The conifers are blooming!

This is a great time of year in the garden. There is new growth and excitement everywhere I look. Of course the bulbs have been putting on a show for a few weeks, and some of my perennials have been showing signs of spring-time vigor. Many of my Japanese Maples have leafed out in their glorious spring color adding a freshness to the garden. Every morning, the birds are working hard to pull the sun up by the sound of their brilliant  singing. And, for the conifer lover, THE CONIFERS ARE BLOOMING!

Abies koreana 'Blauer Pfiff'
Young female cone of Abies koreana 'Blauer Pfiff'

I get very excited every spring as I stroll around my garden looking to see which of my conifers have begun to set new cones. Unlike the big, showy flowers of the typical plants specifically grown for the color, size and/or scent of their flowers, conifers tend to keep their flowers just a little bit hidden.

“Wait just a minute, Ed – you’re telling me conifers have flowers?

Abies cephalonica 'Meyers Dwarf'
Brightly colored male cones of Abies cephalonica 'Meyers Dwarf'

That’s right. The flowering parts on conifers are different than what we traditionally think of, but the reproductive organs on conifers work very much the same way. Conifers have both male (pollen bearing) and female (seed) flowers, or cones. Often the male cones will appear first. The most apparent are very brightly colored in reds, orange or purple. Though small, they can be very showy and a real delight when you spot them. Once they fully open and disperse their pollen, they will begin to dry and turn brown, eventually falling off of the tree.

Abies koreana 'Aurea'
Young female cone of Abies koreana 'Aurea'

The female cones will emerge shortly after the males do and may also be in any of quite an assortment of colors. A keen eye will spot them even when they are young and quite small. As they grow and swell, they will receive pollen from the local males, their tiny seeds become fertilized and they continue to grow and mature often turning brown and oozing resin. For several weeks to a few months, the female cones may retain their vibrant color and add real interest to the garden.

I love the flowers of springtime, especially the conifer flowers because they last from early spring until they eventually disperse their seed late in the year. I hope you will take some time to hunt for the flowers on your conifers this year and be amazed by the amazing world of conifers too.

Conifer Lover

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