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2014 Weeping Forms in the Landscape

Weeping Forms in the Landscape by Jean Atkinson , Richbar Golf and Gardens

One of the most valuable lessons of landscape design is not to plant too many specimens. By a specimen I mean a plant with a unique shape or form. One of the strongest forms in the landscape is the weeping form. This is such a graceful shape but overuse will result in a chaotic looking garden.

Smaller weeping trees are ideally placed around a pond or in a garden bed. They look out of place if planted all by themselves on the lawn like a shade tree.

If you are looking for an accent tree for a small space, I would recommend either the Caragana arborescens ‘Pendula’ or Walker’. Both of these prairie hardy weeping caraganas are a beautiful accent for a small space. Generally, they are about 1.75m (6ft.) tall and 1.25m (4ft.) wide. They both have yellow pea-shaped flowers in summer followed by yellow fall colour. The Walker Weeping Caragana has finer feathery foliage than the Weeping Caragana. Both are very drought tolerant and hardy to zone 3. The long weeping branches can use an occasional haircut to keep them off the ground. I prefer to see them trimmed unevenly rather than straight across like bangs. These small trees look attractive under planted with a low ground cover e.g. Wiltoni Juniper, Dwarf daylilies, Creeping Thyme come to mind.

If you have a bit more room, consider planting a weeping Flowering Crabapple. The weeping branches of Rosy Glo Flowering Crabapple are a standout in the landscape even when not blooming. The foliage is bronze – green and the flowers are bright pink in spring. This small accent tree can obtain a spread of 3m (10ft.) so give it some room to grow. The height is dependent on the height of the graft, usually around 1.25m (4ft.). This variety is hardy to zone 3.

My favorite weeping trees is a top-worked Young’s Weeping Birch. Top worked is a technique used in the nursery to prune out the central leader. Sometimes one of the lateral renegade branches will start to reach upwards to become a dominant leader again, but these can be easily pruned out. These look beautiful with night lighting.

If you have lots of space and lots of moisture a weeping willow will be happy to grow there. The fast growing Golden Weeping Willow (zone 4) has long golden drooping branches with long bright green leaves that turn yellow fall. This is a definitely a graceful specimen but do not plant near any underground septic or water lines.

There are also evergreens that have weeping forms. A very funky one is the Weeping Norway Spruce. It has very long pendulous branches and forms a very narrow conical shape when staked but looks totally different when allowed to grow along the ground. My father-in-law, Peter, lets his wander throughout his shrub border, cascading over rocks and the result is very unique.

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