Leaving the past, pondering the future

An amazing single specimen, I’d like to plant several Picea glauca ‘Pendula’ in a mixed plant hedgerow.

Ordinarily this time of year, when the cold east wind blows or the cold gray rains fall in a steady flow from the sky, I find myself in my favorite chair near the woodstove, enjoying my garden from the view of the large picture window. This year, I have been busily moving to a new temporary home which has also forced me to spend some time with my containers, carefully transporting them to a new location. As I am moving and loading and unloading these many coniferous friends, I find myself thinking about what has been, and more importantly, what is to come. I have been making a mental list of what dwarf conifers I currently have to begin my new garden, and I am making a list of those conifers I will definitely want to replace one day when I have a place to begin to dig in the soil again.

Over the years I have had an opportunity to select a number of very unique dwarf and miniature conifer seedlings which are coming with me. These are real treasures to me since I selected them many years ago and have nurtured them along the way, carefully monitoring their needs and evaluating their unique traits. Other plants in my collection of containers are less rare but still of great value to me. The past several years I was able to increase my conifer collection through the propagation process of winter grafting. My small hobby greenhouse was perfectly suited for the task and I had great success adding to my collection and making new plants to give away to friends.

Taking mental inventory of my containerized conifer collection, I realize that I will have a good beginning when I find a place to create a garden once again. Some of my favorites are conifers that I think everyone should have in their garden. For example, most any garden has space for Picea glauca ‘Pendula’. This very tall growing conifer remains very narrow and even after thirty years or more in the garden, it may attain 30 feet in height, but will have a diameter of only about six feet where it meets the ground. I absolutely love the way it looks like a giant tapered candle with wax dribbling down its sides. I would love to plant three to five of these spaced with about 15 to 20 feet between them in a hedge row. I would then fill in the spaces with other conifers to create a multi-level, multi-colored and textured garden wall.

Very slow growing, Picea orientalis ‘Tom Thumb’ is a colorful miniature conifer for small spaces.

On the other end of the scale, Picea orientalis ‘Tom Thumb’ is a very slow growing conifer of equal favor. This small, mounding spruce has tiny golden-yellow needles covering its short, stiff, twiggy branches. This one I will want to protect from the intense afternoon summer sun, but for its best color I will want to place it where it will receive many hours of sunlight. I will plan to place this with other miniature conifers in a special location where I can prominently display the appealing features of these small-scale plants.

The spring flush of new grow on Picea pungens ‘Niemetz’ is a real attention grabber!

One last spruce to mention this time is Picea pungens ‘Niemetz’. This one begins somewhat slowly, but once established, it can grow into a full-sized Colorado spruce tree. Its amazing feature is its stunning color. When it begins to push its new growth in spring, the color is bright butter-cream which shines brightly against its older gray-blue foliage. Over the months, as spring transitions into summer, the creamy color fades to a very soft blue and eventually hardens to the light gray-blue of autumn and winter. I will want to place this tree where it can be a showpiece in the spring and summer while keeping in mind that it will probably need to be a background tree due to its ultimate size.

As the perspiration runs down the side of my face, and with memories of a garden gone by, I have exciting times to ponder with the possibility of new gardens yet to grow.

Conifer Lover

4 thoughts on “Leaving the past, pondering the future

  1. Dear Ed, all the best with your move and the plans and Happy 2015! Over more than a year you’ve been an inspiration with your thought and ideas and the photos what you have been sharing, thank you for that!
    We’re making a conifer bed and whilst I have found pine-trees and junipers to fit and match what I want to do, I am yet to find a miniature picea that would be happy in alkaline clay that we have, even though I try to modify the soil, realistically it’s what it is. I have plenty of blues and darker greens so I am after a proper green or green/yellow plant. if you have a minute (I know how busy moving can be) would you have a think about my question? I will understand if you do not, though
    Kinderst regards, Natasha


    1. Hi Natasha – Thank you so much! I do not have experience with alkaline soils, being in the pacific northwest, my soils have always naturally been on the acidic side. I do have some friends with experience, so I will ask around and see what I can discover. As an alternative, you might consider popping into the Conifer forum at The Garden Web (link to the right). Lots of helpful folks there with experience in all kinds of soil conditions.


  2. Wow… I’ve often wondered how the experience of moving on to new gardening challenges would feel… it must be very difficult and exciting all at the same time… best of luck in your new homes and gardens. I love the photo of Niemetz… I have a graft in a container and am excited about it’s future. Unfortunately my Tom Thumb (which was good sized and expensive as well) died within a month of planting… I just couldn’t seem to get the water right for some reason although placement was good. You probably know that I am in love with glauca ‘Pendula’ as well and now have at least eight or nine in the gardens… can’t actually remember which number is correct right now! Enjoy the changes you are experimenting with… Larry


    1. It’s funny, Larry, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have a garden for thirty or forty years to watch mature and evolve as trees grow and plants need to be relocated or removed. You might consider trying ‘Tom Thumb’ as a container plant (if you have a protected place for over-wintering your containers).


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