A conversation with a gardener
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Most of what I have learned about gardening has come from other gardeners. That's the thing about gardeners, they are always happy to share successes and failures, give advice and share their knowledge. Here is the first of what we will be a reaguular bl;og entry: a conversation with a gardener. Let me know your thoughts and let's have a conversation.
Matthew Cyran is a perfectionist about his garden. You can tell the minute you walk into his yard and see the perfectly trimmed hedges, the vines gracefully floating over lilac bushes, or the trees slowly, carefully, tenderly trained into shapes more reminiscent of English topiary gardens, rather than a North Tonawanda backyard.
His gardening Philosophy: “There is no such thing as doing a speedy job if you want perfection”, states Cyran. He has tried hiring other people to trim some of his vast collection, but admittedly, “I am difficult to satisfy”, and what Cyran likes most about gardening “is that I have to do it myself”.
Most Interesting: It would be hard to choose the most interesting plant in Cyran’s yard. Finding and using unusual varieties and species is the other feature that makes Cyran’s yard so spectacular. Cyran buys many of his trees from nurseries out West. Oregon. is one of his favorite states to purchase trees. “They don’t cost any more, and the shipping is negligible”, says Cyran. One example is his Tricolor beech tree. It isn’t enough that this red, green and white leaved tree is striking, but it also has been trimmed into a window pane effect. The branches have been trimmed and trained into eight rows of eight boxes resembling a window pane. These are spaced by ¼” rods provided by a friend of Cyran’s.
A different way to grow: Cyran has planted a magnolia and a lilac back to back. The two trees have been trained and shaped into a tall, wide diamond. Draped across the top is one of the many fragrant clematis that fill Cyran’s yard.
Espalier: An ancient technique of training a plant against a trellis, fence or wall, espaliered trees ("espaliers") may be formed into fantastic shapes and designs. Cyran has taken a euonymus on the side of his garage and done just that. The branches have been trimmed and trained into a shape that runs across the brick. Hangers have been drilled into the mortar for support, and each time it grows, a subtle yet critical adjustment is made.
What else: Magnolias, Rhododendrons, tree peonies, Datura, beds full of Delphinium and Roses fill the air with fragrance. A large water feature in the center of the yard was installed long before water was a popular garden addition. It is a very large statue of a young girl carrying an umbrella. The rain gently flows off and this quiet sound of water adds another element to Cyran’s yard.
Trees: Golden Chain, Kousa Dogwood, and many varieties of maple live here. There is a Japanese Maple with very thin, pointed leaves that have a stripe down the center, and a very unusual yellow Japanese Maple which stands next to the Cyran’s imported pagoda. A stunning weeping beech joins a full assortment of evergreens including a Boulevard Cypress. This evergreen is very soft and has a beautiful light fragrance when touched. Beds travel the perimeter of the yard and a seventy foot hedge borders the back in all of its perfectly trimmed glory.
It could make a tree weep: The snow fountain cherry was made to weep by tying heavy sinkers to the ends of its branches. It is very intensive to take care of says Cyran, and gets trimmed four times per year. It also has spacers wrapped in tape that keep the branches equidistant, and kept perfectly symmetrical. Hostas grow beneath it. Visitors also see a Euonymus that took 20 years to train into a cylindrical shape. “You can’t hurry nature” says Cyran.
The Greenhouse: The greenhouse is disguised by a row of arborvitae high enough to block its view from the neighbor. “They may not like looking at it”, says Cyran. It also serves as shade from the harsh summer sun. Cyran has cut a saw tooth pattern across the top. This allows some light to get to the greenhouse, and also leaves a space for Cyran to reach the windows to whitewash them for more summer protection for the plants inside.
Favorite Tool: A new electric 30’’ shears, used for Cyran’s continuous trimming.
Advice: “Breakdown a job into smaller elements, take the big picture and break it down so it will be more manageable”, Cyran advises, “as you get more skill you will go faster.” But perhaps his best advice is, “Can’t go by the book, there is no book”.