The hunt begins

You may recall from past posts how much I enjoy the hunt for the first signs of tiny cones beginning to develop on my conifers. I must still be a kid at heart, playing a horticultural version of hide and seek, because I love looking for those colorful little signs that springtime has arrived. This year is definitely proving to be a week or two behind last year when it comes to my conifers beginning their spring flush of new growth and their display of male pollen cones and the female seed cones.

I believe that last year was an especially good year for cone production on the conifers in my area. Both my garden and the gardens and production fields at Iseli showed an abundance of cones like I’ve never seen before. It is still early, but by this time last year I was seeing more cone developement on more species and cultivars than I had ever seen in one season before. I asked my friends at Iseli what they were seeing this year, and their observation is very much like my own. Few cones developing on fewer plants. No doubt, for whatever reason, last year was an extraordinary year for the cone hunter!

Abies koreana 'Blauer Pfiff'
Abies koreana 'Blauer Pfiff' is a wonderful, low-growing form of Korean fir. One of it's wonderful features is that is seems to cone at a fairly young age.

But don’t let that stop you from getting out into your garden and taking a close look at your conifers. Take a strong magnifying lens or your camera with a quality macro mode, and you just might be surprised at the wonders you will discover.

I love the cone development on my Abies koreana ‘Blauer Pfiff’. The seed cones begin to develop shortly after the pollen cones and just prior to their spring flush of new foliage. The female cones will develop and mature for the next few months, becoming larger and slowly morphing from a spiraling column of reddish-pink pointed wings to a gradient of muted yellowish-green to pink stack of wings on an ever thickening body.

Pinus mugo 'Big Tuna'
Pinus mugo 'Big Tuna' is a great, compact, upright form with rich green foliage and colorful pollen cones.

Another favorite discovery right now is the colorful pollen cones of Pinus mugo ‘Big Tuna’ with their purplish tightly closed pockets of pollen awaiting just the right conditions to open and begin to disperse their fertile pollen into the air. As they mature and begin to elongate a little further, their color takes on some hints of yellow and red suggesting a tinge of orange before they fully open, empty themselves of pollen, and then dry and fade away after completing their important reproductive function.

I look forward to the next several weeks as the hunt will continue and I will discover more and more tiny treasures throughout my garden.

Conifer Lover

4 thoughts on “The hunt begins

  1. i enjoyed this posting….could you tell me pls if these are miniatures that you are talking about?…also, what do you do with these cones?…I have 10 Iselis(?) miniatures plus one from another nursery and 3 dwarfs…so that was why i was interested if you were speaking about mini’s as you mentioned Iselis(?)..i am currently growing mugos (regular) from purchased seeds…they are currently in my kitchen and about 3 inches high….i am in a quandry as to what to do now so i don’t make a mistake…i am thinking of contacting our arboretum who has experts ….i feel very good that i have been about to get this far….i have 11 and they are in those plastic nursery seed things…like for pansies or veges…they are no longer under a dome as i lost 2 because the dome was holding too much water in …no losses since(knock on wood)…i check them several times a day….i look forward to your next blog…thank you

    p.s. although they are Iselis minis i purchased them locally and 2 from an online source


    1. Hi Mary – Sounds like you have been bit by the conifer bug for sure. The plants that I mentioned today would be considered dwarf by the American Conifer Society standard, meaning that they will grow 1 to 6 inches per year. Both of the plants I mentioned probably in the 4 to 6 inch per year range, so definitely not miniatures. I don’t do anything with the cones aside from just enjoying them. Sometimes I will find seedlings of various conifers that manage to germinate in my garden and I’ll transplant them and usually give them away.


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