UNITED STATES—Landscapes appeal to our senses. The colors and textures of blooms and foliage are visually appealing. Floral fragrance and foliar aroma appeal to the sense of smell. Fruits and vegetables can provide flavor. Wind chimes, fountains and birds visiting bird feeders might add a bit of delightful sound and motion. Yet, the motion of certain plants in the breeze is rarely considered.
Weeping willow is famous for the way it blows softly in even a slight breeze. Unfortunately, it is also famous for thirsty roots, structural deficiency, and getting too big too fast. Mayten can do the same on a smaller scale, and in drier situations. California pepper is somewhere in between, since it can eventually get too big, and might have structural problems, but takes a while to do so.
Some of the various eucalypti have softly pendulous stems as well. Lemon gum and red ironbark are two of the better known specie that know how to blow in a breeze. Silver dollar gum is nice too, even though it is not as pendulous or as dynamic in the wind. Eucalypti that get too big for home gardens can be seen blowing in the wind in larger landscapes, such as parks or on freeways.
Two of the best trees for motion in the wind are not as popular as they used to be. European white birch that was so popular in the 1970s has become considerably less common that the less pendulous (but brighter white) Himalayan birch. The elegant and formerly popular Chinese elm has been replaced by modern ‘improved’ cultivars with stiffer stems, like the Drake Chinese elm.
Almost all bamboos, most big clumping grasses, and many palms are ideal for taking advantage of breezes. Mexican weeping bamboo really is comparable to weeping willow, but on a much smaller scale. Taller bamboos can catch a breeze on top even if lower foliage is sheltered. Pampas grass, although certainly not for every garden, has both dynamic foliage and dynamic blooms.
Of course, plants that move in a breeze can only do so with a breeze. They can not do much if sheltered by larger trees or buildings.
It does not grow fast, but by the time it gets old, mayten, Maytenus boaria, might be tall enough to reach upstairs eaves, and nearly as broad. The main trunk and limbs are nicely outfitted with uniformly checked grayish bark. Smaller stems are so very limber that it is a wonder that trees are able to gain any height at all. These stems arch gracefully, with their wiry tips hanging vertically.
Almost all modern maytens are of the cultivar ‘Green Showers,’ which has slightly larger leaves. Yet, the evergreen leaves are so small that it is not easy to discern much difference from the slightly yellower leaves of older trees. Ironically, older trees seem to be more resilient. Newer trees seem to be more sensitive to rot if watered too frequently, particularly if soil does not drain adequately.
Pruning and grooming is not as simple as it might seem to be from the outside. If the very pendulous stems around the edges get cut like bangs, bunched stems accumulate and lose their softly pendulous texture. They need to be thinned too, so that they can hang more softly. Dead stems should be groomed from within. Main stems are not likely to regenerate if cut back too severely.