You show me a sow’s ear, I’ll show you a silk purse

I have an itchy green thumb. It’s only February and yet, I can hardly wait to get out into my garden this year!

Jean Iseli Memorial Garden (Summer)

We have been in our place for about seven years and I still haven’t accomplished anywhere near the garden transformation that I had hoped for. So many other priorities have found their way into my life that they have been serious distractions to my garden accomplishments. Admittedly, I am certainly no longer in the “Spring Chicken” category in this journey through life and the effects of maturity on my flesh and bones do play a role in my success (or lack thereof) in the garden.

But THIS year is THE year – and I have some exciting new plants to find at my favorite local garden center.

One of those plants is one that I introduced here in this blog about five years ago:
Thuja occidentalis Primo® ’IslPrim’

Primo® Arborvitae (Summer)

There are many forms, colors, textures and growth rates to choose from within the family of plants commonly referred to as arborvitae, and Primo® is a very unique, slow-growing cultivar in that plant group. Growing just 1 to 2 inches per year, this little Thuja is not the common hedge plant that we see throughout our neighborhoods. Although, it could be very useful in that way in miniature gardens, such as railway gardens where dwarf and miniature plants are used to mimic larger trees in the scaled-down landscapes associated with the garden railway hobby.

Primo® is also a winner in the container garden on your deck or patio. It’s very slow growing, hardy and has an easy-going nature that makes it a winner for growing in containers. Like its larger cousins, Primo® responds well to pruning, and on such a small, slow-growing plant, it takes very little to encourage this beauty to remain a refined, small specimen.

Speaking of pruning, Primo® looks equally lovely when growing in a more natural-looking form with some irregular branching or, just as easily, one could choose to prune a bit more judiciously and encourage a very narrow, upright form to maintain a small garden footprint.

Primo® Arborvitae (Pruned)

Another amazing feature of Primo® is its seasonal color change. Even though I warn folks of its propensity to drastically change color from a very rich, fresh green to a plum-orange color as temperature drops in winter. More than once, when I have recommended this great little plant to folks, I would receive a phone call (or a knock at the door) from a terrified gardener who is convinced that their Primo® has suddenly died.

“No” I explain, “that is a feature—remember, I told you about this when we planted your containers.”

“Well, yes Ed, I do remember something about that, but I didn’t picture anything like this!”

Thuja occidentalis Primo® (Summer Color, Winter Color)

I think the key with some conifers that make extreme color changes in the winter is that they should be placed near companions that will accentuate and complement the winter “mahogany” color.

Believe me, I understand the shock. It is a little like listening to a nice cello concerto by Bach and then suddenly someone stops the music and plays just about anything by Art Bears! It can be quite a shock if you are not ready for it, even though, on its own, you see the merits of its peculiarity.

So, what plants might complement the winter plum-orange color of Primo®? I recommend going back to art basics and studying the color wheel (this is actually a very handy tool when planning any garden). A helpful color wheel may be found here.

Find the color of your plant on the wheel and then look around the wheel for what colors complement or contrast with that source color. Knowing that blue spruce hold their color very well through winter, and that blues and greens and even yellow-golds are contrasting to these complementary colors, the wheel can help you find plants with winter color in these hues to match up in the garden with the Primo® winter color.

I can only speak for myself, but I am getting excited about the coming gardening season!

Conifer Lover

5 thoughts on “You show me a sow’s ear, I’ll show you a silk purse

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.