You know your visit is going to be interesting when the conversation goes something like this:
“See, Ed. This is exactly what I am talking about. This… Crypt… Crypt-o – I mean, who named this thing, an undertaker?”
“That’s Cryptomeria japonica ‘Black Dragon’ – I thought you would rather like that one.”
“Well, the last name is cool… but…”
“Oh c’mon, just admit you like it – I won’t verbally tell a soul.” And with that, she knew she was in trouble.
With her wry smile, she looked at me briefly and then back at the plant, “I suppose you’re going to blog about me again aren’t you?”
“Well, you do inspire discussion about why I love conifers.”
It had been a while since The Flower Girl had paid me a visit. She was disheartened with our long and wet spring, the incredibly short summer and the quick return to a wet autumn. All the rain and cool temperatures this year prevented her usually glorious flower garden from performing its best. She had mildew and fungus and blight, oh my!
Her sunflowers were half their normal height, the zinnias and marigolds were sparse and thin as were the other flowers that normally thrive in hot and dry summers. She found that she needed to dead-head the flowers more frequently because the cool wet weather would quickly turn them into dark brown mush.
I listened to her frustrations as we walked around my garden and the light sprinkles fell from the sky. I looked to the west, and noticed the sky was incredibly dark – I had a feeling that, momentarily, we would be in for a big shower. As we rounded the path that returned us past the ‘Black Dragon’ and back toward the house, she did admit that she found the plant to be somewhat tolerable (which I have come to understand translates into her actually liking the plant).
“Of course you do.” I thought to myself with a slight smile.
‘Black Dragon’ is a great conifer that has quite a lot of natural appeal and yet it is unusual enough to keep my interest too. As a young plant, it can grow somewhat vigorously with a rather narrow form. With some maturity, it seems to slow its upward extension and puts more of its energy into filling in and becomes a little broader at the base (kind of like me). As ‘Black Dragon’ ages, it will acquire a very nice semi-broad pyramidal form with a combination of slightly open branching and dense clusters of its soft, awl-like, dark green foliage. Hardy in Zone 5 and warmer, this one won’t survive the colder regions (although I have seen on online reference which states that one is growing in Keota, Iowa). In the hot and humid south, some conifers experience a “melt-down”, but not ‘Black Dragon’. Possibly its more open habit allows for better air flow.
As we settled into the comfortable chairs near the woodstove, my wife had already brewed the tea, and we chatted about how well the conifers had performed during our unusually cool and wet season. We talked about the change of seasons, the soon-to-come brilliant display of autumn foliage color and the excitement that a new season of gardening will bring.