Blue’s hues

As I was talking a stroll through the garden yesterday afternoon, enjoying what is becoming the end of the autumn color season, what I found to be the most striking were the blue conifers. I have always loved my blue conifers – always admired the varied and sometimes subtle color differences, but there was just something about the way the low autumn sun was hitting the colorful foliage that made these particular plants stand out.

Picea pungens 'Hoopsii'
Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’ stands out in the bright autumn sun.

There really are so many different shades of blue within the conifer world. You have Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’ as an example of one of the very brightest blues, then you have the varying blue hues throughout the range of cultivars of Blue Colorado spruce from the good strong blues of ‘Fat Albert’, ‘Montgomery’, ‘St. Mary’s Broom’, and ‘Procumbens’ in forms that stretch from full-sized, large trees, to small dwarfs and ground covers – all in peaceful, calming, hues of blue. Then there are the blue-greens such as,  ‘Roundabout’ or ‘Waldbrunn’ whose color is not the bright blue of those mentioned before, nor can these selections be considered to be simply, green.

Picea pungens 'St. Mary's Broom'
Picea pungens ‘St. Mary’s Broom’ is an excellent, small dwarf conifer, perfect for almost any type of garden.
Picea pungens 'St. Mary's Broom'
The needles of ‘St. Mary’s Broom’ (and essentially all forms of Blue Spruce) are actually green. They are covered with a fine, waxy substance that gives the plants foliage a blue hue.

And that’s just a few selections of Picea pungens (Colorado spruce). There are other wonderfully hardy spruce that can add to the blue pallet of your garden.

Picea omorika 'Nana'
Looking up into the foliage Picea omorika ‘Nana’ shows off the bi-colored foliage of this beautiful cone-shaped tree.

Other spruce species also produce exciting blue hues. Picea omorika (Serbian spruce) has several cultivars with wonderful bi-colored needles that give the plants a silvery-blue-gray appearance from a distance – some appear more blue than others, but all seem to shimmer in the autumn. ‘Nana’ is a somewhat large growing dwarf with annual growth of about six inches, growing into a full, compact silvery, blue-green cone-shaped small tree.

Picea sitchensis ‘Silberzwerg’ is a beautiful silvery-blue selection of the Sitka spruce. Vigorous and yet very compact, its thin, sharp needles are bi-colored with the same kind of waxy coating that covers the undersides of needles in several conifer species and totally covering the needles of the Blue Colorado spruce varieties.

Picea sitchensis 'Silberzwerg'
Like P.o. ‘Nana’, Picea sitchensis ‘Silberzwerg’ has bi-colored foliage that gives the plant its blue hue..

These are just of few of the blue hues available for year-round color. All of these selections are cold hardy and will do well in the greater area of the USA and Canada. Of course, there are excellent blues to be found in selections of Cedrus, Chamaecyparis, Cupressus, Juniperus, Pinus and Tsuga that may also extend into our more southern climates.

The more I think about it, the more I believe there just isn’t any reason that gardens all over the country shouldn’t be filled with conifers, large to small, providing, structure, texture, wildlife habitat and year-round color.

Conifer Lover

12 thoughts on “Blue’s hues

  1. I took a plant ID class where the textbook was actually “Gardening With Conifers,” by Adrian Bloom. Living in the Pacific Northwest, it seemed all I ever saw were towering conifers–street or park trees. His book introduced me to compact and dwarf varieties and I am hooked!


  2. Hi Ed, What a plethora of colorful conifers you’ve offered us today. I was at the nursery the other day looking for conifers for a client and saw the most amazing Wichita Blue juniper. The color was almost silver and it had this great vase shape. it really was like a beacon set against all the green conifers.


  3. Hello Ed,
    I am a newbie and am thrilled to find this blog. I live in central Massachusetts and just
    don’t feel browsing at the retail garden centers is enough. Where and how can I learn
    as much as possible about conifers? I have just ordered Mr. Bloom’s “Gardening
    with Conifers” book. Thank you.


    1. Hi Jane – I’m thrilled you’ve found us and you have a passion to learn more about conifers! One great place to get started is The American Conifer Society website. There you will find valuable information about conifers and the group. I highly recommend membership. Another great place to learn is over at The Conifer forum at The Garden Web. A lot of great people hang out there and talk, conifers! The Iseli Nursery website is full of pictures of conifers and other exciting garden plants and has a ton of information. Of course, you could sit back with your favorite beverage, near a warm fire, and read the archives right here.


  4. Hello Mr. Remsrola,
    I am delighted to find your response. I love the Iseli website and go there often.
    I am a new member of the American Conifer Society having just ten days ago sent in my
    membership registration. I will be actively pursuing this as I can feel it is a long suppressed
    passion just waiting to burst forth. About the Iseli Nursery, it is very tough to select plants
    there based upon photos and find them in the retail marketplace. I am not saying they are
    not there. It’s just that there is no way to go directly from the Iseli web site to a retailer who
    actually has the same plants for sale. I have tried to do this many times without success.
    Very frustrating. Perhaps, as I become more acquainted with the American Conifer Society
    website and The Conifer Forum, I will learn how to move from designing and dreaming to purchasing. I have actually drawn, colored and cut out truly proportionate plant combinations
    only to discover I can’t find them to purchase. I want a career in this field! Thank you.
    Jane Elisabeth Titcomb, Central Massachusetts, Zone 5B


    1. Hi Jane, I always encourage folks to get to know their independent garden center owners/buyers and make special order requests. I know of many people having great success with this strategy. Plus it’s great to get to know the local folks that you do business with.


  5. Good advice. I do have one more comment to share: I wonder if Iseli might put combinations together at their web site to simplify the design part of the selection process for those of us
    who labor over it with neither the education nor training. This would be absolutely wonderful.


  6. It’s funny, I’ve never had much of an affinity for conifers before, but last summer I got a picea englemanni ‘Blue Magoo’ and I fear I might be hooked. It’s just a baby and it will be years before Mr. Magoo reaches his full potential, but I do love it. And while I’m discovering the wonderful variety of conifers that are out there, I will say I have a soft spot for the beautiful blues. Wonderful examples in this post.


    1. Hi Erin – ‘Blue Magoo’ looks like a delightful conifer – I do not recall ever seeing one in person, though the pics I’ve seen look great. I’m thrilled that you are catching the conifer bug!


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