During one of my last walks through the garden, before the first series of autumn rain storms hit the Pacific Northwest, I was struck by the beauty of what some might consider to be “just another evergreen tree.” The truth is, Picea abies ‘Acrocona’ is an extraordinary tree with great landscape functionality and multi-season appeal.
Possibly the most prominent feature of ‘Acrocona’ is its prolific production of cones which hang like decorative ornaments on the multiple branch ends and vary through the seasons from intensely bright pink, to purple in spring, to reddish-tinged green during the summer, an almost golden-brown in autumn and finally darker brown through the winter. During the winter, most of the mature cones will have dispersed their seed, break down and fall off of the tree. Some remnants of older cones may be visible in springtime when the first tiny, bright pink pollen cones begin to emerge, announcing that the new cycle of life is beginning.
I briefly mentioned in an earlier post about ‘Acrocona’ its unusual branching and growth habit which is most noticeable during the plant’s youth. As my tree has matured, it has become more and more beautiful with its combination of thick, vigorous branches and what appear to be smaller, weaker branches which give the tree an upright, broadly pyramidal form filled with a combination of sweeping and weeping branches.
The unusual growth habit of ‘Acrocona’ very much insures that no two trees will look exactly alike, and make them an excellent choice to use as a primary focal point in garden design. Their four full seasons of color, supplied by the rich, grass-green foliage and the ever-changing cones as they move through their annual cycle, give ‘Acrocona’ the ability to capture attention and add visual interest to a level which is available in few other plants.
I love the way the cones begin as such tiny little pink buds and grow rather quickly into large, dense, purple red cones. The appearance of the cones, dangling from the tips and along branches reminds me of a tree decorated for the Christmas holidays. As the cones grow larger and heavier, they seem to move in a dance, swaying at the ends of windswept branches. When growing in clusters, the cones will weigh down branches, pulling them from their usual upward sweeping form to a downturned direction, sometimes reaching the ground. Fortunately the branches are very flexible, and I have yet to see any remarkable breakage from either the heavy cones or wet, sloppy snow.
‘Acrocona’ is a fun tree which will provide a lifetime of enjoyment. I suggest you plant one while you are young and enjoy its playful presence for many years to come.