Wet, wetter, wettest.

The funny thing about northwest Oregon is that you can be sure the seasons are changing based on the temperature of the rain. Today, for example, the rain is coming down heavy, steady and thick (and it has been since last night – we had nearly an inch in the rain gauge since 5:00pm yesterday). I noticed as I dashed to my little greenhouse this morning that the rain was not only effectively soaking everything outdoors, but it was considerably warmer than the rain of just a week ago – it must be June!

One of the challenges we face in my part of the world is that sometimes it rains a little too much, keeping the soil and the plants themselves too wet. Where many of my friends around the country are limited to conifers that will survive their extremely cold winters or hot and humid summers, I need to be aware of plants that prefer not have their “feet” sitting in cold, wet soil most of the year.

Iseli Display Garden
Sometimes it stops raining in Oregon

Good drainage is beneficial to most any plant, though some actually thrive in bogs and swamps, most require a little oxygen around their toes. Well drained soil is important, but so is water retention. The soil in my garden is quite good. I have over a foot of good crumbly loam. If I dig deeper, I’ll eventually hit a layer of light clay, but it doesn’t seem to present a problem where drainage is concerned. When I build a new garden bed, I plan pathways at the same time. Since I don’t like to cover over good garden soil with rock or pavers, I’ll dig a few inches down in my pathway and toss that soil into the new bed. Sometimes I’ll move soil from other locations on the property as well. The point is that I try to build up the new bed location to help provide improved drainage for the new plants.

I have an existing bed that I will be totally reworking this year. It was the first area I planted when we moved to this place over ten years ago and for a number of reasons, I didn’t build this bed up as described above. Fortunately, drainage really isn’t a problem on this property, but I do want to raise the elevation in this space as part of its rejuvenation. It will be quite a lot of work, but I believe it will be worth it, both for the health of the plants and for its aesthetic quality.

Next time I’ll put a list together of some great conifers grouped by their tolerance of, and/or need for, various levels of soil moisture, from the very wet to the very dry.

Conifer Lover


4 thoughts on “Wet, wetter, wettest.

  1. Hello,
    I love your blog! It is a great source of info and I love the passion you have for conifers.
    I was wondering if you could offer me some advice. I live in Canada, Ontario, Ottawa area (zone 5). i would like to add some new conifers to my garden beds. I am wondering if you could offer me some suggestions to what your favourites are for my zone. I am looking for three news ones…two for full sun and one for shade. Preferably on the smaller side beacuse I live in the suburbs.
    Thanks for your help.


    1. Hi Candace! Thanks very much for your kind words. I always have a difficult time when people ask me to limit my favorites to just a few plants. Here are a few cultivars I love that should do well in your area.

      Dwarf conifers for sunny locations:
      Picea omorika ‘Kamenz’ (Zone 4) is fairly new to the trade and is becomming one of my favs. Mine is about 10 years old and about 30cm tall spreading to near one meter in diameter.
      Picea pungens ‘St. Mary’s Broom’ (Zone 2) is a beautiful blue dwarf mounding form. Should be easy to find in your area.
      Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’ (Zone 4) will add a bright splash of color in a mounding shape with thread-like foliage. It will get pretty good size in time, but responds well to a light annual shearing if you need to keep it contained.

      Dwarf conifers for shade:
      Probably the most shade tolerant will be the Canadian Hemlocks.
      Tsuga canadensis ‘Cole’s Prostrate’ (Zone 4) is one of my all-time favorites. If allowed to grow naturally, it will slowly spread and fall over walls or rocks. I like to stake them up to one to two meters and then allow them to do their own thing.
      Tsuga canadensis ‘Moon Frost’ (Zone 4) is a great dwarf with white new growth. Responds well to light shearing to keep neat and tidy.

      I hope you have success!



  2. Thanks for the advice Ed.
    I just purchased two “St.Mary’s Broom” and one Tsuga canadensis “Moon Frost”. I will keep my eyes open for the other treasures you have suggested. 🙂


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