What could be more beautiful?

What could be more beautiful than to wake up on the first full day of spring, hear the birds singing their springtime songs, and find a few inches of snow on the ground? From what I understand, some of my friends around the country are not only enjoying an early spring, but this week, in many parts of the country, the temperatures will be summer-like! Since their weather could return to freezing temperatures and snowfall rather quickly, I hope they are enjoying their sneak peek at summer as much as I am enjoying our little taste of winter.

Snowy Garden

Around here, the month of March has been one of the snowiest ever. We have had three days with at least a couple of inches of snow on the ground and a two or three days that were filled with snow showers (and other forms of freezing precipitation). We haven’t had this many days with snowfall, in a three-week period, for as long as I can remember.

Snowy Garden

I love the snow. I loved it as a kid on those very rare occasions that we received it, and I have loved it every time it manages to fall in our temperate Pacific Northwest climate. Waking up to a garden full of great plants all topped with a generous helping of snow is a real joy. The snow seems to accentuate the shapes and textures of my conifers, and the way it clings to the branches of my Japanese maples and other deciduous plants is really quite stunning. I feel sad for my friends with large flat lawns and their narrow borders of spent flowers. The sight out their windows must be so… boring.

Snowy Garden

Seeing a hillside of large conifers, highlighted with snow, is truly a sight to behold. Smaller dwarf and miniature conifers also look great in the snowy garden, though heavier snowfall than we tend to receive will totally cover many of the smaller plants. As the dwarf plants mature with some size, they can add so much to the snowy landscape.

As much as I would love to feel the warming effects of the springtime sunshine, I am loving the bright white highlights of snow. I hope that you are enjoying your gardens this spring as much as I am.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Golden light or dark snowy skies

They’ve been warning us for days now of the huge snowstorm that is going to blast us with several inches of snow down to the valley floor. For those of us who love a little snow from time to time, of course, want to believe. Really, we do. Those of us who have lived in western Oregon for most of our lives have learned that usually the first or second panicked reports from our local news-casters are false alarms.

Sure, get the kids all hyped-up about snow and their heads filled with visions of days off school, building all kinds of snow sculptures, snowball fights, sledding, and in general, just having a great time! While parents, on the other hand, need to make child-care plans should the schools actually close. Sure, there are some snowflakes falling from the sky – if you are fortunate enough to find yourself above 500 feet in elevation – but it’s just a tease, it is not near cold enough to stick and accrue any reasonable accumulation.

Snowy Conifer Garden

The conifer garden looks fantastic in the midst of dark, stormy skies and a blanket of snow.

I would love to see my garden in a blanket of snow. What is it about a garden full of trees and shrubs, of all shapes and sizes, either sprinkled lightly or heavily covered in snow, that brings such a sense of peace and happiness? I haven’t had that pleasure since 2008, which turned out to be quite an unusual snow year for us with a big fluffy blanket of snow in January, and then again in December, in what possibly became the largest snow event in 40 years!

The Sunny Conifer Garden

The conifer garden glows in the low winter sun.

Winter in the conifer garden is a beautiful time of year. We have had one of the driest Decembers in recent memory, and with that dryness, we actually had many days that were filled with sunshine! Oh, how beautiful are the conifers, dressed in their winter colors with the low, golden winter sun illuminating the scene in a hue of warmth; which brings to the soul, hope of the coming spring.

OK local weather forecasters, just keep teasing us with promises of a big snow event, I’m ready to enjoy the transformation of beauty it will create in my garden. But, rain or shine, snow or silver thaw, the conifer garden will be a place of beauty to be enjoyed, not only by me, but by all the critters that have made this little garden their home.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Snow in the summer garden?

I know, that last thing many of you want is more snow this year! For those of us in my corner of the Pacific Northwest, with our daily morning drizzle, a little snow would at least be a change of pace. But, that’s not the kind of snow I want to talk about today.

With all the shades of green, blue, and even bright golden-yellow in the conifer garden, I also love the conifers with a more subtle approach to their color scheme. There are two conifers that immediately come to mind that should be useful in just about every region of the country. Some folks will be able to grow both of these plants in their gardens, while others, depending on their location might be better off choosing one over the other.

Cedrus deodara 'Snow Sprite'

Cedrus deodara 'Snow Sprite' is a bright spot in the garden all year long.

Cedrus deodara ‘Snow Sprite’ is definitely one of my favorites. This is rated as an intermediate grower by the ACS growth rate standards, but its growth is on the slower end of that scale and in my garden it seems to grow five to six inches per year. I do like to prune my plant to encourage a more fuller, more formal shape, so that can have some influence on its annual growth. What is truly exciting about this conifer is its color. As its name suggests, it is a very light-colored plant with its new growth emerging an almost white, buttery-yellow color. As the foliage matures through the season it does darken a little, but ‘Snow Sprite’ will always be a bright spot in the garden – even in the dead of winter. This Zone 7 tree won’t survive those harsh mid-west winters, but it does quite well along the Pacific and Atlantic seaboards where marine air moderates the winter cold. In the south, cultivars of Cedrus deodara are known to do quite well. I even have a report of ‘Snow Sprite’ surviving happily as far south as Austin, Texas.

Tsuga canadensis 'Summer Snow'

Cool off this summer with a Tsuga canadensis 'Summer Snow' planted in the garden.

For folks in those colder winter areas, Tsuga canadensis ‘Summer Snow’ is a fantastic intermediate sized tree that is hardy into Zone 4. Again, it thrives in other moderate areas, but struggles in southern regions. ‘Summer Snow’ flushes its near pure white new foliage every spring which contrasts nicely against the older foliage that has matured to a medium green. Naturally growing into a fairly large tree, it does respond very well to annual shearing which will encourage a fuller form thereby intensifying the effect of its white foliage. Planted against a backdrop of dark green conifers and it will really stand out. Grouping with other colorful conifers and exciting companion plants will give your garden a multi-season appeal with a full pallet of color.

May your garden flourish with all the colors of the rainbow, and may the winter snow truly be many months away!

Ed
Conifer Lover

Sugar coated conifers

We had another little snowstorm breeze through the other day. It was one of those kinds of snows that we typically get here in the Willamette Valley (unlike that big snowfall we had in December of ’08). This time, there was just enough snow to powder coat the conifers in my garden as with sugar. I remember a year ago, I wrote in the blog about the snow looking like it was whipped cream plopped over the garden. I wonder if there is a trend developing?

Sugar coated conifers

Sugar coated conifers

The December snow was beautiful and it did make for an interesting landscape, but it did bury all but my largest conifers. This little dusting was just enough to make nice highlights in the garden. What I particularly enjoyed was the way the snow enhanced my container garden.

Miniature conifers make great container plants. In my climate, I rarely become concerned with the temperatures dropping low enough for a long enough period of time to wreck havoc on my ceramic pots. Years ago, I would plant annuals and occasionally perennials in my containers. One day it occurred to me that my containers could be enjoyed all year long if I planted them with dwarf and miniature conifers!

Now my patio is becoming nearly as full as the rest of my garden as I fill more and more of its space with containers of all kinds filled with diminutive conifers and companion plants. My patio is a great place to display these containers with their year-round color and texture provided by conifers.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Thanks to my friends at Iseli for the photo!

Happy New Year

First off, I have to say that I know the snow event we are coming out of here in the pacific northwest is really nothing compared to what others are enduring in other parts of the country. For us though, this was the biggest snow we’ve had in a long, long time. People are comparing it to the winter of 1968.

The first wave of snow - Iseli Nusery

The first wave of snow

I was a young fella then, and I do remember enjoying that snow to its fullest! Now, forty years later, and with a different perspective on things, I don’t enjoy it quite as much as I did back then.

The second wave of snow

The second wave of snow

In 1968, I wasn’t concerned about pipes freezing or digging the car and driveway out for two days, or what effect the weight of the snow might have on my garden. No, in those days it was more about finding the best hill to sled down, or waiting for the snow to get to the right stickiness to make great snowballs and snowmen.

Two big snowfalls divided by a layer of ice.

Two big snowfalls divided by a layer of ice.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I love the snow and how it blankets the garden. In fact, I’ve included a few photos from my own garden and some from my friends at Iseli Nursery.

Conifers and other exciting garden plants under a blanket of snow.

Conifers and other exciting garden plants under a blanket of snow.

I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable New Year celebration and may we all find peace and prosperity in 2009!

Ed-
Conifer Lover