This is the time of year we appreciate architectural elements in the winter garden. After the dazzle of fall we could use a bit of color, especially when the days are dreary or snow is on the ground. Enter the red twig dogwood.
Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima,’ commonly called Tatarian dogwood, is an eye-catching shrub with bright red stems. In Spring there are gray-green leaves variegated with pure white edges, which last into fall. As the leaves disappear, the red stems remain. There are flowers, white, small and mostly hidden by the leaves in the spring. Drupes ripen by mid-summer and are enjoyed by the birds. The shrub grows eight to 10 feet tall and about five feet wide. The stems are reddest if the plant is grown in full sun. It tolerates various soil conditions and a moist, well-drained site. The new growth has the most color so it is advisable to prune back some of the oldest growth to six inches in early spring.
Elegantissima (synonymous with ‘Argenteomarginata’) tolerates deer and rabbits and is attractive to birds and butterflies. It grows wild in central Asia where the Tatars live, giving it its common name. All in all, the red twig dogwood would be a most lovely addition to your garden.
How did it get to be December already? Wasn’t it 100 degrees and October yesterday? Unbelievable! So, I was looking at last year’s December calendar and I can’t think of how to improve it. Therefore, y’all get an encore! Heck, come next year it might be a new tradition.
The holidays Are upon us. It’s cold enough To prune the euonymus.
Most of the leaves Have fallen down And into the compost Raked and blown.
The door is closed On the potting shed. Most of the garden Has been put to bed.
But before the year Turns over anew There are a few more things Left to do.
Lawn Mow the fescue One more time. Remove the leaves To keep it fine.
Planting Landscape plants Can still be planted There in that space Where you’ve always wanted.
Prune Prune the nandina And red-berried holly. Arrange them on the table To make it look jolly.
Herbaceous perennials Can still be cut back. While weeds and “bad” trees Can be thoroughly wacked.
Spraying While some of us think Spraying is fun In the month of December There should be none.
Other Stuff That’s Mostly Fun The Christmas tree Really needs water And will appreciate Being away from the heater.
To keep your poinsettias Cheery and bright Put them in the room With the sunniest light.
As to your soil recommendations Apply the lime. Save the fert For the warmer springtime.
If it’s viticulture Or an orchard you seek Order plants now To plant by March’s second week.
For your strawberries A sweet straw bed Either wheat or pine A blanket for their heads.
May your holidays Be blessed and merry As bright and cheery As the holly’s berry.
And may next year’s garden Be like my Grandmother’s A bounty for you And a bounty for others.
Fall is the season when nature displays its brilliant colors and thanks to trees planted recently in the Black Wall Street Gardens, we should see more of that fall splendor in the coming years right in downtown Durham. Black Wall Street Gardens is a small but centrally located green space that was improved in 2018 as part of the 2014 Downtown Open Space Plan that intended to further develop the former park located at 102 West Main Street into the ‘southern node of an enhanced linear park connecting City Hall to Main Street’.1 The improvements included the planting of four small Black Gum trees alongside a new curvilinear path and larger brick pavement center area with tables and chairs for seating. A public art piece to ‘commemorate and illuminate the importance of Black Wall Street and the legacy of Durham’s African-American business community’2, will be located at this location in the near future.
Black Gum or Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)
Black Gum, also commonly known as Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) is a slow-growing tree species native to Eastern North America and a deciduous hardwood tree recognized for its brilliant display of red and almost purple colored leaves in November. The spring flowers are small and produce excellent nectar for bees3. It is dioecious as the female tree needs a male pollinator tree to set their dark-blue fruit. The tree prefers acidic soils, has long taproots, tolerates poorly drained soils so it can be used in rain gardens and endures droughts due to its deep root system4. The Black Gum typically grows from 30 to 50 feet tall with a crown spread of 20 to 30 feet. They can live to be very old and some live more than 600 years.
The pyramidal growth habit along with a centralized leader and the Black Gum’s ability to tolerate compacted soils are all desirable attributes for the urban environment.5 One undesirable attribute for an urban walkway is the fruit litter of the female trees unless plant cultivars such as Nyssa sylvatica ‘Firestarter’ or Nyssa sylvatica ‘Red Rage’ are planted which do not produce fruit5. Another quality of this tree is the strong connection between its smaller branches and the trunk (branches grow at wide angles horizontally along the trunk) requiring less pruning and maintenance and making it a good candidate for wind tunnels between high buildings in the city.
Black Gum trees are perhaps best known for their brilliant scarlet fall color display in North Carolina. Only a couple of leaves have turned red on the newly planted trees in the Black Wall Street Gardens this week and the waxy green summer leaves predominate.
Fortunately, not far from downtown on North Broad Street is a grand old blazing specimen in the backyard of a home in Old West Durham neighborhood and a subject of a previous Master Gardener blog post6.
Its fall foliage is a little past its prime in mid-November but one can still see some very bright crimson and scarlet leaves this week and maybe even into December. This brilliant display is something to look forward to in the coming years for downtown.
Black Wall Street
The four young Black Tupelo trees are located near the north end of the garden park close to West Parrish Street or Black Wall Street. Black Wall Street referred to an area ‘of concentrated African-American wealth, economic and political power’ along the north side of Parrish Street in downtown Durham during the first half of the 20th century. In the early 1900’s, West Parrish Street started to convert from light industrial to commercial use when the black-owned and operated North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association (later renamed the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company) purchased several lots along the north side of this street.9 After the insurance company’s construction of its first office building in 1905, the street soon became known as “Black Wall Street.10 This two-story brick building, also housed the Mechanics and Farmers Bank on its first floor. By around 1910, the entire north side of the block was a black business complex of two- and three- story brick buildings11 . At the start of the 20th century as many as 200 businesses including groceries, shoe stores, banks and insurance companies comprised this interconnected business sector. Scholars Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois nationally acclaimed the street as an exceptionally prosperous black middle class business sector. Perhaps the most well known black-owned businesses were the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Mechanics & Farmers Bank8 at 106 West Parrish Street, located around the north corner from Black Street Gardens. After urban renewal projects and desegregation, black-owned businesses no longer concentrated downtown.
On the south side of Parrish Street, a commemorative sculpture is located near the north entrance of the Black Wall Street Gardens and the former site of a two story building built between 1910 to 1915 and demolished between 1968 and 1973 and formally housed a shoe store, Jewelry store, Tailor and Loan company11.
Prior to 1970 and the construction of the Durham Freeway, Parrish Street businesses actually connected all the way to Fayetteville Street to the Hayti Neighborhood. ‘Urban Renewal’ displaced more than 4,000 families and 500 businesses, and the freeway cut off Hayti from what’s now considered downtown Durham12. Leaders in the community are trying to reconnect Hayti community to Black Wall Street by planning a safe walking route along Fayetteville Street to the Black Wall Street Gardens for Hayti residents.
The northwest corner of West Main Street and North Magnum Street was known as Angier Corner long before it became the south part of Black Wall Street Gardens. The first mercantile store built in Durham was located here and operated by M.A. Angier and the store and corner became known as Angier’s General Store and Angier’s Corner, respectively13.
Brick buildings replaced the wood frame structures in the 1890’s. In 1899, 102 West Main was occupied by the Haywood King drugstore. In 1906, King sold his interest in the drugstore to D. L. Boone, and the drugstore became Haywood-Boone. In 1937, Haywood and Boone sold this store to Walgreens. Walgreens operated here throughout the mid-20th century. John Schelp a local historian, who interviewed John Loudermilk, said this was the store where Loudermilk picked up a candy bar (for his East Durham girlfriend) and flowers were on sale and inspired him to write the song “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” in 195612. These buildings were demolished around 1970 by the city as part of the Federal Urban Renewal program as they were vacant for some time and the area was developed into a park.
What a better way to commemorate and beautify such an important and central part of Durham’s commercial legacy of its diverse communities’ industriousness than the planting of such beautiful long-lived trees and the promise of fall color in a park dedicated to black entrepreneurship during the Jim Crow Era.
are among the most popular shade trees in America. They grow fast and tall,
averaging 40 feet but capable of reaching 120 feet. I remember the one in the
backyard of my childhood home on Long Island. We lived in a suburban development
typical of its time: Finished in the late 1960s, the homes were similar in size
and layout and every house sat on the same amount of land which was some
measure of an acre. The community was called Point of Woods – which was
humorous as most of the “woods” were cleared in order to build the houses. Most
homes were surrounded by large areas of lawn. The yard cried out for a shade
tree. Enter the maple.
tree felt special. My grandmother spotted the seedling growing in her tiny
urban yard in Queens, a borough of New York City. Mature maples lined her two-way
street; they were so large that their tops completely shaded the street and
their shallow roots buckled the sidewalks. Grandma was no stranger to gardening
so she nurtured that seedling for a bit and then potted it up and brought it to
Long Island to plant in our new backyard. With lots of attention, but little
actual care, it grew fast and tall and quickly delivered welcome shade.
Alas, I have no (good) photo to share of the maple of my youth. Besides, my tree may have been the invasive (!) Norway maple (Acer platanoides) which was widely planted as a street and shade tree back in the day. I have something much better to share with you — a spectacular red maple tree that has, for years, graced the Durham County, NC yard of a fellow master gardener.
trees are native deciduous trees. They tolerate a wide range of growing
conditions which may be why they seem to grow carefree. It is one of the first
native trees to flower in very early spring and there is something red about it
year-round. It has red twigs, buds, and flowers in winter, reddish new leaves
in spring, red leaf stalks and seeds in summer, and reddish (or yellow) foliage
in autumn. 1
There are a
number of types of maple trees and it is not easy to identify them from afar.
You need to observe their structure and then get close enough to observe the
bark, the leaves and their arrangement, the flower and/or the fruit. A
distinguishing characteristic of the red maple (in addition to its overwhelming
redness as described above), is that the edge of its leaf, also known as the
margin, is highly serrated.
more about the characteristics of other maple trees, consult the NC Extension
Gardener Plant Toolbox online.
Photos by Wanda Cruthfield, used with permission.
1. Spira, Timothy P., Wildflowers & Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains & Piedmont, 2011 University of North Carolina Press
Japanese beetles have emerged in Durham County. We have been picking them from our orchard trees at Briggs Avenue Community Garden since the start of June. This time of year takes me back 40 years to our first house out in Orange County sitting in a large yard, but surrounded by woods. On an early June morning, as the sun warmed the ground, I watched in dismay as clouds of beetles rose from the turf. For the next years, I warred against them — inoculating my lawn with milky spore bacteria (then available only from the county extension agent) and with traps. More about traps later. Each afternoon, I’d come home from work and empty a full gallon of beetles from my traps into a bucket of soapy water. Over the years, I accumulated a large pile (not quite a mountain) of beetle husks. Eventually, I controlled them and my apple trees no longer had all their leaves turned to brown lacework, no longer were my peaches gnawed to brown, nasty pulp.
At Briggs, we don’t have a plague and we manage them with an old plastic container of soapy water. In the cool morning, when they are still lethargic, one holds the container beneath the beetles’ leaf and, obligingly, they drop into it; this works best at 70 degrees or lower. As the temperature rises they are more active and are likely to fly as you approach. Collecting one is very satisfying, even more when a pair is caught in flagrante delicto or, even three or more, when onlookers are present.
We find beetles on, and eating leaves of, roses, apples, peaches and persimmons in the community garden. A few beetles are on our figs, but they haven’t eaten the leaves. Likely the broad, flat, green leaves provide a nice landing zone. But as the population grows, they range more widely: into mint and blackberries.
About traps: As described above, I used them many years ago and traps saved us. If beetles are a plague, as they were with me, collection in cups of soapy water may not seem practical. However, be aware that beetles must be emptied from the traps every day or two to prevent them from rotting and releasing ammonia which is repellent to other Japanese beetles. Traps also can attract beetles from your neighbor’s yard, increasing the population in your yard. So what? – We want to be good neighbors, don’t we?