Imagine, if you will, you’re walking along one of the rivers or streams near the Mother Lode Highway 49 in the state of California. You can hear birds singing and a mild breeze rustles the leaves of the trees all around you. You deeply breathe in the calming aroma of the forest. Suddenly you see a glimmer of gold sparkling just under the surface of the water. Your heart jumps, you dash into the water and grasp that little shimmering nugget of gold!
Now, imagine that you are walking along a huge production of recently potted ‘Wiltoni’ juniper. Literally tens of thousands of identical clones of bluish green prostrate plants appear as a flowing river of conifers. Suddenly, you catch a glimpse of what looks like a small golden branch on one of the multitude of one gallon containers. Your heart jumps and you dash into the massive group of plants to grasp that little oddity with the one blue branch and one gold.
That’s what happened when Juniperus horizontalis ‘Mother Lode’ was discovered at Iseli Nursery in 1980.
Jean Iseli always encouraged his employees to keep an eye out for unusual mutations on the plants growing at his wholesale nursery. A great many sports, witches brooms and other oddities have been collected, inspected and evaluated over the years, but few ever become something viable for the nursery industry. ‘Mother Lode’ is one of those selected mutations that has proved itself to be a winner in the garden.
Its bright golden yellow color is sure to attract attention and its prostrate habit makes it a valuable accent in the garden. Plant this beauty near any of the blue spruce or other dark green conifers for a terrific color contrast. Use it near other exciting garden plants like a deep red Japanese maple and the effect is stunning. The bright golden color becomes influenced by the same plum tones that make ‘Wiltoni’ turn almost purple giving ‘Mother Lode’ a unique pinkish orange color during the cold winter months.
‘Mother Lode’ is a great plant to use in containers, in the rock garden, in mass plantings for a dramatic color statement or even grafted on a standard to create a delightful golden cascade. Hardy to Zone 3, it will perform best in well-drained soil. Its best color will develop in full sun, but in harsh summer conditions, some shade may be advisable to prevent sunburn.