We enjoyed hosting some family at our home over the Thanksgiving holiday. It had been quite a while since we had been able to host some of these folks so we were all very happy that the pouring rain of the previous days leading up to the big weekend had stopped and we were all able to enjoy a late autumn stroll through my garden.
As we followed along the garden paths, I was pleased to hear the expected “Ooos” and “Ahhhs” with the occasional, “What’s that!” One of my brother-in-law’s seemed particularly pleased with himself as he pointed to every weed and asked, “What’s the name of this one”. I think he was surprised when I actually knew their botanical name and he quieted down after I had recited a few.
Of course late autumn is not the best time to show off one’s garden, but the conifer garden was no slouch and with the assortment of color, size, shape and texture in my garden, there were many items which drew attention. People are almost always amazed when I point out a particularly small conifer and then tell them that it is nearly twenty years old. This group was becoming used to hearing that and by the time we came to one faster growing, and ultimately larger tree, they were surprised that it was one of the younger specimens in my garden.
I first began to describe to my guests that although Picea orientalis ‘Aureospicata’ has dark green foliage right now, when it begins to push its new spring growth next year, it will be bright lemon yellow! Like many flowering trees that explode with bright color in springtime, this conifer blooms its bright yellow foliage, but rather than dissipate in just a week or two like many flowering trees, ‘Aureospicata’ holds its yellow color for a couple of months as it slowly darkens to the green color that we enjoy this time of year.
Of course, I must mention here, as I did to the guests of my little tour, the bright yellow new foliage is not the only feature which emerges in spring and adds to the year-round value of this tree. Early every spring, bright purplish pink pollen cones begin to swell – even before the new yellow foliage display. These tiny cones do not last long, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for them. Just after the pollen cones emerge, the new seed-bearing cones will begin to develop. These female cones are also a very striking purplish color that become darker and darker as the cones mature through the summer months. Eventually, they begin to dry and turn a golden brown as autumn sets in, leaving ornaments hanging on the tree into winter. Here in the Pacific Northwest, our winter rain, wind and ice storms will tend to knock most of these cones off of the tree, cleaning it for a fresh new batch of garden ornaments in the coming spring.
‘Aureospicata’ will become a large tree in time. Mine is located where it has plenty of room to grow and become a featured specimen in my front garden. Long after I am gone, this majestic tree should continue to bring delight to generations of folks in the years to come.