The dream becomes reality

Over the past several years I have mentioned in these pages a line of new, hybrid, hardy Asian maples being developed by my friends at Iseli Nursery. I have heard from some of you in the comments here, or in other social media, how excited you are to be able to add this kind of elegant beauty to your colder, northern climates. I know some of you managed to get your hands on very early releases of North Wind® and you have had great success with these superb garden trees.

Jack Frost® logoThe Jack Frost® collection is a series of hybrid cultivars selected for their beauty as well as their ability to withstand the harsh winters of our colder North American regions where, until now, trees of this elegance were non-existent.

The dream began back in the 1990s when Iseli Nursery initiated their research with the Korean maple, Acer pseudosieboldianum. Their hybrid program began in 1997 when they worked to specifically cross pollinate cultivars of Japanese maple, Acer palmatum with older specimens of the Korean maples. 1998 was the year that seedlings began to be selected and numbered for evaluation. This process continues even as selected cultivars begin to make it to market through local independent garden retailers.

Acer x pseudosieboldianum North Wind®('IslNW')
North Wind® explodes into a blaze of autumn color.

I spent some time on the phone with my good friend, Alan Craig, one of Iseli Nursery’s reps in the Midwest. He was one of the first to plant and evaluate these new Jack Frost®  maples in his own Zone 4 garden. Mr. Craig received plants in 2007 and they hardly had time to become established in his eastern Iowa garden when the arctic cold-snap of 2009 hit. That year was possibly the coldest on record in the area with winter temperature as low as -32°F. Imagine his excitement when he found his North Wind® to come through that winter without a blemish! The following spring brought a full and beautiful foliar display and the tree continues to thrive in both the summer heat and humidity as well as the typical frigid winter season.

Acer x pseudosieboldianum North Wind®('IslNW')
Green summer foliage is highlighted with bright red samaras through the “green” season.

One observation that Mr. Craig mentioned about North Wind’s® hardiness that is particularly useful and important is they “are less prone to surprise cold snaps in fall and spring” during a time when potentially soft, end-of-season or early-season growth stems could be damaged.

I have heard that Japanese Beetle can be troublesome in the Midwest. Mr. Craig noted that although he has seen Japanese Beetle in his area, he has never seen any on his North Wind® maple. He is quick to admit that his observation is certainly not hard science, it is simply his experience to date. Certainly something to keep in mind!

Click an image below for a larger view.

Acer x pseudosieboldianum North Wind®(‘IslNW’) is the flagship in Iseli’s Jack Frost® collection of hardy Asian maples. Other new introductions include Arctic Jade® which is another upright grower with large green leaves that turn to rich reds, orange and purple in autumn, and the first weeping, lace-leaf form to be introduced, Ice Dragon®. Both of these selections are also tested cold hardy to Zone 4! I will provide more information regarding these two selections in a future blog post.

Ed-
Conifer Lover (and maples too)

Ps, I have been assured that all of these exciting, new, Jack Frost®  maples will be making their way into more and more independent garden centers through 2017/18 and beyond!

Pps, Thanks to Alan Craig for sharing the photos of North Wind® in his eastern Iowa garden.

Advertisements

Looking for something Primo!

There is something very exciting about this spring. I’m looking forward to seeing my favorite garden centers fill up with all kinds of fresh new plants. From colorful annuals for some of the patio pots to colorful conifers for around the overall landscape and for use in patio containers.

Thuja-occidentalis-Primo-IslPrim
Primo™ Arborvitae is an exciting new dwarf conifer.

You know I love the miniature and dwarf conifers and it’s always a thrill to discover what new items are arriving at the local garden center. One plant on my list is a very new introduction to the nursery trade. Some lucky folks were able to pre-order early release plants through membership in the American Conifer Society.

Thuja-occidentalis-Primo-IslPrim-tall
A small amount of pruning can encourage Primo™ to grow into a very slender form.

The society annually selects a couple of conifers as their Collector’s Conifers of the Year and Thuja occidentalis Primo (‘IslPrim’) was one selected for 2017. I don’t expect to find this “primo” little plant yet, but I am certainly going to keep my eyes open at every garden center I visit!

Primo originated out of a batch of Thuja occidentalis ‘Zmatlik’ seedlings. ‘Zmatlik’ has dense, unusually coarse textured foliage on a narrow, medium-fast growing tree. It is very useful as a garden screen and is hardy into Zone 3! Primo was selected out of thousands of seedlings due to its very coarse and curious foliage. Over the years of pre-release observation, it was noted that with a small amount of pruning, Primo could be very easily maintained as a narrow, small spire. When left to grow naturally, each individual plant will grow very slowly into its own sculptural form.

I am so excited about this new introduction—even if I need to wait another year, this cool little conifer will be worth the wait, and I will very likely have just the right place prepared for it to be planted.

Good hunting (conifers)!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

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.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Colorful conifers for good health and well-being

We have just recently returned to Pacific Standard Time with our clocks falling back an hour, and even though I have allegedly gained an hour of sleep, I am already feeling the effect of shorter daylight hours. I love the summer when the sun usually wakes me up around 5:30am and finally puts me to rest after 9:30pm. Those long, bright days are truly energizing. Our recent Fall Back, hit me like a ton of topsoil and I’ve been dragging through the past couple of days.

Then, today it hit me—it’s time to start making plans for holiday decorating!

I love to make wreaths, and my wife loves hanging them both indoors and out! We recently made some major progress in organizing our garage which resulted in my having a place for my, “You’re not going to make a mess in my house” projects like holiday wreath making, candle making, whittling and carving. That is perfectly okay with me, now that I have a nice warm space to work on my projects.

wreath
Here is one wreath I crafted in 2015. I am so looking forward to getting started this season!

One of my first projects will certainly be making wreaths for the holiday season. Conifers are perfect for this craft because of their very wide-ranging assortment of foliage colors, textures, and even their scents. One of the comments I hear when folks visit during the holidays is how fresh and “Christmasy” the house smells. I’m certain that conifers play a big role in those comments (as well as my wife’s “Swill” she has warming on the stove through the holidays).

I love to create my wreaths with an assortment of conifer foliage. I will often begin with something simple like our native, dark green, Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas Fir) or the glossy green sprays of Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar) or Calocedrus decurrens (Incense Cedar). As I work my way around the wreath, the real fun begins as I begin to include other complimentary and/or contrasting color elements.

wreathfoliage
Just a small sample of some of the foliage I prepared for my wreath-making in 2015. Now that I’ll have a larger workspace, I hope to make several new wreaths this holiday season!

For bright powder blue color, I love to use Cupressus glabra ‘Blue Pyramid’ or a splash of Picea pungens ‘Hoopsi’ . When I want to add a flash of bright yellow, I love to use Cupressus glabra ‘Aurea’, Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’ or C. pisifera ‘Golden Mop’. Of course each of these selections add their own unique texture and aromatic presence to the piece. Variegated conifers such as Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa Variegata’ or C. ob.‘Snowkist’ add a delightful zing as well. For a softer texture, Pinus strobus ‘Macopin’, P. s. ‘Louie’ and the variegated Pinus parviflora ‘Ogon Janome’ are delightful choices.

If you have never made your own wreath before, I want to encourage you to take the time. It is a very fun and relaxing (even meditative) project that yields tons of smiles and happiness in those who visit. I always make several and give a few away to neighbors and loved ones. It’s always fun to spread the cheer!

Yes, now that I have fresh new wreath-making ideas flowing, my back seems to hurt a little less and I seem to have a spring to my step that has been missing for several days. Thanks to the therapeutic power of conifers!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Happy November!

happynovemeber-2016My goodness, how time has flown by this year! So much to do, so little time to complete it all. Sometimes I need to remember to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful life I have all around me.

We are already in the fall of the year. Time has brought us round to where things seem to slow down (at least for a little while) if for no other reason than the old bones just move more slowly as cold temperatures and gray rains replace the warmth and life-giving spring and summer months.

I hope you are all enjoying what you can of the amazing transformation going on, as trees become a blaze of color, and leaves fall to cover the ground in colorful carpets. Soon, around my area, we’ll have many more hours of darkness than light and the light we do get will mostly be dimmed by the thick cover of clouds and rain. I look forward to the surprise, energizing days when the sun does manage to shine in the coming winter months and I can putter around out in the new, developing garden.

In the mean time, I’ll be considering all kinds of new conifers to include in my garden. When I come across something exciting, I’ll be sure to share it with you on these pages.

Stay warm!

Ed-
Conifer Lover