Last weekend we had a beautiful dry day that was not otherwise filled with commitments so that we could spend it in the garden! I had a fair amount of weeding to complete before the next wave of rain storms would prevent me from having the motivation required to tackle the task. I grabbed my hoe, plugged a gardening playlist into my ears, and worked briskly enough to generate the internal warmth necessary to overcome the shortcomings of the late winter sun. Before too long I had worked my way through at least half of my garden beds and decided that my heart rate had been accelerated long enough to satisfy my primary care physician, so I cleaned up and took my wife out on a garden center date.
One of the great things about being married for most of our lives, we have come to the point that pretty much any outing that we both enjoy can be considered a date. We still sit close on the old pickup bench seat, we still hold hands as we walk through the parking lot, and we still love to spend time in the local independent garden centers together.
Being early in the season, I was not sure what I might expect to find as far as conifers go, but I was confident that my wife would find a few pansies, and other early season flowers to dress up her flower-box along our front walk. Much to my surprise, my favorite garden center had already received a new delivery of dwarf conifers. Since this was my first “official” visit to the garden center this year, I had plenty of funds in my new conifer acquisition budget, which was a good thing since I did find a few things that I couldn’t allow to remain at the garden center.
My first find was quite a surprise since I had been admiring this cultivar for a number of years, but until now I hadn’t seen it locally available. Picea abies ‘Hildburghausen’ is a fantastic dwarf Norway spruce with a compact, globe-shaped habit when young. Eventually it begins to form a central leader and develops into a conical shape. I love the very small, dark green foliage, the big, fat buds and its branching pattern gives a unique texture to the overall appearance.
My next find was, Picea abies ‘Barryi’, which is a very slow-growing, cone-shaped dwarf with short, dark green needles. When young, it has a somewhat irregular looking coarse texture, but it ages into an elegant pyramid. I’ve had ‘Barryi’ on my list for a quite a long time, but when I saw it playing the cello on the cover of the Iseli Nursery catalog a few years ago, I knew I had to find one for my garden!
Finally, I found a very cool dwarf conifer called Picea omorika ‘Minima’. This cultivar is another that I have wanted ever since I saw it planted in the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden. Slower growing with smaller, thinner needles than Picea omorika ‘Nana’, a tree I’ve mentioned in the past, it has a similar color and texture but in a much more compact form. I have only seen this plant growing in the shape of a perfect sphere, but I suspect that it may eventually begin to form a leader and become a very broad pyramid. The oldest specimen that I have seen is close to 20 years old and it retains its globe shape. I love the two toned needles giving the plant a silvery-bluish-green color and it will look great planted near my bright yellow Juniperus horizontalis ‘Motherlode’.
May spring arrive with its fresh warmth to your location soon. In the meantime, our cold rains have returned (with a promise of sunshine in the future forecast).