Are you a Conehead?

Abies koreana Aurea
Abies koreana ‘Aurea’

I have considered myself a Conehead for many years now, and yet, I don’t claim to come from France. I remember the first time I saw the Conehead sketch on Saturday Night Live back in the late 1970s. I told my friends back then that I was a true Conehead, unlike those on the TV. One of my friends mentioned that he had always thought that I was from another planet referring, I presume,  to my non-conformist wardrobe choices and lack of interest in the disco scene of the day.

Yes, even back in the late ’70s’ I was a Conehead – a conifer lover.  I love the year-round color that conifers can provide with their fantastic and sometimes seasonally changing foliage color, but quite often, it is the cones themselves that provide the color and seasonal interest.

Picea orientalis Aureospicata
Picea orientalis ‘Aureospicata’

My favorites begin as very colorful red or purple “buds” that grow  into symmetrically balanced spirals of winged pockets designed to  protect the seed as it develops and then allows the seed to launch into the wind or be relocated by birds or other wildlife at maturity.

Very colorful cones may be discovered growing on some cultivars of Abies koreana (Korean Fir), Picea abies (Norway Spruce), Picea orientalis (Oriental Spruce), Pinus parviflora (Japanese White Pine) or Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas Fir). These colorful cones can add excitement and interest to the spring and early summer garden. The detail in these young cones can be stunning, often only visible with a magnifying glass or a good macro lens on the  camera.

Pseudotsuga menziesii Blue
Pseudotsuga menziesii ‘Blue’

As the cones continue to grow and mature through the summer months, their color may change and become darker or even tinged with a different hue. Most will begin to ooze resin which can actually sparkle in the early morning or late afternoon sunlight. At maturity, many cones will have turned brown and the seed-holding pockets will have spread and opened allowing the seeds to escape. The larger dried cones are what we often see used decoratively in flower arrangements or in wreathes and swags during the winter holidays.

Cones add to the multi-seasonal appeal of conifers and are one of the reasons many gardeners consider themselves Coneheads all over the world.

Conifer Lover

As always, thanks to my friends at Iseli Nursery for the photo links.

4 thoughts on “Are you a Conehead?

  1. Looking for a Acrocona norway spruce. Bright Red cones Not looking for a starter plant, would like 3-4′. [contact info removed to preserve your privacy]


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