Marty's Garden, July 11th, 2019


Torrential rain, again. So far, I have captured 2.7 inches of rain in the rain gauge as of this morning and the day is far from over.  This spring and summer is starting to shape up like last spring and summer; WET!


The Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus Atlantica Glauca) tree which I bought more than two years ago has not been very happy in my garden. Reason: too much water. Our water table runs high and being almost directly across the downspout of my neighbor’s gutter and about another 20 feet or so away from our downspout, this tree was sitting in too much water. I thought about moving it to the other side of the front yard, near the driveway, which is a drier location. Although this tree had grown about two feet since it was planted, I wasn’t quite sure how well the roots had penetrated the soil. By rocking the tree back and forth it became clear it wasn’t very well rooted. I dug around the root ball, called The Spouse for tree-moving duty and off we went to the other side of the front garden, a mere 60 feet or so. I had already prepared the new planting bed, a six-foot-wide strip of grass, covered by cardboard and then a 6-inch layer of mulch. I dug a hole where I wanted the tree to go, removed some of the heavy red clay and added a bag of soil suitable for tree and shrub planting. Mixing both soils allows the tree roots easier penetration. Once the tree was in place, I had a major decision to make. This magnificent tree grows to spectacular proportions; 60 feet tall and 40 feet wide and the bed along the driveway would not allow it to grow to its full potential. However, the Blue Atlas Cedar can be espaliered, or pruned judiciously into a two-dimensional tree. The public library in Bridgewater, NJ, is home to a pair of espaliered Blue Atlas Cedars and Longwood Gardens in Kenneth Square, PA, has several growing against the entrance wall of this fantastic public garden.


In our previous home in NJ, we also had a Blue Atlas Cedar in our front garden. Planted by the landscapers for the builder about 6 feet away from the front window and 4 feet away from the garage, at first, it looked quite nice. However, 10 years later it obscured most of the front window and it had reached the second story. On windy evenings the upper branches knocked on the windows and kept me up. First, we removed some of the lower branches so I could look out the window again. Then I got tired of all the knocking upstairs and a tree trimming service turned my noisy tree into a two-dimensional tree. All branches pointing towards and away from the house were cut off and those growing in line with the house remained. I liked the look of the tree and for as long as we lived there it grew and thrived. Then the new owner cut it down.


My tree in the front yard got the same treatment. Only those branches that ran along the driveway remained; all others were cut off. Starting about 4 feet from the ground I took a branch on either side of the trunk and secured it to a horizontal stake. A foot higher two more branches were secured to a stake and I continued this for a total of five horizontal stakes. Then I cut off the top, so it won’t grow any higher.  While it was a gamble moving the tree, now a few months later, the gamble paid off. I can see beautiful blue new growth on the branches and over time this tree will grow into a five-tiered two-dimensional tree anchoring the planting bed to the driveway. I will have to keep up with some pruning on a yearly basis, but I won’t have to worry about this gentle giant outgrowing its spot in my garden. If it ever gets hot and dry, this tree will continue to be happy in its location as it is drought tolerant. Right now, though, the willows around my garden are very happy. The rain gauge reads 4.5” inches and we will continue to have (heavy) rain on and off for the rest of the day and into the night. I think this will be the wettest day since we moved here…

PS: We lucked out. The overall rain amount within 24 hours was 4.8 inches. Definitely the wettest day since we moved here, but it could have been worse.