Hooray! Hooray! It’s a coney day!

Hooray, they’re here! The first of the colorful little spring-time treasures have begun to show themselves. I caught my first glimpse of new developing cones just about two weeks ago. If you have been reading my blog for a few years, you will know that I always look forward to spring when the conifers begin to “flower” and their colorful little cones emerge on last year’s stems. Both male and female cones will show up along stems and upper branches on many conifers – some at a very young age, others after they have aged some years. And this treasure hunt is not limited to early spring, some conifers develop their new cones on the current seasons new flush of growth, so cone hunting season can last into summer.

Clusters of cones add interest to the garden every spring.

The first cones I spotted this season were on a few different cultivars of Abies (fir) that I have in my garden. Abies balsamea ‘Tyler Blue’ is a blue foliage form of the Balsam fir and is a very attractive tree. I was doubly pleased when I first noticed that my young specimen began to develop cones last year. These cones are not as showy as some others with their brighter colors, but the light green new cones do stand out against the bluish foliage of this great tree. Over a period of weeks, as the cones mature, the main core of the cone begins to turn light lavender-purple while the light green “wings” remain. In a month or so, the cones will have swollen and become a more solid light purple color, eventually drying to brown over the summer and into autumn.

Colorful cones create quite a spring-time show on Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’.

Another spring-time show stopper is Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’. This beautiful cultivar has very showy curved needles which are rich green on one side, and have a silvery white coating on the other. Due to the curve of the needle, its white side is exposed making the tree shimmer in any light at all – even in our gray Pacific Northwest weather. A big part of the show for me is the massive amount of purple cones that develop, in well-numbered clusters all over the upper side of the branches. My small tree had cones on it when I planted it several years ago, and it was just a young plant at the time. The skinny purple cones will fatten up and become a much deeper purple than the ‘Tyler Blue’ mentioned above.

‘Mac’s Gold’ has pretty new foliage and colorful cones to add an exciting zing to your spring garden!

One of the first spruce to show off its cones in my garden is Picea glauca ‘Mac’s Gold’. Not only do its bright pink cones emerge and begin to develop, but at the same time it begins to push its bright butter-yellow new foliage. This color combination is the cause of many a second look whenever my spring-time guests make their way to the back garden. As summer arrives, the golden foliage darkens to a light green and the cones become darker and dry to a tan and brown with warmer temperatures and longer days.

There is so much happening in the garden right now and everyday a make time to take a stroll, seeking out whatever tiny treasures may be emerging in the splendor of spring!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

A dazzling beauty

A few years back I mentioned my Christmas list for that year, on it were three exciting conifers. All three were forms of the Serbian Spruce, a tree once quite widespread throughout Europe. Now native stands of Picea omorika are limited to a mountainous region in western Serbia and eastern Bosnia. One of the cultivars I was hoping for, I found in my local independent garden center, one I was able to obtain some scion wood to graft my own new trees, and one remains on my wish list. 

The silvery white side of the needles catch every bit a daylight and shine brightly against the contrasting green side for a dazzling effect.

I grafted four specimens of Picea omorika ‘Kamenz’ back in 2011. I am growing one of those grafted plants in a container,  two I planted in my garden and one I gave to a good friend. When young, ‘Kamenz’ is a low growing bun-shaped plant that begins to spread wider than tall, but in time, it looks like it may want to send a shoot or two in a more upward growing fashion. I suppose one might choose to allow their specimen to grow taller, but it is easy enough to prune out any upward growing shoots to encourage the low, spreading form.

Along with its great form, I love the silvery effect of the waxy coating which covers the undersides of the needles. Common to the species, ‘Kamenz’ has bi-colored needles with a glossy green top and the silvery-white underside. The natural angle of branching and the way the needles are held on each branch allow for a great view of the silvery color which make this stunning specimen literally shine in the garden.

Great low-growing, compact and spreading form is just part of the appeal with ‘Kamenz’.

As I mentioned, I am growing one of my own grafted plants in a container on my patio. For some reason, this particular graft is showing a tendency to grow with a single leader. I may give it a little encouragement with a plant stake and some pruning to see if I might be able to influence its form into more of a compact Christmas tree shape. If successful, think it will make a delightful little holiday decoration for the front walkway someday.

Keep an eye out at your favorite independent garden center, I have a feeling this one is becoming more popular and it should become easier to find. Of course you could always ask your favorite IGC to make a special order for you!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Something extraordinary

Back in the day—the late 1970s and through the mid-80s—Jean Iseli encouraged his employees to stay alert, no matter what nursery chore they may be involved in, and be on the watch for unusual mutations growing on the hundreds of thousands of conifers being grown at any given time. That is precisely how many plants, which have come into the marketplace over the past 25 years were discovered, by the watchful eyes of the workers. Well known examples are Juniperus horizontalis ‘Mother Lode’ which was observed as a single oddity growing among thousands of young J.h. ‘Wiltoni’ plants. Picea glauca ‘Pixie Dust’ was discovered as a sport growing on Picea glauca ‘Pixie’ while P.g. ‘Rainbow’s End’ and P.g. ‘Jean’s Dilly’ were both discovered as mutations growing on Picea glauca ‘Conica’.

Picea glauca ‘Jean’s Dilly’ is truly something extraordinary!

One of those plants, Picea glauca ‘Jean’s Dilly’ had been spotted as a witches’ broom growing on a small plant in a #1 container and, as was the tradition, was brought up to the sliding glass door just outside of Jean Iseli’s office. New discoveries were brought to this location for further observation where Jean could keep an eye on them and show them off to any visitor who showed an interest. This mutation had been brought to the observation deck and caught the attention of the chief propagator, Paul Halladin, who began to propagate the mutation because of its desirably unique characteristics. After the death of his brother, André Iseli wanted to name a great new plant after Jean. During its years of observation ‘Jean’s Dilly’ was proving itself to be an extraordinary new, improved form of the old Alberta. Being grown under the name of ‘Paul’s Dwarf’ for the first years of its propagation, it was decided that the name would be changed to ‘Jean’s Dilly’ and the nursery would begin to market the plant.

‘Jean’s Dilly’ is overall a much smaller version of the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, with its annual growth of about one third that of its parent. It also has distinctively shorter, thinner needles which give the plant a finer texture and smoother appearance. ‘Jean’s Dilly’ begins its spring flush of new growth three to four weeks after ‘Conica’ which can be a handy natural protection against early frost damage. With only a couple of inches of annual growth, it remains a small plant for a great number of years and makes it a perfect candidate for growing in a mixed container with other miniature conifers or flowering plants.

Both, this great little conifer, and the memory of the man it was named for, are truly something extraordinary.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

They’re coming, and there is nothing we can do about it

Get ready.

Spring is less than a month away. I know, you are looking out your window and think I am out of my mind, spring feels more like a  year away rather than a month, but, it’s true. Spring officially begins March 20th this year. No matter what the weather might be doing in your part of the world right now, the days are definitely longer and signs of spring are beginning to show themselves. One of the sights that ensure spring is officially here in the Pacific Northwest is when Cone Hunting Season officially begins.

Now, I can generally count on a few early cone sightings in the month of April, and the cones are reliably emerging through the month of May. I love the spring cone season! So many colors. So many details. So many tiny surprises begin to emerge on my conifers that every walk through the garden I observe something new. I am very excited about spring!

Here are a few pictures of the exciting cones I look forward to seeing this coming spring! I almost always wander my garden during springtime with my trusty magnifying glass in hand – I don’t want to miss the beautiful details as captured in these pictures.

Enjoy!

I can always count on a terrific show from Picea abies ‘Acrocona’. Its clusters of brightly colored cones cover the tree and demand attention!

Always a favorite, Pinus contorta ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ is very pretty as tiny yellow needles and bright pink, sea-urchin like cones emerge on new extending candles.

Very pretty, lavender colored pollen cones fill out the extending candles of new growth on Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca Brevifolia’.

Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’ is known for its beautiful silvery foliage highlights, but for me, the show begins in spring with the massive clusters of purple and pink cones!

Another favorite exciting springtime sight are the emerging purple cones against the yellowish foliage of Abies koreana ‘Aurea’.

They are coming soon!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Gold threads that even Rumpelstiltskin would approve

If one were to simply view the garden today from a nice window, it would look spectacular with our clear blue sky and full sunshine. But, like much of the rest of the country, the cold arctic air is finally making its way into our corner of the Pacific Northwest. It is one of those days that brighten the spirit when indoors looking out, but to go out into this weather, well, I think I will remain here, near my wood stove. Although the temperature is officially 26°F, with the wind-chill factor of our strong east wind, the real-feel temperature near the Columbia River Gorge drops down even further! That is just darned cold for us folks that are used to an average February high temperature near 50.

All of the colors of my conifers, from the many blues and shades of green and golden yellow, to the winter mahogany and plum colors,  appear particularly intense with the clear blue sky and the bright, low winter sun. Today, it really is the yellow conifers that are putting on the most intense show. Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ is absolutely stunning, as are other winter-gold pines, but one plant is standing out above the crowd for me right now. In fact, this plant seems to be waving to attract as much attention as  possible due to the effects of the gusty east wind.

Long golden threads cover this broad upright growing tree.

Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Salinga Aurea’ is a plant ideally suited for the more temperate climate we enjoy here in the Pacific Northwest. Rated at USDA Zone 7, ‘Salinga Aurea’ simply will not survive in the harsh winter regions around the country, but it is definitely a tree worthy of placement in most any garden where winter temperatures do not drop below 0°F.

I remember the first time I saw this bright, lemon yellow conifer. It looked like a very vigorous, brightly colored, Gold Thread Branch Cypress. Only a few years old, it still had its growing support stake and was a few feet tall with very long, somewhat sparsely spaced, bright yellow thread-like foliage. I loved the color and the weeping habit, but I had to use my imagination to visualize what a larger tree might look like as it began to fill in. Thankfully, I didn’t need to rely on my imagination alone because I was visiting my friends at Iseli Nursery at the time, and my tour guide was pleased to take me to another location to see larger specimens growing in their container yard. Now, many years later, I am very pleased to see that they have planted a specimen in the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden, and it is magnificent!

They continued to train their garden specimen up a bamboo stake to a height of about 10 or 12 feet. Now that it is established, it is continuing its upward growth on its own. Its branches grow outward nearly parallel to the ground and begin to droop gently near their tips. Golden lateral branchlets weep off of the main branches and the overall effect is simply stunning!

‘Salinga Aurea’ will eventually become a large specimen in the garden. Pruning of the more vigorous horizontal branches can encourage a more narrow form for many years, but this specimen in an absolute beauty and I would suggest planning a place for it in your garden where it may stand alone and be enjoyed from all angles as it weeps and sways in gentle breezes or strong winter wind.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

A burst of sunshine!

The dark and dreary winter days are beginning to brighten! I have noticed that our daylight hours are definitely increasing and I feel the brightness in my spirit as well as see it with my eyes. This morning I decided that I would spend a little time catching up with some of my favorite garden blogs. One of them, written from her home on the opposite side of the continent, A Garden of Possibilities, had posted a picture of one of my very favorite golden conifers. Imagine my excitement to not only find one of my favorite bloggers highlighting a conifer, but one of my favorite conifers at that!

Pinus contorta ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ bursts forth its proclamation of spring-time.

Pinus contorta ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ is one of those conifers that burst forth their new growth in bright colors and then slowly fade to green as the season progresses. Beginning with the warmth of spring, this Lodgepole Pine will begin to extend its new foliage. These new “candles” will be covered with tiny, emerging, soft-yellow needles. As the candles continue to extend, longer and longer, the tiny needles also burst forth in their butter-yellow and then slowly become more and more golden in color. Eventually as summer arrives the golden color of the needles begins to fade to the nice medium green color that the small garden tree enjoys until the follow spring. This color burst is a lot like the bloom of some flowers, except that it lasts for months instead of weeks.

Bright, rich golden needles emerge from the new candles while both the new, bright pink and the older green cones add interest and color highlights.

But wait, there is an added color bonus with ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’. When one looks closely, there are tiny, bright pink cones here and there among the newly extending golden candles. These cones slowly develop through the spring and summer, becoming larger and darker pink and then gradually they turn a bright green color. I enjoy finding both the bright pink new cones and last season’s green cones on the tree at the same time. The green cones will mature through the summer and fall, dry, and then open up to disperse their seeds and eventually fall from the tree.

The tiny pink cones emerging between the small needles are a thrill for me to discover every spring!

There really is nothing quite like the burst of color that ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ provides in the garden, and its bright color in spring lifts my spirits very much like the increasing hours of sunlight we are experiencing right now!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

A lighthouse in the morning fog

This morning I awoke to discover one of the thickest fogs in memory. Only once, back in the early 1970s, do I remember a fog more thick than this one. A friend and I had been given charge of a mutual friend’s 1969 Camaro. I do not remember the series of events that lead us to have this responsibility, but I do remember that we were supposed to drive his pride and joy to his girlfriend’s house by a specific time. The fog, that evening, was so thick and the country roads were so dark that it took us well over an hour for what was ordinarily a 20 minute trip. We could not see the yellow lines of the road! We tried a number of techniques in attempts to increase our visibility, but nothing really helped much. I do not remember how we eventually made it to our destination, but we did arrive, albeit much later than instructed. We all had a laugh about the density of the fog and decided to hang out at the girl’s house for an hour or two. Eventually another friend arrived and his car was equipped with fog lights, so we all decided that he could lead the way out of the muck and back home to our side of town. This morning’s fog was not near as bad as that, but it was a close second.

The magnificent ‘Chief Joseph’ showing off his stunning winter color on a dark, foggy morning at the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden.

By the time I motivated myself to really begin my day, the fog had thinned out some and I took a stroll around my garden. I always enjoy my garden walks in the fog. There is just some measure of magic and mystery that the low light and reduced visibility gives to the garden. Weeping plants seem more alive as they take on creature features in the fog. Background distractions faded from view and the fog accumulated on the foliage and bare branches creating millions of tiny dewdrops, which in the light freeze, added a special sparkle to the garden as the sun brightened and burned a brighter spot into the fog.

Tiny, quick-frozen dew drops created a wonderful effect in the foggy morning garden.

As I wandered around the foggy garden, I thought back to that harrowing drive 40 years ago with my friend. As I turned and approached a curve in my path, I couldn’t see what was lying in wait and my imagination conjured all kinds of fantastic possibilities inspired by years of reading tales of hobbits, elves, gnomes, and dragons. What I did see as I made my way ’round the curve caught me just a little by surprise. It was my old friend, The Chief! Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ was standing tall and glowing his very bright golden yellow color. Nothing in the immediate vicinity was as bright and noble looking as The Chief. I was reminded of one very foggy visit to the Yaquina Head lighthouse on the central Oregon coast. It was so foggy that day that we could barely see the lighthouse, even up close, but its light shined brightly and was visible miles away! So too, ‘Chief Joseph’ was a bright light in my dark and foggy garden, lighting my way, and guiding me to the next bend in the path.

Ed-
Conifer Lover