Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
April, 2007
Regional Report

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This weeping beech is a beautiful piece of sculpture.

Use Plants as Sculpture

We tend to appreciate most plants for their lush greenness or spectacular blossoms. But so many plants are also quite sculptural. Plants can be focal points in the garden in any number of ways, but there are some that have such a unique shape they can be considered on a par with a bronze or iron sculpture.

When using a sculptural plant as a focal point it's important to keep in mind what the plant will look like in all seasons. For example, a weeping beech has lovely lines with or without leaves. Without leaves, it is a wiry, curvy, hard piece of sculpture, but with leaves it is softly draped with bronze, shiny cloth. A Harry Lauder's walking stick is an intricately twisted and curled winter plant, but in summer it loses much of this focus and actually looks better if surrounded with other plants to soften the oversized, twisted leaves.

Here are a few plants to consider for their sculptural qualities:

Weeping larch. This lovely deciduous conifer starts the spring with bright green needles and colorful purple- and rose-colored cones/flowers. The tufts of needles deepen to medium green through the summer and then turn brilliant yellow in fall. After the needles fall, the cones are left on the arching stems as decorations through the winter.

Weeping hemlock. This slow-growing weeper is softly graceful throughout the year, with mounded stems that reach to the ground. The needles are soft, the cones are tiny and delicate and hang on the ends of branches like crystal earrings. Everything about this plant gives a gentle, elegant feel to the landscape.

Weeping Norway spruce. Sometimes called a "dragon tree" by children, this plant has stiffly arching stems, sometimes growing horizontally before dipping toward the ground. Only a few feet tall, the plant is a coarse, attractive focal point when backed by fluffy, fine-textured shrubs.

Weeping cherry. Although we tend to grow weeping cherries for their blossoms, this large plant is a lovely focal point when in leaf as well. The gray-green leaves droop, giving this specimen a grounded, mounded effect. The stems may arch upward before reaching for the ground, which makes the plant take up quite a space in the landscape.

Weeping Alaska cypress. This tree stands stalwart toward the sky, with draped branches and upturned branch tips. You can't help reaching out to touch this soft evergreen with its hanging branchlets that give it the air of a wise old man watching over the garden.

Be sure to include some lovely sculptural elements in your landscape that you can appreciate in all seasons of the year.

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