Roberta's a patient gardener who doesn't require instant results. "Feeling and seeing what was happening moved the project along and allowed me to develop other ideas while I worked." But she acknowledges the incentive the garden competition gave her, especially when it came down to the finer details. "[Entering the] contest is what helped bring the garden together."
Roberta is eager to point out, however, that her garden is still evolving. "I want to find a slender, silver-leafed willow tree to go in the back corner; then I'll take a willow-furniture making class so I can make an arbour and bench." Roberta will continue to find budget-conscious ways to enhance her garden, but she's in no rush because she knows it will all come together in good time.
The elusive Japanese maple
Like Roberta Rolf, most cold-climate gardeners turn green with envy whenever a gardening magazine features the quintessential Asian garden plant: the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). Here are a few equally handsome alternatives that are likely to make it through a Prairie winter.
Amur maple (A. tataricum ssp. ginnala)
Foliage emerges with a reddish tinge, turns green, then becomes blazing red in fall. The pinkish hue of the winged seeds (called samaras) make the tree appear as if it's flowering in midsummer. Choose the clump form to create a Japanese maple shape and prune out the lower branches after the tree has leafed out; 6 by 6 metres.
'Shubert' cherry (Prunus virginiana 'Shubert')
Wine red foliage in summer provides a striking contrast to most cold-hardy trees. 'Bailey's Select' and the non-suckering ‘Midnight' varieties (both 8 x 6 m) are best used in the background.
Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)
Its layered, horizontal branching habit creates a shape reminiscent of pagoda roof tiles. The green foliage turns burgundy in fall; deep leaf creases are visible from a distance. Underutilized, this shade-tolerant tree provides genuine four-season interest; 4 by 3 metres.