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 I try to make time to take a stroll, seeking out whatever tiny treasures may be emerging in the splendor of spring!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Kick it up… with color!

We had quite a little stretch of sunny and warm weather here in the Pacific Northwest, but for now we have returned to our normal May showers – thankfully, the temperatures have remained mild, so I believe the spring push of new growth will carry on without further delay. We did have almost two full weeks of very pleasant weather which encouraged my conifers (and the large Rhododendrons that border on edge of my property) to push their respective colorful new growth (and flowers in the case of the Rhodo’s).

The greens, blues and yellows are all fresher and brighter and cleaner looking as they become covered with a new coat of foliage. I’m not sure how it is, but this time of year, when the clouds fill the sky and the rain flows from a constant drizzle to a scattered light shower to a drenching downpour, all the colors in the conifer garden seem more alive. the blues of my assorted Picea pungens cultivars look vibrant alongside the deep reds of my Japanese maples and complement the intense color of my golden Juniperus and Chamaecyparis cultivars which are all dressed up in their bright yellow new foliage. Even the more common green conifers are brighter and happier looking while clothed in their new spring foliage.

Juniperus horizontalis 'Mother Lode'

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Mother Lode’ is a very low growing, spreading and flowing ground cover which will trail along the ground, over rocks and around hardscape features like a flowing river of gold.

One great feature of many conifers is that they push new growth a few times through the growing season giving waves of fresh new growth all season long. Others put their energy into one big push of new foliage and then slowly harden off through the summer months. Some become brighter or darker as the season progresses, others change color completely, beginning the new season with bright yellow growth that changes to dark green over a period of weeks or months. Right now, on this dark gray, rainy day, the most vibrant color in my garden is coming from three different spreading junipers.

Juniperus horizontalis 'Gold Strike'

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Gold Strike’ has brightly colored, soft textured foliage that mounds and spreads in the garden – a real color spot!

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Mother Lode’ is one of the brightest yellow, fine textured, flat to the ground growing conifers you may find. It has become a favorite in many gardens due to its cold hardiness and amazing, bright yellow foliage through spring and summer. As colder weather arrives during the autumn months, ‘Mother Lode’ will begin to exhibit tones of pink and orange as it remains a colorful feature all winter long.

Juniperus conferta 'All Gold'

Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’ has an amazing bright color that I suggest you be wearing sunglasses when you first encounter it in a garden!

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Gold Strike’ is a seedling selection from ‘Mother Lode’ and to my eye has a slightly deeper golden-yellow tone compared with the brighter lemon-yellow of ‘Mother Lode’. Although ‘Gold Strike’ is a low spreading form, it does tend to mound a little higher than its mother.

Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’ is a coarse textured ground cover with what may be the brightest and most intense yellow color I have ever seen in a plant growing in the full, hot summer sun. Of course, I cannot speak to how it may perform in your micro-climate, here in my garden, it is simply stunning!

By placing a few strategically placed bright color spots like the above mentioned plants, along with other assorted blue and green (and other yellow) conifers of various shapes and sizes, you could have the brightest and most colorful, low maintenance and easy-care garden in the neighborhood.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

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

Spring has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest!

Whew! It’s great to be back among the living. I don’t believe I’ve ever had bronchitis before, but I can tell you, I’d sure like to avoid it in the future. I hope that you all are able to enjoy good health this season and not be set back by the assortment of “bugs” that seem to be in abundance right now. But enough about that, let’s get out into the garden!

Fortunately, most of the time that I was house-bound, I didn’t really want to go outside anyway since we’ve continued to enjoy plenty of cold rain over the past few weeks. Today is different! It’s been sunny all day and I’ve been out touring my garden and making lists of things to do.

Acer japonica 'Vitifolium'

Tender, fresh leaves of Acer japonicum 'Vitifolium' captivate the attention of passersby with its unique color and delicate appearance.

Hey! Who planted all those weed seeds? One great thing about steady rain and constant temperatures in the upper 40s to mid 50s is that all the local weeds germinate and grow profusely. I hope this weather holds another day or two because I think I can muster up the energy to pull weeds now that I’m feeling better. I definitely need to lay down a thick layer of bark mulch this year to slow down the weed production. Sure, new weed seed will eventually blow in and germinate in the new mulch, but they pull out much more easily when they’ve sprouted in a fluffy layer of bark.

Picea sitchensis 'Vapenka'

Picea sitchensis 'Vapenka' just beginning to push its sharp new foliage.

I also need to pull out the last of the old rose garden. I’ve given up on them for now. Some people have great success with roses (in fact, I did too for a while, but my experiments with roses only reinforced my love for low maintenance, four-season conifers). I have a new conifer bed to build this year – it’s the same one I mentioned last year and I just never made the time to get on this big project. Actually, I became distracted by removing a large portion of lawn in another area of the garden and expanded the conifer beds in that area instead. This is the year that I will tackle the re-working of this larger bed. I have big plans for this space, hopefully I’ll have the energy to jump in and get this finished before our week or two of hot summer weather arrives in late July or August.

Most of my Japanese Maples have flushed out their first push of fresh, colorful new growth. The assortment of greens and pinks and reds and orange and gold that I saw this morning were truly an inspiration! So much delicious color on such soft, delicate looking little leaves. In a few weeks their leaves will have completely unfurled into big five to seven fingered open-palmed hands waving their luscious color in the gentle breeze. By that time, more of my conifers should be fully flushing their colorful new growth too!

Acer palmatum dissectum 'Seiryu'

A rare upright growing form with the deeply cut leaves normally associated with weeping types, Acer palmatum dissectum 'Seiryu' shows off the detail of its tiny leaves and flowers.

Several cultivars of Picea glauca have flushed out nicely by now, and I see some of my Picea omorika and Picea sitchensis cultivars are popping buds too. The Picea englemanii ‘Bush’s Lace’ has flushed a couple inches of its soft gray/green new growth. I see some young cones developing on a few cultivars of Abies koreana and almost all my pines have extended up to fifty percent, or so, of their spring candle growth.

Spring is here! Spring is here!

I hope your gardens have come alive where you live too – it’s a healing sight to behold!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Where spring remains winter and autumn visits spring

It seems difficult to believe that any spring could be longer, colder and wetter than last year when we didn’t see sustained temperatures above 60 degrees fahrenheit until well into June. Even then, the rains continued past their “normal” cut-off date of July 4. Last year I did see much more activity in my garden by now in both my conifers and Japanese Maples – we seem to be two to three weeks behind last year.

It was nice to have a brief respite from the cold rain for three days last week. The thermometer on my patio claims that we had a high of 63° on Saturday. Those nice days were followed by a mix of sunshine, rain and hail and a high temperature of 48°, and now we’re back to our cold showers.

Acer palmatum Goshiki Kotohime

Summer foliage of Acer palmatum Goshiki kotohime showing great texture and color.

I did enjoy spending time in my garden during those nice spring days. I transplanted several little one year old grafts into slightly larger pots and I managed to get a little weeding done. The weeds do love our constant rain and the fact that said rain prevents me from attacking the weeds in a more timely fashion. I also noticed that my Japanese Maples are beginning to push their new flush of growth (which is a sure sign that the conifers will be following along very soon).

Perhaps the earliest plant to push its first grunt of new growth in my garden is Acer palmatum ‘Goshiki kotohime’. This very dwarf Japanese Maple will often show signs of life well before anything else in my garden. Its orange/pinkish-red new growth is very small and always seems to sparkle because when it is trying to emerge, we are still experiencing plenty of rain and the threat of light frost. I always become a little concerned when I see its first little leaves popping out and I know that frost is forecast in the area. It does seem to be more hardy than it looks since it always just waits for the cold weather to pass and continues right where it stopped without any sign of damage.

‘Goshiki kotohime’ is a great dwarf plant. Its leaves are closely packed on thin branches giving the appearance of being more of an herbaceous plant than a woody small tree. Its new leaves push with brilliant color and then turn green with deeply cut lobes and undulating edges which create a wonderful texture. Being a slow grower, it is an excellent choice for the container garden as well at other themed miniature gardens where it could easily be pruned to maintain a smaller size if needed.

Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon'

The spring flush of Autumn Moon may look like fall foliage color, but trust me, it is springtime - really.

Another Japanese Maple that I love in spring is Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’. The spring foliage is an amazing blend of autumn yellow and orange which is certainly eye-candy while it can confuse ones sense of time. This small tree is a beautiful, compact grower with nice form and a very pleasant color all season long. I love how its color complements the blue, green and gold of my conifers.

Spring is upon us, I just hope that winter will release its grip so that we may enjoy more sunshine and warmer temperatures before the calendar reminds me that it is mid-summer.

Ed-
Conifer Lover