. The best part of fresh quince is the apple-like scent they strongly impart in whatever area they are stored. However unlike applies the quince needs to be cooked longer to soften so it can be eaten. I might add the flowering quince has very attractive flowers and can be shaped into bonsai or topiaries.
For defensive landscaping purposes the flowering quince bears a number of sharp spurs that can injure the unwary. At best it is a mild defensive landscaping plant that just so happens to produce flowers and fruit.

As a final note to this discussion, I have to give an honorable mention  the plant known as ‘Bed of Nails’ or Solanum quitoense and it’s cousin ‘Devil’s Thorn’ or Solanum pyracanthon. Both of these annual members of the nightshade family are naturally coated with thorns that are technically called trichomes which make for a rigid but fuzzy coating on all surfaces. In between this fuzz is a series of wicked thorns that get worse after the plant dies as they can penetrate clothes with ease. For the question posed by one of my landscaping clients as to a plant to place under your daughters window this is the one. I might add the Bed of nails produces edible fruit that is said to taste like a mix of citrus, rhubarb and lime. I can say I have grown this plant here in North Carolina and by the end of summer in a pot it produced a considerable navigation hazard despite being an incredible plant. A line of these things nourished with Poultry manure and extra high quality topsoil would be a seriously imposing defense indeed.

With that said this ends the defensive landscaping discussion but feel free to send in any questions you might have. I know there are a slew of thorny plants I could have used but I wanted to present some that I have not spoken of prior. The next few weeks will be about preparing cold crops for the ‘off season’ as well as what to do with your soil and you can expect a bit about compost.

Thank you for reading, see you next week and as always keep ‘em growing.

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