Great color for the cold days of winter

After several days of spring-like temperatures, our Pacific Northwest weather has made a u-turn back to winter. Well, around here that means the east wind is howling, bringing low temps to near freezing. But, when you factor in the 15 to 30 mph winds, that makes us feel considerably colder. With our friends in the mid-west and back east enduring much lower temperatures and a fresh onslaught of snow, all I can think about are cold hardy conifers!

Three of my favorite hardy conifers make a beautifully colorful vignette when grouped together in the landscape or in containers. This time of year when many other plants are taking a beating from the bitter cold, these three provide enough color to make anyone smile.

'Curley Tops'
The foliage of Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Curley Tops' has a unique curly habit as can be seen in this close up photo.

My first selection is the bright, silvery blue, Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Curley Tops’. This vigorous grower rates within the Intermediate growth range as charted by the American Conifer Society, putting on 6″ to 10″ of new growth per year in my area. ‘Curley Tops’ has a very nice compact form with soft, dense, curly blue foliage. If you would like to slow its growth, it does respond very well to a nice light annual shearing. Naturally growing in a cone shape, if one desired, it could be shaped to the heart’s content.

'Golden Mop'
'Golden Mop' is a slow grower suitable for small spaces in the garden or in containers when young.

Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’ is listed as a dwarf, but keep in mind that it can become large in time. As a young plant, ‘Golden Mop’ will form a broad roundish mound of bright yellow, coarse, tread-like foliage. In time it becomes broadly pyramidal in form and is quite stunning in the garden planted near dark green or blue conifers. Its color takes on a rich golden hue as winter becomes more intense.

Like the fluffy clouds it is named for, 'Cumulus' is a perfect miniature puff for any small space in the garden or in containers.

Finally, Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Cumulus’ is a great little miniature with tight coarse green foliage and a form that is reminiscent of those wonderful, fluffy, puff-ball clouds on a warm spring or summer day. Since this one is a true miniature conifer growing close to an inch per year, it is perfect for the container garden too. In fact, if acquired as young plants, all three selections are suitable to be grown in containers for a number of years. Then, as they put on some size, you could place them near each other in the garden for a spectacularly colorful corner. Add more colorful conifers or other companion plants for a display worthy of the finest gardens.

Until next time, stay warm!

Conifer Lover

4 thoughts on “Great color for the cold days of winter

  1. Hi Ed,

    I have several ‘Gold Mop’ planted in my garden and they are wonderful for winter color. Of course, this year they’re all covered by a few feet of snow so I can only see a hint of the yellow foliage.

    I’ve never seen ‘Cumulus’ but I think I’m in love. How cute is that? Is the foliage soft to the touch?

    BTW, what’s the purple-leaved plant in the picture with the ‘Gold Mop’? The foliage color is wonderful but I can’t figure out if it’s a shrub or a perennial.


    1. Hi Debbie – I almost clarified that they would provide great color – after the snow melts. :^)

      ‘Cumulus’ is a real cutie! Very soft new foliage that hardens to a coarse texture, but not prickly.

      The purple-leaved plant is Euphobia. I think it may have been ‘Blackbird’ – we had a cold winter a few years ago and it suffered so it’s gone now. Being a Zone 7 plant, I suspect it would be an annual in your neck of the woods.

      Thanks for popping in!


  2. Hi Ed… your latest post brought to mind a question that I’ve been wondering about concerning conifers in containers. I’m planning on doing a goodly number of midget conifers (already ordered) in hyper tuffa this spring. They include many chamecyparis which can be borderline in the ground here so my plan is to store the containers in an unheated garage which generally doesn’t dip below zero degrees. There is some light although not much. I’ve been experimenting with an Alberta spruce in this situation and it’s doing ok for a couple years now. Any recommendations you could offer would be very much appreciated… Thanks, Larry


    1. Hi Larry – You’re on the right track. That is exactly what I would do. So long as the temperature is very cold as you suggest, and there is a little bit of light, I think your mini Chams will do very well. Be sure to use a well-drained soil, and check it a few times just to make sure that it doesn’t totally dry out. Your Chams don’t like wet feet, but they won’t like to dry out completely either. Being in the garage, you shouldn’t need to worry about desiccation from freezing winds.

      Liked by 1 person

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