Having a close association with the good folks at Iseli Nursery, I have the opportunity to make regular visits to the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden which surrounds the main office. This garden was in the early planning stages near the end of Jean’s life and the full design and construction of “stage one” was completed shortly after his death in 1986. Since that time, the garden has matured and expanded as new areas are designed and built. One of the largest expansions occurred in 2008 when the “West Garden” was added. That was the time when I first took notice of the amazing dwarf fir which is the subject of today’s blog.
Native to the mountains of Japan, Abies veitchii is a forest tree with a long history of use in the creation of small tools and utility items as well as in construction, paper products, and occasionally as an ornamental tree in the landscape. Over the years, dwarf mutations have been discovered and propagated, making their way to conifer collectors and gardening enthusiasts around the world. The one I am featuring today is a cultivar called, ‘Heddergott’ which was discovered in 1970 by Heddergott Nursery in Germany.
One of the features of Abies veitchii is its bright white undersides to the green needles, which accounts for one of the tree’s common names, Heddergott Veitch Fir. The dwarf cultivar, ‘Heddergott’ shows off this stunning feature quite readily due a number of its needles which turn or twist, exposing their brilliant, bright white undersides so that from whatever angle you might view the plant, there are rows of perfectly aligned needles shining brightly in your direction. This pattern repeats itself across the plant, in varying angles due to the low, irregular branching habit of this slow-growing, densely clothed plant.
When young, its form reminds me of a silver cloaked hedgehog, but with age it should develop into more of a vase-shaped plant. Occasional pruning of more dominant growth can help guide the plant to remain in more of a globe-shaped form if one desires. Rated as hardy into Zone 4, this stunning, small garden conifer performs best in moist, well-drained soil. In the Pacific Northwest, it is thriving in a full sun location, but in harsher climates with longer and higher-heat summers, it might be a good idea to provide some dappled shade to prevent sun scorch – at least until it becomes well-rooted into its new home.
I plan to get my hands on one of these beauties as soon as I can. Since it grows just four to six inches per year, I think I’ll start with a small one that I can grow in a container on my patio for a few years. I’m confident that it will inspire many oooos and ahhhs from our guests. Then, when it has some size, I’ll find a prominent location where it’s bright, shimmering presence will command attention – perhaps near a dark green dwarf pine and a deep red Japanese maple.
May your garden grow more peaceful every day!