Losing touch with normality

I had an opportunity to sit down with a long-lost friend at the local coffee shop the other day. Don’t you love it when you haven’t seen an old friend in quite a long time, but when you do finally get together it is as if no time has passed at all. That was how this meeting went.

We talked about all the usual things; family, jobs, religion, politics and gardening. Rest assured, we pretty much solved all of the world problems in just that one visit. Of course my favorite part of the conversation was when we began to talk about gardening – and specifically, conifers!

“Ed,” my friend began in a very serious tone, “I believe I’m beginning to lose touch with normality.”


“Really – and I think I have you to blame for it.” He continued very seriously.

“I don’t understand. I’m a pretty normal guy.” I said with a straight face. “They don’t come much more normal than me.”

“HA! Ed, you are absolutely NUTS about conifers, how can you claim to be normal!” My friend said, now laughing out loud. “And you’re the reason I’m a conifer nut now too!”

Picea abies 'Pendula'
This Picea abies ‘Pendula’ living fence partially encircles a section of the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden at Iseli Nursery. Planted in 1986, it was staked to a height of approximately eight feet and trained horizontally at about four feet.

We laughed over that as my friend and I shared our experiences with growing more and more conifers in our gardens. Conifers, with their grand assortment of colors, from multiple shades of green and blue and yellow (some a mixture of all three), along with their many forms, from giant trees to tiny little buns, weeping and trailing and mounding and layered, we questioned, “What is normal, anyway?”

After that great visit with my old friend, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite conifers, that upon first introductions, people might find rather unusual, but have become very normal and important additions to my garden. These are plants that I often suggest to folks when they ask me what they should add to their gardens – even though their initial response is frequently less than immediately embracing.

Picea abies ‘Pendula’ has become very common and should be available at any independent garden center. If this tree were grown without a support, it would sprawl along the ground, mounding and layering upon itself in delicious waves of dark green, coarsely textured foliage. Most often you will find this plant staked to a height of three to five feet. It only takes a couple of years for the staked main stem to harden and support the plant, so a stake will not be needed for its entire life. Once you arrive home with one of your own, you may choose to let it do its own thing and flop over, and begin to weep toward the ground. As an alternative, you could continue to stake the leader up higher and higher to create a tall slender “waterfall” specimen in your garden. Either way, as the foliage grows down to the ground, it will begin to spread as I described above, adding to the waterfall effect.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Verdoni'
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Verdoni’ can become a wonderful golden sculpture in the garden, complementing other conifers and ornamentals.

Another fantastic cultivar that has become “normal” to me, but might seem unusual to those new to conifers is Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Verdoni’. This excellent dwarf cultivar of Hinoki Cypress is notable for its sturdy golden foliage and its naturally sculptural form. Fairly slow growing at two to three inches per year in my garden; ‘Verdoni’ is great accent to any garden because of its bright golden color. Planted as a single specimen to highlight its sculptural characteristics, in a container alone or as part of a grouping, or in the mixed border, this small conifers will be a gorgeous addition to gardens of all sized and themes.

Let me know if these two selections are common normalities, or unusual oddities, from your perspective.

Conifer Lover

8 thoughts on “Losing touch with normality

  1. This was very interesting(they all are)..i have seen either conifer before and how the pendula fence was made is absolutely beautiful…i wish i lived near Iseli’s as i would be a frequent visitor…i personally conifers that look a bit orderly but not pefect looking..i can’t remember names but one comes to mind hetz arborvitae…..fluffy and loose looking but orderly and it does it all by itself.

    I am having a problem i fear with my new Jamy and since i am unfamiliar with what is normal i think i will take a pic and email iseli’s as i have asked a question before….all the new growth has started out and it is so beautiful and everyone notices it right off….but have noticed a few brown needles…totally brown..not tipped and when i touch them they fall off….these brown ones are interspersed with the green….in ohio we have had an unusual amount of rain over the past few months….for a while it was every day….so maybe that has something to do with it….i sprayed today with a disease/bug product i use and i gave it a quick spray of fungicide that unfortunatley i have had to use on some of my stuff due to weather….i hope it is nothing…all my miniatures are in excellant drainage and a good planting mix that a local nursery uses for their shrubs..very coarse and good drainage….so it is not the conditions as the others are thriving including Jamy except for those brown needles….keep up these blogs as they are so interesting…


    1. Hi Mary – Thanks very much for your comments! I’m sorry to hear about your brown needles, but sending a good clear close up of them and sending to Iseli for assistance may be a good idea. You might also check with your local agriculture extension, they would certainly be aware of any pathogens that might attack your plants locally.


  2. Ed, I love that photo of Picea abies ‘Pendula’, it reminds me of Cousin It fro mthe Addams Family, and his cousins. I have a Picea abies ‘Pendula’ but mine is crawling along the ground in front of some rhodis rather than standing guard like It and his cousins.


    1. Debbie, I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see Iseli’s brand new catalog, but I’ve heard that the folks around the office there have nicknamed it, “Cousin Itt and the Coneheads.” It will make sense once you see the new cover.


  3. Hi Ed,

    Love your blog…Love my conifers!!! Does Iseli sell only to wholesalers? I bought two plants with their logo on the tag several years ago but really cannot seem to find a nursery in the New Jersey shore area that offers plants from them. I would just love to look at their catalog and seem to gravitate to their website on a regular basis. I am considering taking out a very overgrown boxwood so that I can incorporate more miniatures in my very small garden overflowing with small conifers of all descriptions. My son tells me I have an addiction…I guess he is correct…but I’m loving it!!!!


    1. Hi Linda – It looks like Mary has answered your question. I know that Iseli ships all across the USA and the east coast is certainly one of their larger market areas. I’m glad to hear that you are loving your little conifers, and by the way, we like to think of it as an obsession rather than an addiction. It sounds like you have become an official Conehead! :^)


  4. to linda lubas….linda, have you tried wild ginger farm?..i purchased to of my many minis from them this year and they are wonderful to deal with and communicate with you should you have ques….wildgingerfarm.com…i am fortunate to be able to buy locally and prefer to because i love my garden center..but, sometimes they can’t the minis i want and wild ginger had different minis than my local…good luck and you are right…they are addicting…i am already surfing iseli online dreaming about next spring…


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