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In Your Garden: Sad Trees

People either love weeping trees or they hate them.  Bunkey sees them as deformed, although, he does have a weeping willow down by his lake. That is a natural tree, not an ‘engineered one’ is his rationale.

There are several types of weepers. The weeping willow is a classic weeping plant. That is, it develops its habit without any training.  Next is broadly weepers. These trees grow upright but have droopy branch tips.  An example would be the old weeping crabapple or the conifers that have a strong leader trunk but all the branches weep giving the tree a narrow profile.

Then there are the grafted weepers. These are created by grafting a cascading shrub on a related upright root stock.  An example of this type is the willow – Salix repens nitida grafted on a willow stem.

Strongly weeping plants only become trees with training. No, the trainers don’t go out with a whip and tell the plant to “weep or else”.  The shrub is grafted high on the root stock or staked up so it can weep. This type make the best specimen trees as their size can vary depending on growing conditions and training.

So you are thinking you could use an exclamation/dramatic accent in your rather dull yard. If so, there are quite a few to choose from. For instance, if you want blooms, pick a crabapple. “Lousia” has pink flowers,  green leaves and has good disease resistance. “Ruby Tears” has early reddish leaves before it blooms.

Weeping mulberries are zone 4 hardy.  Pendula has fruit, a bird magnet, Chaparral is sterile. Look for cutting grown rather than grafted for this tree.

If you are looking more for a conifer to act as winter accent, there is a weeping Hemlock cultivar, ‘Sargentii’ that, while not fully hardy, does well in acid soil in a winter shady spot. A juniper to look for is “Tolleson’s weeping. It likes well drained soil and full sun.  Pendula (the namers must like this descriptive word)  is larger and hardy to zone 4.

While the native weeping willow is reserved for a large area, there are smaller specimens. There are two pussy willows for instance. The male tree is “Kilmarnock, the female, Weeping Sally.  They too, can be marketed as Pendula.  If you want more color, look for the purple osier willow (Salix purpurea Pendula.) It has fine textured blue green leaves making it a nice contrast to the bolder foliage plants.

If you like the tamarack – American larch, there are two to look for. “Varied Directions’ not only weeps, it spreads.  Pendula, is a weeping form of Japanese larch.  Both of these are zone 3 trees.

Pines have their weepers too.  The jack pine cultivar called “Uncle Fogy” not only weeps it is also contorted. The white pine contributions are “pendula” (see, no imagination) a strong weeper with the silver-blue needles white pine is famous for.  A newer cultivar is Angel Falls.

If you prefer spruce, all four spruces, white, black, Serbian and Norway have weeping forms. Look for “Formanek” and again “Pendula”.   The Serbian selection is “Pendula Bruns”. It has bicolored needles the Serbaians are noted for.

The developers are always looking for more exotic tree and shrub shapes, probably to name them Pendula too. Remember, these trees often touch the ground so plant them so they cascade over a slope or water feature. You don’t want to try mowing under them – it leads to too much blue air.

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