I was puttering around in the little wooded corner of my lot the other day. While there, I heard the neighbor dogs begin to bark in the fashion which I have learned means that their masters have arrived home. I could see Mrs. Neighbor climb out of her SUV, greet her happy dogs and immediately roll a wheel barrow to the back end of her vehicle. That behavior, I presumed, would lead to an assortment of new plants being unloaded and a fun day of planting was ahead for her.
I walked over to the fence and gave a little wave as she turned and caught my eye. “Hi Ed!” she called out, “I’ve brought home some new color for my fall displays – wanna’ come see?”
That was all I needed and I began to make my way over the low fence which stands between our wild-garden and their front driveway. “Looks like you’re all set for autumn, all right” I said as I approached her nearly full first load, “Let’s see, looks like, mums and asters and pansies and… What’s this, a conifer?”
Turning a slight shade of red, “You caught me!” she said and quickly followed with, “Well, you see this one is such a bright yellow color, and it fits in with my color scheme – besides, you always tell me that conifers are easy to grow and low-maintenance… and it was on sale!”
“I am so happy that you have decided to add a colorful conifer to your autumn display, but… I do believe there is a reason that this particular specimen was on sale.”
“I saw the bright yellow color and thought you’d be thrilled to see I picked a conifer.”
“Yes, I am… it’s just…”
“It’s just that this particular conifer is supposed to be blue.”
What my friend had found “on sale” at the big-box garden center was a terribly stressed and neglected Blue Star Juniper which had actually turned a surprisingly yellow color. She did get a great price, and the plant might survive, but it will definitely require some extra care to nurse it back to health.
Deciding that it would cost more in fuel to drive back to the store for a refund than she paid for this bargain plant, my friend opted to consider it a one-season addition to her autumn decorations. I smiled and carefully crawled back over the fence, grabbed my favorite chair, carried it out to the middle of my garden and enjoyed all of the beautiful seasonal color that my healthy conifers and companion plants provide. I sat back happily enjoying the late summer sun without the need to dig out old and tired plants and replace them with new seasonal color.
Conifers truly are the most reliable, most colorful, least labor intensive way to enjoy year-round color, texture and form in the garden.