Why are conifers so…?

A few weeks ago my wife and I took a little road trip with our very good friends down south to the Oregon Garden just outside downtown Silverton. This is a great garden destination with one of the main attractions being a very nice conifer garden. Near the entrance of the conifer garden are three fantastic specimens of the Weeping Giant Redwood (I featured a photo of these beauties last December).

Our friends stopped before we reached the entry path and just stared at those magnificent trees.

“They look like Dr. Seuss trees!”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before.” I said with a smile.

“Why are conifers so…? I’m trying not to be insulting… weird?” I was asked.

“Because weird is COOL!” I replied laughing.

I love that a great many conifers are quite unusual. Especially when you begin to delve into the world of the true Conehead – where weird is wonderful!

That outing caused me to give some real thought to what it is about so many of the unusual conifers in my own garden that I find so desirable. Some of my very favorites are weeping or pendulous in habit or form. Here’s how I think about it, if a conifer grows generally upright but its branches or branchlets droop and weep then that is its habit. If the whole plant has little to no inclination to support itself, and left uncultured, its form would be pendulous or weeping (or perhaps prostrate).

Enough of all that, let’s get to the coolness – some of the specific cultivars that have a tremendous amount of appeal and interest because of their unusual characteristics.

Picea pungens 'Pendula'
Picea pungens ‘Pendula’ with its blue foliage and free-style growth habit adds a living, ever-changing, modern scultpure to your garden.

One of my all-time favorites is Picea pungens ‘Pendula’. This weeping form of the Colorado Blue Spruce provides the garden with not only fantastic light blue color, but its form will change and morph over the years as its branches grow and sprawl and turn this way and that. It’s very much like a living modern sculpture that changes with the seasons and years. Generally the growers will provide support for this great tree when young. You will most likely find the tree staked from three to five feet tall. At that point, you might desire to continue to encourage height by placing a taller stake in the ground after planting. You’ll need a sturdy tying tape available at your local garden center to continue training your tree up. Alternatively, you may choose to simply allow the tree to find its own form as it grows and flops and flows.

Another fantastic selection is Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’. This Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar may be grown in just about any shape imaginable. I’ve seen it trained high over pathways in an arch to create a living, draping arbor. Several planted in a row make a magnificent living fence. Years ago, my friends at Iseli trained a Weeping Atlas up the trunk of a larger Blue Atlas Cedar. They encouraged it to grow up and out along the more sturdy and upward growing branches of that tree creating quite an interesting sight as the weeping habit of one fell like streams of water from the larger upright form of the other.

Of course I can’t leave Picea glauca ‘Pendula’ (Weeping White Spruce) off this list. This fantastic, low maintenance conifer will fit in most any garden. It is super hardy to Zone 2, has a form that is straight as an arrow and all of its side branches turn and grow straight toward the ground. A beautiful tree with a very narrow footprint, you might expect a tree twenty years old to be 15 to 20 feet tall with a width of three to four feet near its base. If allowed, the branches that reach the ground will then spread and slowly make a layered ground cover.

There are so many others, I could very likely write a book about them! For now, I’ll just list a few more that I think you should consider adding to your garden.

Abies alba ‘Green Spiral’
Cedrus deodara ‘Raywood’s Prostrate Dwarf’
Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Jubilee’
Larix decidua ‘Pendula’
Picea abies ‘Frohburg’
Picea omorika ‘Pendula Bruns’
Pinus strobus ‘Angel Falls’
Sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Pendulum’
Tsuga canadensis ‘Pendula’
Tsuga heterophylla ‘Thorsen’s Weeping’

Conifer Lover


5 thoughts on “Why are conifers so…?

  1. I just purchased a tiny Picea glauca “Pendula”. I can’t wait to see how long it takes to get to a few feet high. I just love the weeping conifers! I have just started a small collection of conifers and now I am hooked. Thanks for the picture.


  2. A book, it is for when ? Can’t wait !
    I’m sure other people will share that wish !
    Thanks for sharing everything you know about Conifers.


  3. Thank you for the comments!

    A book? Oh, I think that would be a very complicated venture and would require a significant amount of encouragement!


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