Creeping Creepers

I love autumn. After the very long, dry and warm spring and summer of 2018, I am very thankful and encouraged by the recent transition to our cooler, misty, gray days and intermittent rain showers. We may only receive a week or two of relief from the dry weather. While the local weather soothsayer ensures that our autumn will return to dry and sunny conditions, this native born Oregonian is enjoying the cool, gray mist and the ground-soaking rain showers that we have received the past several days.

Pinus banksiana 'Schoodic'
Pinus banksiana ‘Schoodic’

Certainly one of my favorite aspects of the autumn season is all the delightful colors that our gardens and native trees begin to exhibit. Not far from my home, the local community college planted a long row of deciduous trees that explode into a widely varying array of bright red, yellow, burgundy, purple and orange. I believe the trees must have been a horticultural school experiment and we are now enjoying this delightful array of color from a batch of American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) seedlings propagated 30 to 40 years ago. The resulting seedlings were planted along one of the main – once rural – hi-ways, moving traffic North and South through this, now, growing urban setting.

Pinus sylvestris 'Albyn Prostrata'
Pinus sylvestris ‘Albyn Prostrata’

Along with the inevitable change of season and its invigorating color-show, comes the season of spooks and creepy stories of ghosts and ghouls and the downright fun of Halloween with children dressed in their favorite spooky costumes. It won’t be long and we will see scores of creeping creepers in the neighborhood, laughing their way from door to door as participating folks greet the kids with handfuls of delectable Treats to ward off the chance of some unfortunate Trick being played on them.

Pinus sylvestris 'Hillside Creeper'
Pinus sylvestris ‘Hillside Creeper’

Some of my favorite conifers just happen to be creeping creepers themselves.

A few very rugged and hardy creepers for the garden include the pines: Pinus banksiana ‘Schoodic’, Pinus sylvestris ‘Albyn Prostrata’ and Pinus sylvestris ‘Hillside Creeper’. These pines are hardy to Zones 2, 3 and 4 respectively and vary in color from rich green to shades of bluish-green. All three of these creeping selections are vigorous growers while being easy to maintain in a small garden space if needed. Growing low to the ground, they will each, very slowly, begin to mound in layers upon themselves, slowly gaining in height. Each will spread in the garden, flowing around rocks, garden ornaments or other plants with only the occasional pruning needed to help guide them on their way. If the gardener desires increased height, each of these selections respond well to being raised a foot or two (or three) upon a bamboo stake and then allowed to continue on their way. The creative gardener may choose to create waves with their creeping conifers for increased interest.

Other choice selections for adding hardy and colorful, ground-covering waves of creeping fun in the garden are:

Of course, I could add a bounty of creeping Junipers to this list, but I think those might be best reserved to a future post. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the creepy creepers creeping their way through your neighborhood in the near future and for those special colorful creepers at your local independent garden centers!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

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Some things are worth waiting for

First off, my apologies for my long absence. After a number of life-changing events,  I believe I have returned to the place where I may resume my humble addition to the gardening world.

In my absense, I find the world of gardening has not slowed down at all and there are a great number of exciting new plants that I will want to share with you here in my blog. Of course, there are new conifers to admire and covet, as well as further additions to the hardy Jack Frost® and Pacific Rim® maples to share.

This post, I find that I am driven to present a new dwarf Hinoki Cypress that was first introduced by my friends at Iseli Nursery a few years ago. I call it “new” since it is still relatively unknown and is certainly worthy of greater attention.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Thoweil'
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweil’

Many gardeners are familiar with the standard Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) for its rich green color and somewhat feathery or lacy foliage. It can be grown as a stately single specimen or utilized in pairs or groups for a formal garden appeal. This Japanese forest tree became popular in western gardens well over one hundred years ago and has been the parent to thousands of dwarf, colorful and very unique new cultivars. Some of my very favorite dwarf conifers have their parentage in Chamaecyparis obtusa and were selected as unusual seedling offspring or witch’s broom mutations and then propagated, creating generations of identical clones with the special characteristics of their unique parents.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweil’ was named by the late Ed Rezek, an east coast conifer aficionado, in honor of two Dutch plants-men, Thom Delange and Weil Linnsen, hence, “ThoWeil.”

With so many dwarf and unusual cultivars of Hinoki Cypress already in cultivation and in the trade, one may wonder why we would need another variation. This, of course, is a very valid point and something the creative minds at Iseli are always considering when they choose to produce a new plant. “What makes this one different or better than the many other selections already on the market?”

In the case of ‘Thoweil’, it fulfills a need in today’s gardens where other conifers simply do not. Many people love the look—the stately upright habit—of the standard Hinoki Cypress. It is a beautiful tree. These days, most of us simply do not have the room in our gardens to enjoy it in its peak of beauty, nor do we tend to have ancestors living in our same estate for generations to enjoy the trees that we plant (and certainly few have any idea what trees their great-grand parents may have planted – or even where they may have lived).

With ‘Thoweil’ and its slow, yet vigorous growth rate, not only may we enjoy a beautiful garden tree in our own lifetime, but we may enjoy the fact that it is scaled perfectly in our smaller, 21st century gardens. But that’s not all! ‘Thoweil’ has a growth habit that can be encouraged to grow as either a unique sculptural form, or as a formal form, with just a little directional pruning of branches when the tree is young.

Its rich, dark green, small, densely formed foliage fills out its branches covering the plant and filling in its space. Some branches may be allowed to grow outward in naturally erratic directions to bring the overall tree into a natural sculptural form. If desired, the erratic branches may be trimmed to encourage the tree into a narrow form. Either way, the tree is also a slow enough grower, that it could even be enjoyed on the deck or patio for many years in a decorative container.

At first look, the prospective gardener may think this is just another Hinoki, but when one looks beyond a first glance, one may see the beauty and real treasure that ‘Thoweil’ could be in today’s gardens.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

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.

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