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As of the end of September 2009 Nine Pines Garden will no longer be subject to my authority. Whether it continues under that name is the decision of the new owner. Almost certainly this blog will not continue.

This is for us the beginning of a great adventure that will take place in a different region of the country. It is possible that a new garden, with a new name will arise from there. Who knows, I may even start its chronicle here.

There is much to be done before that decision can even be seriously considered. We will see how everything plays out in the fullness of time.

Meanwhile, I want to thank my loyal readers (both of you) for your patience and interest. I didn’t post as often as I had hoped but perhaps I can do better anon.

Thank you and farewell…for now!


Redbud & Witch Hazel

Redbud & Witch Hazel

BTW, the leaves have started turning. The chlorophyll factories are shut down—abandoned migrant worker camps—left to the vagaries of wind, rain and cold—elemental Nature. Un-restored by productive occupation the brittle little workbenches are dropping to the ground ready for re-purposing or the tender ministrations of the rake. 



Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

The pleasure I derive from viewing the changing colors of autumn leaves is evidently not as great as it is for many other people. I can see color changes but it just doesn’t seem to carry as much esthetic charge. I’ve always assumed that because of my color deficient vision I was missing the subtleties. Perhaps it is. Maybe it’s just that I prefer the exuberance of spring.

Black Gum

Black Gum

2002 was a big year for Nine Pines Garden. It marked the real beginning of the garden. Designs were created, revised and revised again. The basic beds were created and lots of new plants (mostly trees) were added. 

One of our earliest acquisitions has one of the best stories: the redbed crapple tree. 

It started at the “Flavors of the Vine” wine tasting and benefit auction for Recreation Unlimited early in 2002. Claire and I volunteered at this function for several years. It was a worthy cause and we always had a great time. 

There were two auctions in addition to the wine-tasting—one live and the other silent. We never participated in the live auction. That was the province of the high rollers with travel packages and private wine tastings as prizes. We did allow ourselves the treat of bidding on some of the silent auction items which tended to be more within our price range. 

Among the OSU memorabilia and themed collections of wine (several bottles of Italian wine together with tickets for an Opera Columbus performance of, say, a Verdi opera) was what I would have considered an unusual item: a tree. The package consisted of what was obviously a lovely flowering crabapple tree (accompanied by a picture of the tree in flower) which would be planted in your garden by Eden Nursery. 

Malus x zumi 'Calocarpa'

Malus x zumi 'Calocarpa' 2005

There were no bids on this item when we first noticed it. The value of a tree this size (6-7′) properly planted and guaranteed for a year I knew to be at least several hundreds of dollars. Transport and planting alone would be a significant undertaking—easily worth the $230 minimum required bid. 

I couldn’t understand why no one at the event had bid on what seemed to me to be such an obvious bargain. It was, to be sure, an atypical item for a wine-related auction. But the lack of bidding interest still surprised me—until I took a closer look at the label. It read: Redbed Crapple tree

I showed the tag to Claire. I couldn’t believe it. Redbed crapple? This was dyslexia in high gear! The tree was obviously a crabapple. The rest…well…could it be redbud

As the evening wore on, we kept circling back to check on the bid status of “our tree.” Still no other bidders! As our hopes rose, so did our anxiety. Surely someone else would notice this lovely little tree. Could we be the only gardeners in the crowd? We worried that we would be drawn into a bidding competition that we would have only a slim chance of winning. 

“This is a small display,” thought Evil George, “What if I moved it to an out-of-the-way table so no one else will see it?” The tension was obviously getting to me. 

I left the display where it was. 

Time drew near for the silent auction to end. Nervous but resolute bidders furtively lurked close to their treasures casting baleful stares at anyone they sensed to be a potential rival. 

We needn’t have worried. Apparently no one noticed or cared about our little tree. 

I suppose in the end the combination of the oddness of the item coupled with the bizarre name was simply too much for anyone (except me, of course) to commit to. 

Most of the silent auction items had the advantage of immediacy. They could be carried away by the winning bidder that night (packages of 3-4 bottles of wine together with tickets to some cultural event or a picture of the 2002 National Champion Buckeyes signed by several of the players or some such thing). Maybe people felt that it was too big a risk to invest hundreds of dollars on a picture and the promise of a redbed crapple—whatever that was. 

In any case, when the hammer fell, the redbed crapple was ours! Honestly we couldn’t stop giggling-over the name-and our good luck. 

Malus x zumi 'Calocarpa'

Malus x zumi 'Calocarpa' 2006

That was in 2002. Today, our redbed crapple, aka Redbud Crabapple (Malus x zumi ‘Calocarpa’) is healthy and happily installed in the front east lawn and blooms profusely, faithfully and beautifully every spring. 

2008 Redbud Crabapple and the Proprietor

Redbud Crabapple and the Proprietor 2008

In addition to its dramatic floriferous contribution to the garden each spring, Malus x zumi ‘Calocarpa’ has performed an even greater service—introducing us to John Wade and Debby Devore of Eden Nursery who became seminal contributors to the development of the Nine Pines Garden—and have grown to be friends as well. 

What a rich bargain for $230!

In my initial acknowledgements post I somehow I neglected to thank my good friend and the official photographic chronicler of the Nine Pines Garden. He has taken many photos that have been so cleverly framed and beautifully executed that I didn’t even recognize my own garden. Over time he has, on his own, managed to visually capture most of the intended design features of the garden as well as recognize some lovely serendipidous effects that came as a complete surprise to me.

I speak, of course, of the fabulous A. E. Brunsman III.

Take a bow, Gus!

Tanyosho Pine

Tanyosho Pine

I SUPPOSE SOME GARDENS are the work of a single person.

Mine certainly isn’t.

Its essence is enriched by the influences of many people who will never see or step foot in it. Nevertheless their impact will be felt–at least indirectly–by any thoughtful visitor. 

Although still years from maturity it is already beginning to display hints of its potential beauty and I am very grateful for that.

So I want to acknowledge some people without whom this garden would not exist.

John Wade and Debbie Devore of Eden Nursery have done most of the heavy lifting in terms of design and execution of most significant garden elements. Without their ideas and efforts this property would have remained a wasteland. (A tip of the cap should also go to Maria Sambuco and Joel Korte–now with Brickman Group Landscaping–for an initial design that although not implemented provided a rich mine of ideas.)

My dad, George, who made me weed and mow when I didn’t want to–and thereby teaching me something about the feel of plants and soil.

My grandfather, George, who showed me (without me realizing it at the time), that gardens are beautiful and that organic gardening works.



My lovely and generous wife Claire who has allowed me to live this long so that I can indulge my penchant for landscape gardening. Claire, it should be noted, is also Head Weeder when she feels like it and has performed yeoman work to help keep the place from being overrun with noxious vegetation.

Claire’s mom and dad (Dova and Jay) who taught her the value of kindness, gentleness, determination, artistic vision, commitment and fun–and whose genes made her beautiful beyond measure.

Thanks to fellow laborers Sprigg Parker (now in NC), Darlene Brady (who left and has now returned to central Ohio–welcome back!) and Qingfang Chen otherwise known as “Fang” (now in Arkansas). The hard work of these women has saved the garden from ruin more than once. A special thanks to Darlene for the very generous gift of the oriental lantern.

The Great Stone Table

Thanks to Dave Ahlum of Ahlum and Arbor for looking after the health of our precious trees. To Gary A. Geertson of G.A.G. Landscaping for maintenance help and making my mongrel lawn so beautiful. To Dawes Arboretum and OSU’s Chadwick Arboretumand their helpful staffs for wonderful plants and ideas. And to the crazy Irishman Dave Dannaher (Dannaher Landscaping in Galena) whose irresistible personality seems composed in equal parts of serious plantman and used car salesman. Dave has supplied some of the most fascinating specimen plants in the garden–most of which he allegedly either created by graft (the good kind) or some other means, or discovered. Don’t go there unless you are prepared to buy something!

Mary's Gold

Mary's Gold

Thanks also to Mitch Lynd of Lynd Fruit Farm in Licking County for many more plants–especially the day lilies. (And don’t miss their fabulous peaches and apples.)

There are other influences and contributors that I haven’t thought of–and I may add them later as I think of them.

As for me, I have killed more plants than I have saved. Failures are mourned but only the successes remain on view and I thank God for that.