Golden autumn glow

If I were to wager a guess as to what color is the most striking  – the most eye-catching color of autumn, I would have to say it would be the bright scarlet, oranges and reds of the majority of trees in my local area. Having said that, today I want to point out some extraordinary fall-foliage plants whose primary color is yellow.

Cerciciphyllum japonicum 'Morioka Weeping'

This Cerciciphyllum japonicum 'Morioka Weeping' begins to glow in the early morning sun.

One of the first plants to catch my eye this morning, just as the sun was beginning to peak up over the distant hills was Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Morioka Weeping’. This deciduous, broad-leaved tree is covered with roundish, almost heart-shaped leaves. Right now, these normally green leaves are turning a deliciously warm shade of yellow with a hint of orange. I noticed yesterday how nicely the tree was coloring up, but this morning, as it was hit with that low sunrise, the tree began to glow in a spectacular way. Most of the garden remained in the darkness of early morning, hint of frost on the edges of my conifers, but this wonderful pendulous tree was lit up and beckoning to the other plants, “Wake up, it’s a beautiful day!”

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush'

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush' provides a stunning golden-yellow color from spring through fall

I finished my breakfast and continued to watch the show outside my picture window as the bright autumn sunrise steadily climbed and shot its spotlight on another golden deciduous tree – this time, a conifer. Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’ is a dazzling golden conifer all year-round. It’s new growth emerges a soft yet very bright yellow and seems to become more intensely bright as the season progresses. Finally, with the cooler temperatures that autumn bring, the bright yellow foliage begins to exhibit a hint of red which gives the long branchlets and overall golden hue. Again, this color continues to intensify until all of the foliage drops to the ground, creating quite a colorful carpet of gold beneath the then, bare framework of the Golden Dawn Redwood.

Soon, my Larix, Taxodium and  Pseudolarix will also turn their assorted shades of golden-yellow and drop their needles in anticipation of our coming winter months. I look forward to the intense shots of color those deciduous conifers will provide while making way for more late season sunlight to fall into my garden with the absence of their foliar screens.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

I love the classics: movies, cars, music and conifers!

I was talking with a new friend about his new garden. He and his wife want a little space to grow some veggies, maybe a dwarf fruit tree or two, an area large enough for a swing-set or climbing structure for the kids and a bed or two of dwarf conifers. He loves the idea of having a garden with year-round color that is as low maintenance as it is beautiful. As we were walking around my garden, I was inclined to show him some of my most recent acquisitions – some of which are really far too rare for a newbie to look for. As we took our stroll, I noticed that he was very interested in some of the conifers that I started with many, many years ago. Conifers with great characteristics and value to the garden, but because I’ve known them for so many years, I’ve almost snubbed them for their familiarity. Silly me.

Today I’ll present to you the first two of five classic conifers worthy of a home in any garden, whether you are a conifer newb or an old-timer like me. Next time, I’ll follow-up with the final three. These five classics should be easy to find at your local independent garden center and will make a very nice combination in a new conifer bed. These same five plants will also be a joy to grow in containers, on the deck or patio, for a number of years when small plants are purchased.

Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'

Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star' is a premium dwarf conifer with tremendous blue color and a nice coarse texture.

My first selection really is a great dwarf conifer. Its blue foliage and low, rounded, spreading form is very useful near other colorful conifers, Japanese maples, spring bulbs, perennials – just about any companion plant. Unfortunately, this beautiful conifer has received a bad reputation, due in large part to its misuse in the landscape. Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’is one of the bluest and most readily available dwarf conifers you might find. Placed properly in the landscape, it can grow to a luscious full size adding unbeatable color and texture to the garden.

People are all too often enamored with this pretty little blue conifer and since it is labeled as a dwarf, they think it will make a great way to fill in the parking strip (that narrow space between the curb and sidewalk). At first, those little blue mounds look so good dressed up with a nice mulch of small river rock or bark. The bad news is that being small and low to the ground, they become prime targets for children on bicycles and the neighborhood dogs like to make them part of their regular routine. Then, once one dog marks the spot, they become targets for every dog in the neighborhood. Of course humans can be somewhat heartless as well when they pull up to the curb, open their door and step right out and onto the young plant trying to survive all this abuse. Before long the homeowner – and everyone in the neighborhood – detests the innocent plant that has had nothing but a life of abuse as it turns from its lively blue to shades of yellow and brown. ‘Blue Star’ is much more suited for a prime location near the front door mixed with an assortment of other colorful plants. There, it will thrive in a less disturbed environment, providing years and years of color and texture.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Lutea'

Its golden yellow color and tidy, compact habit make Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Lutea' one of my very favorite classic conifers.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’ is one of the first golden dwarf conifers I met back in my youth while working for an old landscaper in the big city. This delightful dwarf conifer has soft sprays of brightly colored, golden yellow foliage. A young plant will add tremendous color to the mixed container or the garden bed. Growing just a few inches per year, ‘Nana Lutea’ will form a compact pyramidal shape and slowly grow from several inches tall in a one gallon container to nearly five feet tall and four feet broad at its base in about twenty more years. Placed near a ‘Blue Star’, their colors contrast beautifully in the garden and can make a wonderful foundation for other dwarf or miniature conifers  and other colorful companions.

I hope you’ll try these  two colorful beauties in your garden. They should be easy to find and easy on the budget as well. Keep in mind that dwarf conifers can live for many years in the garden and will slowly continue to gain size, a few inches per year, for their lifetime.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Great color for the cold days of winter

After several days of spring-like temperatures, our Pacific Northwest weather has made a u-turn back to winter. Well, around here that means the east wind is howling, bringing low temps to near freezing. But, when you factor in the 15 to 30 mph winds, that makes us feel considerably colder. With our friends in the mid-west and back east enduring much lower temperatures and a fresh onslaught of snow, all I can think about are cold hardy conifers!

Three of my favorite hardy conifers make a beautifully colorful vignette when grouped together in the landscape or in containers. This time of year when many other plants are taking a beating from the bitter cold, these three provide enough color to make anyone smile.

'Curley Tops'

The foliage of Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Curley Tops' has a unique curly habit as can be seen in this close up photo.

My first selection is the bright, silvery blue, Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Curley Tops’. This vigorous grower rates within the Intermediate growth range as charted by the American Conifer Society, putting on 6″ to 10″ of new growth per year in my area. ‘Curley Tops’ has a very nice compact form with soft, dense, curly blue foliage. If you would like to slow its growth, it does respond very well to a nice light annual shearing. Naturally growing in a cone shape, if one desired, it could be shaped to the heart’s content.

'Golden Mop'

'Golden Mop' is a slow grower suitable for small spaces in the garden or in containers when young.

Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’ is listed as a dwarf, but keep in mind that it can become large in time. As a young plant, ‘Golden Mop’ will form a broad roundish mound of bright yellow, coarse, tread-like foliage. In time it becomes broadly pyramidal in form and is quite stunning in the garden planted near dark green or blue conifers. Its color takes on a rich golden hue as winter becomes more intense.

'Cumulus'

Like the fluffy clouds it is named for, 'Cumulus' is a perfect miniature puff for any small space in the garden or in containers.

Finally, Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Cumulus’ is a great little miniature with tight coarse green foliage and a form that is reminiscent of those wonderful, fluffy, puff-ball clouds on a warm spring or summer day. Since this one is a true miniature conifer growing close to an inch per year, it is perfect for the container garden too. In fact, if acquired as young plants, all three selections are suitable to be grown in containers for a number of years. Then, as they put on some size, you could place them near each other in the garden for a spectacularly colorful corner. Add more colorful conifers or other companion plants for a display worthy of the finest gardens.

Until next time, stay warm!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Feelin’ the love

This has been a fantastic summer for enjoying our fire pit. Some summers are so hot that at nine or ten o’clock at night, when we feel like sitting around a campfire, it is still 80 degrees outside. Not this year. This year, not only do I wear a sweatshirt, but I actually enjoy the warmth of the fire.

Pinus parviflora 'Bergman'

Pinus parviflora ‘Bergman’ is an elegant specimen in the garden.

Last night as my wife and I were snuggled in our Adirondack love seat near the fire pit, out of nowhere my wife mentioned how much she liked the Pinus parviflora ‘Bergman’ just across the pit from where we sat. Now, hearing this from my wife was quite a surprise because she has always made it crystal clear that she does not like pines.  (Actually, there are a few pines in the garden that she has admired over the years – and now that I am thinking about it, they have all been cultivars of Pinus parviflora (the Japanese white pine).

Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'

Pinus parviflora ‘Goldilocks’ appears as a bright golden yellow small tree. Closer inspection of the foliage reveals beautiful two-toned needles.

In my last post I mentioned one of our favored variegated conifers, Pinus parviflora ‘Ogon janome’. My wife loves its soft foliage and variegated needles. Pinus parviflora ‘Goldilocks’ is another brightly colored cultivar that my wife absolutely loves. ‘Goldilocks’ is one the brightest yellows you will see in a pine.  Depending on culture, Goldilocks can be trained as a very straight tree or be allowed to follow the beat of its own drummer and mature into a wonderful specimen with gentle curves that add striking character to this small tree.

Pinus parviflora 'Catherine Elizabeth'

Pinus parviflora ‘Catherine Elizabeth’ is a delightful garden additon – I encourage you to invite her into your garden today.

Another Japanese white pine that has won the admiration of my wife is Pinus parviflora ‘Catherine Elizabeth’. This delightful little beauty is soft textured with short bluish green needles and a compact rounded form. Growing just a few inches a year, ‘Catherine Elizabeth’ will fill her space in the garden relatively slowly. She responds well to a little candle pruning in spring/early summer if you desire a tighter, more compact plant.

Pinus parviflora 'Glauca Nana' seedling under evaluation.

This seedling of Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca Nana’ has quite the character. Tiny needles and miniature habit make this one to watch for in the future.

The last time my wife joined me for a walk around the display gardens at Iseli, she honed right in on one of the smallest Japanese white pines I have ever seen. This is one of Iseli’s seedlings under evaluation. With new growth of two or three centimeters and tiny curled needles, this irregularly formed miniature captured both our imaginations. I don’t expect to see this little fella in the local garden center anytime soon, but it sure is something to look forward to.

I’m excited that my wife is beginning to move past her dislike of pines in general and is finding joy in a broader group of conifers. Go team conifer!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Anticipation keeps me waiting

After one of the mildest first two months of a new year, today our temperature is dropping to more winter-like crispness. Snow levels are dropping and we may even see sloppy wet snow mixed with rain at our elevation.  As much as I have enjoyed an early start to my garden chores, I am hopeful that the colder weather will extend my garden’s plant dormancy a little longer. If my Larix or Acers begin to push their tender new growth too early, they will very likely get hit with a spring-time frost that is typical in our area. On the other hand, I am in great anticipation for the onslaught of color that is coming soon to my conifer garden!

Pinus contorta 'Taylor's Sunburst'

Good things come to those who wait, and the spring foliage of 'Taylor's Sunburst' is definately worth waiting for.

I am extremely enthusiastic about one conifer in particular. Pinus contorta ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ is an amazing tree that will pick up where ‘Chief Joseph’ leaves off. I’ve shared my excitement about the good Chief in the past and I’ve described how tired he can become at the end of his winter show. Within weeks, ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ literally bursts into its glory as it begins to extend its spring candles of brilliant golden yellow. As the candles continue to extend and the needles expand, the color becomes a little less gold and takes on a tone as if a little cream were added to the mix. This creamy yellow color becomes very prominent against the dark green older foliage that was the sunburst of springs gone by. Place ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ near other dark green or blue conifers for a spectacular color display. Throw a deep red Japanese Maple into the mix and you will find it difficult to pull your eyes away from this special space in your garden.

Pinus contorta 'Taylor's Sunburst'

'Taylor's Sunburst' adds a lot of interest to the garden

Discovered in the Rocky Mountains, high in Colorado, ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ is a hardy Lodge Pole Pine that requires a well drained soil. Generally an upright growing intermediate sized tree, it can become somewhat irregular in form. I like the rugged, mountain grown look it can provide. With a little careful pruning and candle pinching, it can become a manageable, compact pyramid of spring gold. As summer approaches with its longer days and warmer temperatures, ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ kicks up its chlorophyll production and its foliage becomes greener – possibly a natural defense against the sun scalding the more tender yellow foliage. Through fall and winter, this tree steps out of the spotlight in time for ‘Chief Joseph’ to shine bright.

I anticipate a beautiful spring garden and I hope you will experience the joy a conifer garden can provide.

Ed-
Conifer Lover