Archive for the ‘Erb Approved Plants’ Category

If your landscape includes a rock garden, stone wall, paved walkway or patio area, this delightful Cotoneaster specimen is a plant you should consider adding. Since we don’t always agree to a single name in the plant trade, you may find this species listed under C. adpressus, C. apiculatus OR C. horizontalis with a cultivar name of ‘Tom Thumb’ OR ‘Little Gem’ Either way we are talking about the same plant.

C. 'Tom Thumb' Growing Over the Edge of a Stone Wall

Hardy to zone 5 (remember to check the USDA plant hardiness map for new boundaries), this Cotoneaster is one of a select few which are semi-evergreen. Dark green leaves provide a rich texture in the garden and give contrast to free-form deciduous plant species. ‘Tom Thumb’ only grows 12-18″ tall and is an excellent option for filling small crevices in the garden. Cotoneaster species generally like full sun but can tolerate light shade. Light pink flowers in May give way to fruit in early to mid fall.

Cotoneaster 'Tom Thumb' in a Rock Garden


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Solidago Rugosa Finds a Home in this Perennial Bed

While browsing through my collection of garden photographs I came across this shot which showcases a well-designed perennial border. This picture was taken in October of 2011 at Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Chanticleer’s tagline is “a pleasure garden” and the grounds really do please the senses. When I look at the plants in this combination, I notice the strong flower structure of the red Salvia, with a gorgeous backdrop of Hemerocallis, fine-textured Calamagrostis (ornamental grass), Cotinus and bright yellow Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ (Goldenrod). The Salvia and Daylilies do not fight with the Goldenrod, which in this arrangement, acts as a neutral filler. The contrast of the Goldenrod with the deep green Arborvitae in the backdrop works particularly well.

S. rugosa ‘Fireworks’ reaches approximately 3-4′ tall and blooms from September-October. Solidago prefers full sun and can tolerate moist soil. For a small garden alternative, try Solidago ‘Little Lemon’ a compact variety which grows only 8-14″ tall.

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Cupressus Arizonica Bark at the Botanical Gardens of Jerusalem

While strolling through the Botanical Gardens of Jerusalem I came across several impressive Cupressus trees. The most striking species, C. arizonica, displayed multi-colored exfoliating bark. The Arizona Cypress is native to the southwestern United States. The botanical gardens have collections from around the world with a special section for species from North America.

Cupressus arizonica

The Arizona Cypress can grow 40- 50′ tall and has dense grayish green needles. This tree makes an excellent wind break and the bark is extremely ornamental. The cones mature 20-24 months after pollination and only open after being exposed to fire. This is an evolutionary trait shared with many Pine trees which allows seeds to grow in bare ground cleared by forest fires. Cupressus sempervirens (Italian Cypress) is more commonly used throughout Israel in afforestation and planned landscapes. C. sempervirens has the classic columnar shape associated with Cypress trees.

Distinct Columnar Shape of Cupressus sempervirens

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Jeffrey's Childhood Garden Created for a 4-H Project

When I think about 2012 I am excited by a lineup of fantastic projects. I look forward to tackling new design challenges and creating even better gardens. I never miss the opportunity to reflect on how lucky I am to do what I do. I love my work and I love sharing it with others. From my humble first backyard bed my father built, to a magnificent Manhattan penthouse terrace, the gratification I get from completing a well planned garden is always rewarding.

Planting a Knot Garden with Germander

From a very young age I spent summers working in gardens behind our house. It all started in a 10′ x 10′ raised planting bed which I cared for as part of my local 4-H program. No education can replace the experiences I had watching my Castor Bean (Ricinus communis) prosper, or clipping my Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) into a small hedge. It is the knowledge I gained from years of gardening that brought me to the place I am at today.

Planting Annuals While Volunteering at a Local Park

I now realize that my fingernails will perpetually have soil underneath them and my farmer’s tan will always grace the back of my neck. They are merely visual reminders of my passion for plants and landscape design. I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Life is too short to do something that doesn’t make you happy. Once you know what that is, don’t let it go!

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Nubian Ibex Standing at the Ramon Crater, Negev Desert

Nubian Ibex Standing at the Ramon Crater, Negev Desert

I consider my trip to Israel to be a pilgrimage, not for religion or history, but for learning new plant species. Israel is home to a diverse selection of flora due to the contrasting geography found in its relatively small borders. Late November and December proved to be a rewarding time to explore the natural landscape. My travels took me all the way from the streams of Golan heights to the Negev Desert and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River Valley. Now I share with you some of my favorite wintertime plant finds in Israel.

Anabasis articulata Found on the Rocky Slopes of the Ramon Crater

Anabasis articulata (pictured above) blends into the rocky hillside of Makhtesh Ramon in the Negev Desert. Growing around 12″ tall, brown “jointed” stems give way to  pinkish fruiting bodies which appear in October and November. The plants store large amounts of salt which is typical for members of the Chenopodiaceae plant family. Anabasis shares drought and salt tolerance characteristics with its family members which include beets and quinoa.

Nimrod's Fortress Covered in Clusters of Oak Trees

The Leaves and Acorn of Quercus calliprinos

Nimrod’s Fortress sits at the foot of Mt. Hermon in Golan Heights. The scenery in the north is in stark contrast to the south. The ruins of this massive fortress are covered in Palestine Oak trees (Quercus calliprinos). This evergreen Oak is more of a shrubby tree growing anywhere from 10-20′ tall. The glossy leaves which appear more like a Holly, are tiny and measure 1-2″ long. This is the most common Oak out of 5 species which grow in the wild in Israel.

Delicate Single Bloom on Cyclamen Persicum

Lower down in the valley in the Golan Heights lies the Banias spring and waterfall. Here Persian Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum). The fragile blooms range in color from white to pale pink with a deep pink center. The signature variegated leaves growing between the moss-covered rocks are a telltale characteristic of the plant, and are easy to spot even when they are not in bloom. This species is in full flower from October-March.

If you are interested in reading more about wild flowers and plants of Israel, I highly suggest starting with this this website as well as the Nature in Israel pocket guides by Noam Kirschenbaum.

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The spud-producing sweet potato vine.

As I was clearing out my exterior containers for the winter, I came across a sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) “potato”.  I’ve seen spuds from these ornamental vines before but never thought to try to consume them.  I know they are edible but for some reason it seems weird to eat them!

The potato!

I found the potato, shown above, as I was digging through the potting soil, loosening it up in preparation for spring planting.  It looked identical to a normal potato you would find in the grocery store.  Most of the previous potatoes I’ve found from Ipomoea vines are a bright pinkish-purple color.   They come in all sorts of weird shapes more reminiscent of sweet potatoes than baking potatoes.

Wrapped with a moist paper towel, ready to be microwave cooked!

To prepare this potato for consumption, I washed it thoroughly and wrapped it with a moist paper towel to prevent potential explosion splatter in the microwave.  It only took 2 minutes in the microwave to cook very well.  I bet it would have been done in a 1 min 30 sec.

Ready to eat!

With the only seasonings of butter, pepper, and salt, the sweet potato vine potato tasted exactly like a normal potato with a few hints of sweet potato thrown in there. While you aren’t going to get a huge harvest from a single sweet potato vine, it’s still fun to eat what you grow yourself, especially after you enjoyed the plant all summer long. Dig in!

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Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design

Fall Color of the Burning Bush.

Euonymus alatus ‘Compacta’, also known as Burning Bush, creates a show-stopping fall foliage display painted in fire engine red.  It is extremely prevalent in commercial landscapes, but it holds its own in a residential garden when planted in clusters or hedges.

Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design

Burning Bush Hedge.

One of the best uses for Euonymus in a private garden is as a formal hedge.  Burning Bush is a fast grower and is reminiscent in texture to Boxwood but with larger, deciduous leaves.  Euonymus does not have any major ornamental characteristics in spring or summer.  However, fall brings out a fabulous burst of flaming red that is nothing short of magnificent.

Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design

Berries and Bark of the Burning Bush.

Winter interest includes bright red-orange berries and “winged” bark with ridges which makes Euonymus easy to identify.  Newer growth is a lighter green while old wood is brown. Cut branches of the new growth with berries can be used in floral arrangements during the winter.  Flowers are hidden in the spring/early summer and are very small and pale green in color.

They are easy to prune, though if untrimmed, Burning Bush grows to be about 10′ tall  and equally as wide. They are extremely tolerant of soil conditions and prefer full sun, but can handle some shade.  The less sun, the more leggy this shrub will get.  Fall color is also affected by sun exposure and will be more of a pink shade (less sun) rather than vibrant red (more sun). It is hardy to zones 4-8 and can handle urban stress situations.  Several pests and diseases are common so keep an eye out for scale, cankers, and nutritional deficiencies.

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