Back to the garden!

My goodness, we have been in the midst of quite a few frozen weeks of winter! I know my friends from the Midwest and further east will roll their eyes at me, but we have had several weeks of freezing temperatures – in a row! This rarely happens in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest, and although I love a nice, fluffy snowstorm, I am very glad that we are past the weeks of below freezing temperatures and all the freezing rain (and snow). Today we are supposed to jump up to a high temp. in the mid-40s!

“I prefer to give this beauty an annual shearing, like my neighbor does her sheep—but without all the kicking, baying and ticks.”

You would think being nearly ice-bound for a couple of weeks would have given me plenty of time to make a blog post, but, somehow, I am just now in the right mindset to think about gardening again – and I am soooo ready for spring!

This young Tsuga canadensis 'Gentsch White' has had very little shearing and is showing more of its natural, open habit.
This young Tsuga canadensis ‘Gentsch White’ has had very little shearing and is showing more of its natural, open habit. This plant is showing its beautiful white foliage near the end of the growing season.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a very lovely dwarf Canadian hemlock lately. I have added this plant to several gardens that I have grown, designed or consulted on over the years and it is one I will definitely find a place for in my new garden.

Tsuga canadensis ‘Gentsch White’ is a very bushy dwarf hemlock with long thin branches that are lined with small, flat, blunt needles. The new foliage, as it emerges, is a very bright, creamy white – sometimes with a light pinkish highlight until it hardens off. As the season progresses, older foliage fades to green, which adds to the beautiful effect of this colorful conifer. In time, and when left to grow naturally, ‘Gentsch White’ will develop into quite a large, rounded, shrubby bush. Very easy to shear, I prefer to give this beauty an annual shearing, like my neighbor does her sheep—but without all the kicking, baying and ticks. With an annual shearing, ‘Gentsch White’ is easily maintained in a manageable size for the garden and its colorful effect is enhanced as the shearing encourages a fuller form for all of that white variegated foliage.

This specimen several years older than the above and has received an annual shearing for many years. This photo shows a plant several weeks after its annual spring shearing,
This specimen is several years older than the previous photo and has received an annual shearing for many years. This photo shows the plant several weeks after its annual spring shearing.

I have seen smaller plants, maintained for many years by shearing, and I have seen very large plants that may have been sheared when young, but had not been for many years before I witnessed them. If one has the garden space, in an informal, natural-type garden, one may enjoy allowing ‘Gentsch White’ to simply do its own thing. Those larger specimens were still very impressive and looked great and added beauty to the gardens in which they were growing. For me (and I think most folks with smaller gardens) the few minutes it takes to shear and clean-up is well worth the effort to grow and maintain this wonderful conifer in the smaller, urban garden.

Tsuga canadensis ‘Gentsch White’ has been in the marketplace for decades, and remains a popular garden plant, so you should not have any trouble finding one at your favorite independent garden center.

Conifer Lover

8 thoughts on “Back to the garden!

    1. Hi Di – I generally like to prune late winter/early spring to encourage the full season of new growth to cover all the cuts and give a full and fluffy appearance. Anytime during the growing season will work. I avoid shearing late fall and winter. Selective pruning can be done anytime.


  1. Thanks! May I ask a different question, what do you do with miniscapes when the plants get to big for the container? Or do I just prune them?
    thanks again,
    Paul Oerter – stage 5 ACS (addicted conifer syndrome) boulder CO


    1. Hi Paul – I enjoy pruning plants in my miniscapes for many years. Eventually they do outgrow their container and then I just find a place for them in the garden or repot them and give away to a neighbor.


  2. Hi Ed, I just found your blog site while researching conifers. I love your writing, and your photographs are beautiful. I am keeping a list of some of the conifers you write about to go look at in the next few weeks at the Iseli nursery. You should be their online salesman! Ha Ha! Thanks for your enthusiastic work!


  3. Hi Ed –

    I’m super jealous of your location, I live in NJ and we certainly do not get the selection of conifers you Northwesterns get! I have an unrelated question to this post and was wondering if you can help me understand something. Last spring I bought two gold cone deodars (or so I think/was sold). They are about 6-7 ft tall, blue and yellow short needles and it’s very stick-like, kinda like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I’d love you opinion on if you think they really are gold cone deodars and if they’ll actually fill out. I took pictures and I can send them to you if it would help.
    If kinda looks like the blue atlas cedar (, except it has loads of yellow/gold needles accompanying the blue ones.
    Looking for your sage wisdom!

    Kindest regards,
    Christine from NJ


    1. Hi Christine – Sorry about my delay in replying to you. Without pictures, I can only offer a couple of possibilities. First, it could be that you do indeed have a gold form of an Atlas cedar rather than deodara as you expected. It is also possible that the plants are true to name, but because of environmental stresses, the needles are not as bright as you might expect. My best suggestion is to pop in over at The Garden Web’s conifer area. You can post pictures there and the folks there love to share their knowledge. Click the link on the right to The Garden Web Forums.


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