the very handsome.
Sequoia giganteum (Giant Redwood Tree) is the gentle giant. He is huge. He can get 80 feet or more so
give him room. This is a case of ‘go big or go home’. If you have the land the redwood is magnificent for it
foliage, bark and sheer grandeur. It is an evergreen conifer, with a typical reddish brownish soft thick bark.
During the second half of the 19th century it was fashionable for European castles and estate lords to lay out so called ‘English gardens’ and during that time English literature was influenced by the ‘Romantic period’ so there was a leaning toward wild plants in nature. With the influence of the Californian gold rush (1852), came the discovery of the Redwood. Many castles, botanical gardens and large estates throughout Europe had to have one. As you travel throughout the UK and Europe you can see some amazing examples, such as the botanical garden of Argyll, Scotland which planted 50 trees in 1863 that are still flourishing and over 54 meters high. If a man’s home is his castle, does Dad need a sequoia?
For the smaller garden the Acer ‘Crimson sentury’ ( Norway Maple) is a medium grower with a columnar shaped crown and dark purple foliage. It is ideal for small gardens as it only grows 25 feet high. It loves full sun and thrives on regular watering. The compact dense pyramidal habit makes a great sun block or hedge for creating privacy. It has stupendous dramatic purple foliage, amazing fall color and is a better choice for the smaller castle.
A truly manly plant is the Gunnera manicata (Giant Rhubarb). This native of South America is an herbaceous perennial whose leaves grow to an impressive size. It can spread 8 feet by 8 feet. It is very cool and is commonly known as Dinosaur Food. It is estimated that some form of Gunnera has been around for 95 million years, grown in the swamps that had dinosaurs roaming around and chewing on them. There is nothing frilly about this plant. It has stunning giant lobed, toothed leaves which start each Spring on spike-like hairy
stalks (Both the underside of the leaf and stalk have spikes on them) and in early summer, it bears tiny red/green flowers on conical panicles. It is very ruggedly handsome. This plant is not edible unless you are a
dinosaur. It prefers sun to partial shade, is Zone 6 and is great beside the pond, river or in parks. It is deer resistant but will attract dinosaurs.
Maybe the tropical look is more your style. Nothing like sipping a Pina Colada under the Banana tree, or a Mango Margarita under the Palm tree. These are major cool plants. The Musa ensete (Banana Tree) has amazing, bold textured tropical foliage. It is a Zone 7 but with a little effort we can grow it in our gardens and it certainly adds novelty to a backyard. It grows by underground roots, requires rich soil and prefers little to no wind. Growing it inside or in a greenhouse is relatively easy but growing it outside requires some care. After the first frost in the fall, cut the plant back one foot from its central leaf axis; mulch around the base 1- 2 feet with soil, leaves, or grass clippings. Protect the main trunk from freezing by wrapping it in burlap or hay; and cover the entire clump. Next Spring after the last frost, unwrap and voila! - a banana tree. Each season it grows 4-6 feet from the ground and in 3-5 years you may see a seed pod. At this point the main tree may die but by then
suckers will have started a couple of new trees to start your own Banana grove. It’s worth all the fuss.
Another interesting structure is the evergreen Trachycarpus fortune (Windmill Palm tree). We can grow a few types of palms in the valley as long as we wrap them like the banana tree in the fall. It likes a sunny spot, well drained average soil and having its leaves washed with the hose occasionally to prevent spider mites from making their home. It is deer resistant and needs to be only occasionally watered once established. The windmill palm will grow 15-20 feet but for something a bit smaller try the Chamaerops humilis (European fan palm
tree). This award winning dwarf evergreen palm grows only 4-6 feet in 20 years. It is the palm of choice for night lighting as its stout fibre-covered trunk has fan-shaped 3 feet wide dark green fronds which grow in clusters and rarely outgrows its space. It loves full sun and the reflected heat and glare around swimming pools and spas. No pruning is required and it is pest free which gives Dad more time to have his drink.
Maybe this Father’s Day it is time to give Dad a plant that he can call his own. Something manly, something rugged and something handsome just like him.