Hidden garden treasures

I don’t know about where you live, but here in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been finding tiny treasures all over my garden. With warmer temperatures and far less rain the past week or so, I’ve been able to spend a tremendous amount of time in my garden. My wife points out that her Iris buds are beginning to burst forth in their explosion of color and delicate gracefulness. I see a few rose buds opening. The poppies have added an intensity of red and orange that I don’t think can be found anywhere else. My wife loves her flowers.

Pinus contorta 'Taylor's Sunburst'
Just over one centimeter in length, this tiny treasure is a delight to discover amidst the yellow needles of ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’

On the other hand, I sometimes overlook some of her favorites as my attention is held captive in my exploration for hidden treasure. Conifers also offer quite an explosion of color this time of year. Unlike some of their exhibitionist neighbors, the conifers can be a little more discrete in displaying their colorful treasures. Frequently, conifers will have two “flowering” sessions. First the male pollen cones will emerge in an assortment of colors from pale yellow, to orange, intense scarlet, or even dark purplish blue. Shortly thereafter, the female cones will begin to develop. Again, they will range in color depending on their genus and species. The fun begins when I stroll through my garden, gazing among both last year’s growth and the newly emerging foliage this spring.

What a joy it is to discover tiny scarlet cones beginning to develop between the bright yellow newly emerging needles of Pinus contorta ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’ or the purple cones encircling the apical buds on the tips of Pinus mugo ‘Big Tuna’. At this stage they are from one to two centimeters in length and remind me of a sea urchin with tiny pointed tips reaching out to absorb nutrition from the surrounding sea water. In this case they are awaiting pollen to land and become absorbed beginning the fertilization process and the creation of viable seed.

Pinus mugo 'Big Tuna'
Near the bottom of the frame, two female cones of Pinus mugo ‘Big Tuna’ are maturing to produce seed this season. At the tip of the new foliage is a cluster of new female cones, likely fertilized by pollen dispersed by the male cones in the background to the right.

As the fertilized cones continue to grow and develop, they will change in color and eventually turn brown as they dry and begin to crack open to release their seed. But for now, I’m keeping an eye out for these fascinating tiny treasures in my garden, as I continue to be amazed by the world of conifers.

Conifer Lover


4 thoughts on “Hidden garden treasures

  1. Lovely, instructive site with great photographs. Inspires me to take a much closer look at all my conifers! Thanks you.


  2. Dear Ed,
    Female, as well as male flowers, and the cones of the pinus mugo, all together: very beautiful!
    That is my comment, but I have also a question: May I use this photo (with acknowledgements) in a booklet of the 18 types of conifers in our dunes near Schoorl (the Netherlands). I would be very pleased, and if you allow me to use it, I will send you a pdf file of it, as soon as it is ready. The booklet is not offficial (no ISBN number) and only for those, walking in our dunes and interested in these different type of conifers.

    Best regards
    Hans Egberts


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