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