1 House 100 Years

Preparing For The Centennial Of A Place That Matters

Category: Perennial Shrubs and Trees

Tea Olive (Osmanthus Fragrans)

This is an evergreen tree that I bought last year in the late summer. I wanted to have several flowering trees and shrubs that would along the path to my back door so that I would have them to enjoy on the way out and then back into my house.

The transplant space was not ready until this spring, and this past winter was a bit harsh. Half planting the nursery pot with the tree in it seems to have been helpful for its winter survival, though I think it would have grown more if transplanted before the cold season.

(This photograph was taken September 2015. Sadly this image does not capture the incredible fragrance of these small blossoms!)


Chinese Snowball Viburnum…Now This Is What Buying A Brand New Shovel Is For!


Although it resembles a hydrangea in many ways and particularly with its flowers, this incredible plant is actually a Chinese Snowball Viburnum. Planting a great specimen like this one is the main reason that I bought a new shovel, not to dig out and replace my old waste drain line!

To me, this is a “classic” Southern plant, and it does like a warmer climate. It should remain evergreen here in my Tidewater Virginia yard, though in more northernly regions it will be deciduous. The biggest challenge was finding the perfect spot for viewing from my sunroom throughout the year.

Evergreen Shrub…height 10 feet, width 10 feet, 6-8 inch clusters of white flowers from May to June. (Mine was blooming in the latter part of the summer when I bought it, though this is most likely because it originally came from a nursery in a more southern state.)

Light…full sun to partial shade, protect from strong afternoon sun.

Water…provide medium moisture.

Site and Soil…USDA zones 6-9, well-drained slightly acid soil but can tolerate alkaline conditions, provide shelter from cold, drying winds.

Pruning and Special Care…prune shortly after flowering to remove dead wood and shape, fertilize after planting and again after flowering.

This photograph was taken September 2014, just before my waste drain line caused a major excavation and repair job. I wish that my brand new shovel had been used first to plant this incredible specimen, but that did not happen until much later!

Landscaping Nightmares!


Last week, I spent quite a few hours working on clearing out some of what might be called an urban Virginia coastal forest. This is an overgrown area about 18 feet wide that had originally stretched from the back of my yard, along the garage, and almost to the street.

The first summer and fall here, I made some modest progress with this huge undertaking, including taking down a big leaning pine tree and numerous cherry trees. That had been enough to clear out a small garden area with rich soil that I planted with sweet potatoes the second year.

That was an interesting trade: sweat and an aching back for soil enriched with decomposing leaves and forest debris. The experience definitely renewed my appreciation for the farmers who had worked to clear our frontiers centuries ago. Those first sweet potatoes were the biggest and most abundant ever for me.

Along with a chainsaw, you will need a good strong shovel and a heavy mattock to get rid of the roots. Otherwise it’s tough to garden, and some roots can sprout. If you see anything like these thorny vines that grow straight up into any available tree, destroy them completely.

My best advice is to do as much as you can all in a season. Whatever you leave for the next season will have advanced and multiplied before you get your tools out again! This can make for some interesting photographs, but it is no fun to look at or to tame.

Perhaps what made me saddest of all was discovering expensive specimen trees and shrubs that had been planted twenty, thirty, or even fourth years ago. They were misshapen, overgrown, and starved for light. Once this had been someone’s fine Virginia garden, lost to neglect and lack of appreciation.

(This photograph was taken late June 2013. The artist in me says, “What an unusual organic composition.” The gardener in me says, “What a waste.”)