Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ready To Take Out Your Lawn?

Have you been flirting with the idea of getting rid of your lawn? It is a big step to take, especially if you have no idea how to begin. You may have lots of ideas about what you want to do with the space currently taken up with grass, but how do you get rid of it so you can get started?

There are at least two methods of sod "abatement." One is to remove the lawn, roots and all, with either a sod-cutting machine or with a hand tool called a mattock. The second method, called sheet mulching,  involves covering the grass with newspapers or cardboard, layering over that with organic material and soil, and planting right over the top.

I've used both methods and have had success either way. Sod removal is definitely more labor intensive and you have the problem of sod disposal (trust me, it does not compost easily or quickly). Sod-cutters are big, heavy machines, which is why I've removed miles of sod with a mattock instead. But once that sod is gone, it's gone. No grass will be poking up through the new beds.

Sheet mulching is much easier, and for many people, more practical. Care must be taken, however, to be sure there is a thick, even layer of cardboard with no gaps between pieces where grass can shoot up. Sheet mulching also raises the level of the yard a little bit. In most cases, that adds a pleasing bermed effect. Just be sure the sheet mulch is not in contact with wood (a fence, deck or the siding on a house) or  you will have problems.

To get a look at how these methods work, here's a great series of videos showing the Urban Farmers Guild of Sustainable NE Seattle converting a homeowner's lawn into a food garden. The sod is removed in half the yard. The sheet mulching technique is used on the other half. The videos are taken over several months so you can see the process from sod abatement to thriving vegetable garden. Enjoy!





Thursday, October 28, 2010

Healing Gardens

When you hear the term "healing garden," what image comes to mind? If all you can imagine is a garden devoted to medicinal plants, consider this post an invitation to expand your definition.


In the broadest sense, all gardens are healing gardens. Working in a garden, strolling through one, looking out a window into a garden - all have a calming, restorative effect on us regardless of what is planted there. Beyond that, gardens can be designed for specific purposes and healing effects. In the future, I plan to write expanded posts on some of these individually. For now, here are some general categories for you to consider.

Pleasure Gardens. These gardens exist for one reason: to please the senses. They invite you to stop, rest and take in their beauty. They are an antidote to the high-stress, always-on, busyness of modern life. They bring the Feminine essence of "being" to balance the Masculine essence of "doing" in our world. A pleasure garden can be as simple as a single plant in a container that gives a person joy to behold. And it can consist of many elements including elaborate plantings, comfortable seating, and the sight and sounds of water. All that matters is the pleasure that the garden brings.


Renovated Gardens. Most of the time when I think of healing gardens, I think of what gardens can give to us. But with renovation, it's all about us giving back to, and thus healing, the garden. I can't tell you how many times clients have told me that they didn't want to put money or effort into a certain, neglected part of their yard. "We don't like that spot and won't use it anyway," they say. I suggest that they might if the space was more functional and something they could enjoy. Sure enough, with some thoughtful renovation, those neglected areas often become the family's favorite outdoor room.


Renovation typically involves restoring poor soil or paved-over "dead" zones and bringing them back to life. I'll never have a more dramatic "before and after" in my design career than the sunken garden we created in a space once occupied by a concrete, bunker-like structure. And anyone who has visited Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, has seen what can be done with a used-up quarry.

Medicinal Gardens. The science of pharmacology has its roots, literally, in the study of plant compounds and their effects on the human body. Relatives of these ruffly opium poppies, shown on the left, gave rise to an entire class of drugs, many of which are now produced synthetically, used to relieve pain. I'm not suggesting that you grow opium poppies. (I'm told that you would have to harvest acres of these seed capsules to get enough opium-laden latex to matter.) Just reminding you that the plant-medicine connection is a venerable one.


As a further example, herbs have been cultivated, for thousands of years, in kitchen, convent and monastery gardens to be used to heal the sick. That tradition continues today as gardeners grow mint, basil, chives, chamomile, thyme and many other herbs, to use in cooking and making tea. As Hippocrates said, "Let your food be your medicine."


To the category of medicinal gardens, I would add Therapeutic Gardens. In recent years, the value of gardens in the treatment of seriously ill patients has been recognized. Various studies have shown that patients who have a view into a garden recover more quickly, require less pain medication and, in the case of surgeries, have fewer post-op infections.


Hands-on therapeutic gardens are being used in facilities for people who are chronically ill. Raised beds and specialized tools make it possible for people in wheelchairs to have the experience of gardening. Spending that time in the garden has proven to slow the progress of disease and give patients a greater sense of well being.

Meditation Gardens. The health benefits of meditation have been well documented. And where better to practice meditation than in outdoor settings that are conducive to suspending the chatter that goes on in our heads? These places can be as informal as sitting under a big tree and staring out over water and as formal as a labyrinth designed for walking meditation.


Chinese and Japanese gardens are also popular places for meditation. (A scene from the Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon, is shown here.) Their clean, uncluttered lines and simple planting plans evoke a sense of peace. These gardens also feature small, somewhat hidden spaces, that allow the visitor some quiet and privacy.


Community Gardens. Here in Seattle, perhaps the best known type of community garden is the P-Patch. Here people who have no place for a garden can rent a small plot and grow vegetables and flowers. Over the years, these p-patches have produced much more than food for the table. Friendships have been made, gardening tips exchanged and a sense of belonging to a community has been created. The healing effect is at least two-fold: gardeners benefit from the experience of gardening and connecting with the earth. And there is an additional healing effect that comes from building connections with other human beings.

Memorial Gardens. These gardens offer a place of comfort for those touched by sorrow or tragedy. These can be small and very personal; I've had clients who have incorporated the ashes of loved ones into certain garden beds. When my clients work in that part of the garden, they feel like their loved one is there with them, which of course is true. And there are gardeners with memorial plants in their gardens: roses, peonies, hydrangeas, etc. that belonged to their mothers and favorite aunties. When those plants bloom each year, their flowers mean far more than any others in the garden.


On the other hand, memorial gardens can be very large and carry symbolism for an entire nation. An example is the beautiful and moving Oklahoma City National Memorial, which commemorates the April, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
The mission statement for this memorial states: "We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity."
Take a virtual tour of this very moving memorial here.


I hope this overview of various healing gardens has given you a new way to look at gardens of all kinds. We humans need gardens. They, quite literally, ground us. They give us joy, pleasure, satisfaction and comfort. If you'd like to read more, I recommend "Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being," by Esther M. Sternberg, MD.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sweet And Sour Fall Color

We are having a particularly rainy and windy fall in the Seattle area this year, but don't let that keep you from enjoying the vivid colors of the season. For example, look for two of my favorite trees for fall color: Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum).

Native to the eastern US, sweet gums are attractive trees that can grow to 60' tall, 20-25' wide. They are sometimes mistaken for maples because their leaf shape is similar.
In fall, these leaves turn color in multiple shades: burgundy, red and yellow. Certain cultivars, such as 'Festival' and 'Roundiloba' are especially showy with bits of peach and orange mixed in with the purples, reds and yellows. These trees are stunning! If you are fortunate enough to pass one on your daily rounds, watch as the leaves progress through color changes as the days go by. They'll take your mind off the rain.

Sourwoods are also native to the eastern US. They are much smaller than sweet gums, taking several years to reach a height of 20 - 30', making them good trees for urban yards. I don't think they are planted nearly enough here. They are well suited to our acid soils and cool summers.
Sourwood leaves remind me of fruit tree leaves, like apples or peaches. But in fall, unlike the leaves on fruit trees, sourwood leaves turn brilliant red, orange and black-purple. The display is even more of a head-turner because in late summer, and early fall, these trees produce drooping clusters of white, bell-shaped flowers. (They are in the same family, Ericaceae, as the Strawberry tree.) These flowers make sourwoods easily identifiable this time of year. They are said to be fragrant, so get up close; fall breezes quickly carry the scent away.

In spite of rain and blustery weather, this is a good time to get outside and observe the change of seasons. In the Northwest, we are blessed to have a huge variety of trees with different growth habits. We have longer, more colorful autumns than other parts of the country because as one group of trees fades, another begins to color up. Most years, this means that we have close to three months of color. Enjoy it!

If you live in the city of Seattle and need a good tree guide, consider Arthur Lee Jacobson's "Trees of Seattle: The Complete Tree-Finder's Guide to the City's 740 Varieties." This book has become a classic, and for good reason.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gardening with Disabilities

For most of my life, I have had problems with my back, left hip and leg. (I describe these issues, and the Birmingham hip resurfacing surgery I had in 2008, in this article posted on my other blog, Where I Am Now). But I love gardening and, in spite of pain and, later, serious disability, I refused to give it up. In fact, I would say that as my physical condition worsened, I needed the solace of my garden even more. The only question was, how to keep going?

Over time, I found several things that made gardening possible, and easier, for me. Here are some of them.
Raise the level of the garden. Raised beds bring the height of the garden up, so you don't have to bend down so far. If building a raised bed is too difficult a project for you to manage, try containers. I grow nearly all my herbs in big containers just outside my kitchen door. I don't have to bend very far to reach them and they are always close by when I need fresh herbs for cooking.


Use a kneeler benchThis item has been the greatest help to me of any tool I can think of both in the garden and for any household project that requires being on my hands and knees.
I have to tell you, though, that I have almost never used mine as a bench. I flip it over and use it to kneel on. Knee pads are fine, but believe me, if you have trouble getting up and down, the "arms" on this kneeler make it so much easier. Being able to grab those arms and push myself up or lower myself down made the difference, for years, between being able to work in my garden and having to hire someone else to do it.

The arms are good props, too, when your back is tired. Lean on one arm while weeding, raking or painting the deck. This saves your back and makes it possible to get more done in a session.

Find tools that fit your hands and level of strength. I used to struggle with cheap pruners that were made to fit a man's hand. I have small hands, even by women's standards, and over-extending my reach constantly to use those pruners gave me terrible cramps. Then I discovered Felco pruners. They come in different sizes for different hands. And there is a model with rotating hand grips that make pruning easier for people with wrist and grip issues.

I also am a big fan of my hori-hori knife, which is two or three tools in one, meaning I don't have to lug a bunch of stuff around with me when I garden. If you are using a cane, you know what I mean. When you have only one hand free to carry things, you want to be as efficient as possible.

Another of my favorites is the hand rake. I have deep shrub beds and when I could only bear weight on one leg, raking standing up was an unwieldy project. I found that by positioning my kneeler in the bed and using the hand rake, I could easily get under and around shrubs and do just as tidy a job with less discomfort.

Look for other tools at The Wright Stuff. They have a collection of ergonomic garden products designed for people with arthritis and limited mobility.

Wear proper shoes. For years, I couldn't reach my left foot to tie a shoe. That meant that all my shoes were slip-ons. The problem with slip-ons, though, is that they are easy to walk out of, and that would cause me to lose my balance. This wasn't such a big problem indoors, but out in the garden where surfaces tend to be uneven, slip-ons could be dangerous.

Then I discovered elastic shoelaces! I simply replaced the regular lace on the left shoe of a good pair of walking shoes with an elastic shoelace and suddenly I had a safe, comfortable slip-on. The elastic laces stretch just enough to allow my foot to slide into the shoe then tighten up, nice and snug, to keep the shoe on and give me good support.

If you have been gardening with a disability of one sort or another, what have your experiences been? I know there are many other helpful ideas and products out there. If you have some to share, please comment. Thanks.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Rose Is a Rose, Is an Apple, Is a Berry

Botanically speaking, roses belong to the Rosaceae (ro-ZAY-cee-ee) family. This is a huge family, encompassing over 2800 species of plants, including fruit trees, shrubs, berries and, of course, roses. There isn't a single set of characteristics you can use to identify all members of this family, but there is one identifier that several genera share: a star-like shape at the base of the fruit.

Here you see cotoneaster berries with those distinctive "stars" on the bottom.

Once you know to look for this characteristic, you will begin to recognize other relatives in this family. These include: Hawthorn, Pears, Rowan, Cotoneaster and Pyracantha.

Fall is the best time of year for this, of course, because that's the season when these fruits are ripe.

Here you see the "star" at the base of an apple, another rose relative. You'll find stars on the bottoms of pears, too.

And notice the stars on rose "hips" this time of year.  (Pictured here are Rosa glauca hips.)

Beyond this bit of botanical trivia, it is useful for gardeners to be aware of these family relationships. Many members of the Rosaceae family share a susceptibility to fungal diseases, such as black spot on roses and scab on apples. Knowing this, a gardener can be prepared to take steps to keep plants healthy, which might include the use of dormant oil sprays, good sanitation practices and companion planting with members of the allium family (garlic, chives, onion, etc.)

So there's your mini botany lesson for today. Now go out and do your own version of "star search."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Strawberry Trees Forever


Is it a tree? Is it a shrub? With the right cultivar selection and a little artful pruning, it can be either. The standard species form of a Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) can grow to nearly 30 feet tall and wide. If it is limbed up as it grows, it can look like this.
If you want a smaller version, choose cultivars like 'Compacta', which will get to about 10' x 10', 'Oktoberfest' to about 8' x 8', or 'Elfin King' about 5' x 5'.
Whichever one you choose, you will be rewarded with year-around interest. Strawberry trees have glossy, evergreen foliage.  Large clusters of white, bell-shaped flowers appear in spring and, depending on availability of moisture, continue to bloom until fall. (The foliage, flowers and stems may look familiar to you if you live in the Pacific Northwest because strawberry trees are related to our native Madrone, Arbutus menziesii.) Flowers are followed in the fall by fruit that starts out looking like citrusy gum drops (see below).
As it ripens, the fruit begins to look like strawberries; hence the name, strawberry tree.
This fruit is edible, but bland. Even the birds will ignore it (an advantage from an ornamental point of view) until the tastier seeds and berries in the garden are gone.

Strawberry trees are wonderful choices for small gardens. They aren't fussy about soil. You can choose a cultivar that will fit the space available. They will tolerate some shade, although, like most plants, will flower and fruit more readily in sun. They can be shaped easily with light pruning.

Strawberry trees in the Seattle area are particularly full of fruit this fall. They are a unique addition to the autumn color palette that is so spectacular and long-lasting in our area.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trumpet Vine, the Last Blast of Summer

As the first day of autumn is rapidly approaching and most of the blooms in the garden have faded, my trumpet vine is flowering with an exuberance that is positively spring-like. Trumpet vines (Campsis radicans) are vigorous plants that typically scamper up to 40 feet or more in just a few seasons. They cling to arbors and walls with aerial roots.


Most trumpet vines sport red-orange tubular flowers as you see above, but there are a few newer cultivars, such as one called 'Flava,' that have yellow flowers. Much loved by hummingbirds and bees, these vines attract wildlife and pollinators to the garden. (To learn more about landscaping for wildlife in our area, check out "Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest," written by Russell Link, wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.)

In some parts of the country, trumpet vines can be invasive, but I have not found that to be the case in the Seattle area. Vigorous pruning may be required to keep a vine in bounds, but that's only necessary once, maybe twice, a season.



Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Dark Side of Gardening: Black Flowers and Foliage

Although black is in no danger of becoming the new green in garden design, black flowers and foliage hold a perennial fascination for gardeners worldwide. Of course, true black doesn't really exist in the plant world. So-called black plants are typically Just such a dark purple that they appear black in all but brightest light. Still, they are rare and sought after for their beauty and novelty.


Just as black works with most anything in your wardrobe, black combines with colors in the garden to add drama and elegance. Here you see the contrast between black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') and the ground cover, Baby's tears (Soleirolia soleirolii).


Sweet Potato vine 'Blackie', an annual, works well in containers and as an edging for perennial borders.










Black hollyhocks offer a dramatic twist on a classic, old-fashioned flower. Plant them at the back of the border for mid-summer display. Let them go to seed and you will have more of them to enjoy in years to come.




Speaking of drama, just look at these leaves! This striking, purple-black, leaf veination belongs to a Rex begonia, a good choice to brighten up a shady area.

Plant lovers are always on the lookout for new varieties of unusual plants. A new introduction in the black plant category is Ceanothus 'Tuxedo', which was discovered by Pat Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Nurseries in Ireland. For more photos and information about this plant in a northwest garden, here's this post from Westsound Gardener.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Daylilies

Daylilies are called daylilies because each flower is said to last only a day. Although the flowers look like true lilies (Lillium sp.), daylilies are in the Hemerocallis family. If you have trouble telling them apart, simply look at the stems and leaves.
Daylilies have long, strap-like leaves, with flowers borne on long, leafless stems. True lilies are bulbs with a single long stem. True lilies have leaves along the stem.

Daylilies come in many colors and sizes and are among the hardiest of perennials. They aren't terribly fussy about soil, but, of course, will do best in beds with good drainage that have been amended with organic material. Water during dry spells.

In the northwest, plant or divide daylilies in early spring or fall. Clumps will spread over time and for best bloom should be divided every few years.

Most daylilies bloom late spring early to mid-summer for a period of days to a few weeks depending on weather. A few will bloom throughout summer, such as this charming yellow, dwarf variety called 'Stella d'Oro.'

For more information on daylilies, take a look at Diana Grenfell's book "Daylilies," part of the Gardeners Guide series.



Monday, July 5, 2010

Retaining Walls & Rockeries

Seattle is a city built on hills. Our houses are arranged on these hills like a patchwork of theater seats, taking advantage of the remarkable views our part of the world has to offer. Of course, keeping all of these sloping properties from sliding to the bottom of their respective hills is a challenge. And rising to this challenge are thousands of retaining walls and rockeries. If you have a sloping property and need to build a retaining structure, Seattle is the place to explore for ideas. Here are a few of them.
For people who complain that concrete is too boring, this is a clever way to use the material. These walls form the front edge of a yard with a red brick house. The homeowners could have chosen masonry to match the house, but masonry walls would probably have been more expensive than these tinted concrete ones. A few bricks attached to the walls echo the brick of the house, making for a cohesive hardscape design.

Here is a concrete wall system that is clean and sophisticated. Finished with parallel grooves along the top and featuring built-in lighting for the steps (note the small rectangles along the wall), this is one of my favorites.

This type of wall, made of river rock, was popular in the Craftsman era. I doubt anyone builds walls like these much anymore. This one is in better shape than most I've seen and the plantings add to its charm.

Today concrete walls with a stone veneer, like this one, are more popular. These can be constructed more quickly, easily and affordably than walls built with stone only.

My landscape design instructor used to say, "The trouble with common plants is that they are used commonly." The same can be said of common building materials, like this concrete block. I know that these block systems are affordable and relatively easy to install. But aesthetically, they don't do much for me. Here, however, is a winning combination of planting and hardscape. The block walls literally set a stage for the plant material, which is what draws the eye.
[For more ideas, take a look at "Hillside Landscaping: A Complete Guide to Successful Gardens on Sloping Ground," from Sunset Books.]
Note also that instead of one very tall wall, there are two tiers, one set back from the first. From a design standpoint, this is good because it adds layers of color and texture instead of a monolithic and forbidding looking structure. From a legal standpoint, the design works, too. According to the building code in Seattle, any structure over 4 feet tall is considered a retaining wall and a permit is required before it is built. These tiered walls are each at or under 4 feet, thus avoiding the need for a permit.

Of course, no article on garden walls in this area would be complete without a mention of the classic Seattle rockery. Usually made of basalt, which is abundant in the Northwest, these walls are constructed without mortar. The gaps between the stones are perfect planting pockets for gardeners to fill with color, as you see below.



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lewisia

Years ago, a friend of mine, who then owned a small native plant nursery, asked me to help with her booth at a plant sale at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. At the time, I didn't know much about Northwest natives and I thought it would be a good way to spend some time with her and learn more.

As we unloaded her truck, she pointed to a flat of plants. "These are Lewisia," she said as if I should know the significance of that. "Keep an eye on them or they will disappear," she added, somewhat sternly. I looked at the plants. They didn't look like anything special. None were in bloom. The leaves formed a flat, fleshy rosette that looked like they could be related to Echeveria (hens and chicks). Surely she didn't mean that anyone would steal one of these when we weren't looking?!

We set up our display and she brought out signs with descriptions of the various plants, and for those not in bloom like the Lewisia, photos of the flowers. When I saw the photos, I began to understand why these plants might be of interest. These beautiful little alpine flowers will stop you in your tracks.

What I also didn't realize was that very few people at that time propagated Lewisia for sale. They weren't available at nurseries then (although the L. cotyledon you see in the photo above is one I bought at West Seattle Nursery several years ago). You would have to go up into the mountains, as she had, and collect seed or get the seed from someone who had. Getting the seed wasn't even half the battle. These plants aren't easy to grow. They need sharp drainage and a fair amount, but not too much, sun.

Of course, the plant enthusiasts at the sale that day already knew all of this. Once the sale began, word spread rapidly that we had Lewisia for sale. A crowd gathered. My friend could have sold that flat of plants 10 times over! She said she would sell only one plant to a customer. She knew how hard they were to grow and felt that if several gardeners each got a plant, there was a greater likelihood that some plants would survive than if just one or two people got them all. There was a lot of pleading and begging going on, but she stuck to that policy. We sold out of Lewisia in mere minutes.

Lewisia is much more available today than it was back then. But it still isn't easy to grow. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try. If you are interested and have a sandy, rocky spot, buy a plant and see what happens. Every summer when my Lewisia blooms, I'm glad I did.

If you'd like to learn more about Pacific Northwest native plants, I recommend Arthur Kruckeberg's classic reference, "Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest."


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Walkway and Driveway Materials

Our eyes are naturally drawn to walkways and driveways as we walk by the front of a house or look for a place to park. Because of that, the materials used for these paths are important elements in an overall landscape design. The best materials are those that both function well (right sized, safe and easy to maintain) and harmonize with the house. Here are examples of some good design ideas.

This is an interesting choice. This walkway (above) connecting the sidewalk with the front porch is made of weathered cedar, which matches the weathered cedar stairs and deck. The house has cedar siding, too - it all works together.

People often wrinkle their noses when I sing the praises of concrete because they think concrete is boring. It certainly doesn't have to be. It can take on any shape you can build a form for and it can be tinted, as it has been here, to go with any color scheme. Note how well this colored concrete harmonizes with the slate stairs.

The walkway in the foreground here connects the sidewalk to the front door of this house. Note how the expansion joints in the concrete give the impression of large, rectangular pavers. The walkway thus repeats the theme of this formal garden which has been laid out in a series of rectangles, emphasized by the concrete walls of the raised bed.


The concrete for this carport has been both tinted and stamped to give it a lot more character than a typical, plain slab of grey. Note how the rectangular pattern in the stamp repeats the rectangles you see in the shadow of the arbor overhead. Concrete stamps are available in a variety of patterns.

This long driveway combines concrete for tire treads, with grass down the center which allows rain water to soak into the ground rather than run off into the storm sewer. The metal 1/2 circles, which appear to be recycled from some industrial project, add a charming touch. 

If you are thinking of replacing a walkway or driveway, take a little time to walk around the neighborhood and see some of the creative solutions out there. There are no end to the possibilities.

Too rainy for a walk? Check out "Curb Appeal," from the editors of Sunset Books, for more inspiration. Before and after photos show how changes in exterior features, including walkways and driveways, plus paint, fencing,  lighting and other do-it-yourself projects can make all the difference in how you feel about that place you call home. 



Friday, June 18, 2010

Smoke Trees



Smoke trees (Cotinus coggygria) are wonderful additions to small, urban gardens. They may eventually reach 25' in height, but can be pruned to stay much smaller. Typically, they are multi-stemmed, but can be trained to have a single trunk, as this one has.

Smoke trees come in both green and purple-leafed forms, but the purple seems most popular here in Seattle. Some cultivars have purple leaves in spring that gradually turn green over the summer. If you want plants that hold their purple color until fall, choose varieties like: 'Royal Purple' and 'Velvet Cloak.'

They are called "smoke" trees because as their flowers fade, they take on a fuzzy appearance that looks like puffs of smoke.
Here you can see a closeup of the tiny, yellow-green flowers and those gorgeous purple leaves. Later in summer, these flowers will take on that characteristic "smoky" look.

In addition to the dramatic flower display, smoke trees have stunning red-orange fall color. They are also drought tolerant, once established. They thrive in poor, rocky soil. And they come in colors other than purple, which you can read about in this post, More Smoke Trees.