Decorate your Hillside

As far as I am concerned, it is now officially, winter. I know, winter does not officially begin until December 21st, but as soon as we set our clocks back to Pacific Standard Time, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and it seems like it’s dark two hours earlier. Whoever invented the tradition of decorating our homes with thousands of colorful lights for the holidays deserves high honors.

As the cold and darkness of winter engulfs our lives, it is very helpful to see neighborhoods all aglow in festivity. I used to think that people putting their lights up on Thanksgiving weekend were out of their mind. I have to admit though; I sure would like to see some festive lighting now! Of course if my wife finds out about my desire to see the lights go up early this year, I have a feeling the next morning I’ll get up and find a BIG pile of all our lights between me and my morning tea.

I took a quick stroll around my garden this morning between downpours. In the back of my mind I was thinking about which trees my wife might like to see all lit up with her favorite lights. One she always loves me to decorate is our large Picea pungens ‘Montgomery.’ No wonder, he’s a very big boy now and has that fantastic traditional Christmas tree shape. Not far from my ‘Montgomery’ I see another compact conifer that is getting to the size and shape that should please my wife when she sees him full of tiny white lights. 

Picea pungens 'Hillside'
Picea pungens 'Hillside' has a greener tone and is a little more compact that his cousin 'Montgomery' behind and to the right.

Picea pungens ‘Hillside’ is one of my favorite compact Colorado spruce trees. With a growth rate at ½ to ¾ that of ‘Montgomery,’ this dwarf conifer will spend his first 10 or 15 years looking a little more like a roundish mound than a cone-shaped tree, but as he matures, he’ll take on a nice compact pyramidal form. At 30 to 40 years old, the old specimen at Iseli’s display garden is just nine or ten feet tall. Mine is considerably younger but has a good start on its Christmas tree shape, so he’ll look great cloaked in lights. 

‘Hillside’ has more of a greenish tone than some of the other popular dwarf Colorado spruce, many of which sport bright shades of blue. But, who wants all their conifers to be the same color anyway? Not me. I love to see all the varying shades of green and blue (and even yellow) that the Colorado spruce contribute to my garden. 

Yes, I think with the new, low energy-consuming LED Christmas lights available these days, I just may be lighting up my corner of the neighborhood early this year. Maybe I’ll combat winter depression by starting a new tradition with four months of festive holiday lighting from Halloween to Valentine’s Day! 

Conifer Lover

4 thoughts on “Decorate your Hillside

  1. If my conifers were as large as yours I would certainly decorate them now.

    I have only baby dwarf conifers or at least they are still at the dwarf size. I have a smallish Sciadopitys wintergreen, and tiny sternschnuppe,grune kugel, and vertigo. I’m so hoping that they make it through the winter. I have a Cryptomeria Japonica black dragon and globosa nana (also tiny size). I have one Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ellwoodii (lost two this summer). I also have a tiny Picea glauca pendula and a small Pinus Strobus pendula.

    I live at the Jersey Shore (just a little inland in the Pine Barrens)about a twenty minute ride to Long Beach Island. I am kind of new at conifers and have only a small garden on the side of my house which is an eastern/southern exposure.

    I am looking for hints as to how to care for all of them during the winter. Last year we had tons of snow and I only had three Pinus mugo mughus, the three ellwoodii and the Pinus Strobus pendula and they came through the winter okay.

    Any hints on how to make sure the new conifers make it through the winter?


    1. Hi linda – It sounds like you’ve made a good start with your conifer collection. My plants all started out small too! (By the way, most of the photos here are shot by my friend, Mr. Smith, the photographer at Iseli, of the display gardens there. Most of my plants aren’t that large either.)

      One good thing about winter snow is that it is very good at protecting young conifers from desicating winter winds. Unless you are attempting to grow plants rated for warmer Zones than where you are living, you should not need to do anything to protect your conifers. If you have a long winter dry-spell, you will want to check the moisture in the soil – don’t let it get completely dry (even in winter). Your conifers like to be full of water – but not swimming in it of course.

      If you haven’t already done so, I really recommend you join the American Conifer Society and/or visit the conifer forum at The Garden Web. Lot’s of great and helpful folks there – some may even live in your area!


  2. Hello there. I stumbled across your blog while just doing some searching about Pinus Thunbergii ‘Thunderhead” on google. Just wanted to drop a note and say great blog! Love it! I’m a certified Virginia Master Gardener, and admittedly more of a palm/ tropical lover, but I do have an affinity for conifers as well. Anyway, I was wondering if your blog was on facebook’s networked blogs application because I would love to follow it there. Anyway, I hope it is! Ill go ahead and bookmark it anyway though just in case it is not. Also, do you have any experience in growing conifers in containers year round?



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ken – Welcome aboard! Not sure what Facebook’s networked blogs is, but we do have a Facebook group and fan page if that helps. I love growing dwarf conifers in containers! Use the search tool at the top of the page, and you should be able to find all my posts on the subject.


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