A promise of gold

In my corner of the Pacific Northwest, 2014 will be remembered as one of the exceptionally great weather years. I simply do not remember a better stretch of pleasant, mild, warm and sunny days. Even during the heat of our summer hot days, we rarely saw the thermometer rise above the mid-90s with most days peaking in the mid to low-80s – just perfect!

Now as we slide into the end of October, the rain has been with us for several days in a row with no real end in sight. I think for many of us native born Oregonians, this is a welcome change. As tired as we may become of the rain after five or six months of it on a daily basis, most of us do tend to welcome its return after a hot and dry summer.

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Golden Promise’ is a stunning, bright yellow, globe-shaped dwarf conifer ideal for the temperate garden.

This year our fall foliage color has been delayed when compared with years in recent memory. My photographer friend keeps an accurate photo record of the gardens at Iseli Nursery, by cataloging his photos by date. It is fairly easy for him to look back over the past decade and a half and report just when the deciduous trees began their autumn color changes, when they peaked and which trees were among the last to finally drop their leaves. For example, he has photos from early October of 2013 showing many Japanese Maples in the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden in a blaze of orange and red, while this year those very same trees have just started to show their seasonal color over the past week or so – non being near their peak of color as compared with previous years.

I am sure that weather conditions, precipitation amounts, daily temperature range and early or late frost all play a role in how and when a tree may display its autumn color. Fortunately, seasonal color in the garden is not limited to deciduous trees and shrubs.

One of the greatest advantages of using conifers in the garden is that they have the potential to provide fantastic color all year long, and some of them even change color through the seasons. One of the most colorful and most exciting conifers in my garden is a dwarf Japanese Cedar called ‘Golden Promise’. Cryptomeria japonica ‘Golden Promise’ is one of the brightest yellow conifers from spring through summer and only begins to darken a bit as it takes on a slight golden-bronze hue with the onset of colder weather in autumn or winter.

Slightly bronzed foliage from the cold winter temperatures begins to awaken as reddish-orange new foliage emerges in spring. Soon, the outer, sun-exposed foliage with brighten to fresh, lemon-yellow as older, shaded interior foliage provides a green contrast.

Once the temperature begins to rise again in spring, new growth will emerge with a hint of bronze to the tips which quickly brightens to lemon-yellow, creating one of the brightest color spots in the garden. The slow growing plant has a very tidy globe shape and never needs shearing to maintain its attractive form. Tiny, succulent needles give the bright golden globe a coarse texture.

For a promise of gold in your garden that you may rely upon year after year, ‘Golden Promise’ is rated at Zone 6 cold hardiness and is perfect for all kinds of container gardens, rock gardens, or any small space where a beautifully bright blast of color will be seen and enjoyed.

Conifer Lover

Hooray for autumn!

Where did the month of September go? It seems like it was just the Labor Day holiday weekend and here I find myself writing on the last day of September. Our summer does seem to have obeyed the calendar and the temperatures dropped and some rain showers have returned right on schedule with the beginning of autumn.

You know what that means – crisp nights, the scent of wood smoke from folks lighting the first fires of the season, apple cider, pumpkins, harvest festivals and… Fall Color!

Acer palmatum ‘Tobiohsho’ is among the first to display its fall foliage color.

This is the time of year when my conifers take a break from center stage in my garden and my Japanese Maples and other broadleaved plants begin to dazzle the eyes with their vibrant color. One of my favorite Japanese Maples for fall color is Acer palmatum ‘Tobiosho’ – one of the earliest to don its incredible array of burgundy, red and orange foliage. I know when ‘Tobiosho’ begins to turn, the others will not be far behind.

Acer palmatum ‘Omure Yama’ stands out with its brilliant orange autumn foliage.

Another spectacular sight in the autumn garden is Acer palmatum ‘Omure yama.’ With its striking, bright orange, deeply cut palmate leaves, it looks amazing near dark green conifers. A premium choice for year-round interest is Acer palmatum ‘Sherwood Flame’ which turns from dark cherry red to a much more intensely bright scarlet red in the fall.

Acer palmatum ‘Sherwood Flame’ is a winner for fantastic color.

Known for its amazing deep red color from spring through summer, Acer palmatum ‘Twombly’s Red Sentinel’ turns shades of bright scarlet while the very hardy Acer x pseudosieboldianum North Wind® (‘IslNW’) surprises as its green late summer color becomes a combination of deep, bright red and intensely rich orange.

Acer palmatum ‘Twombley’s Red Sentinel’ is truly a standout in the garden.
Acer x pseuodosieboldianum North Wind® (‘IslNW’) is a new, extremely hardy form with spectacular autumn color.

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ is one of the last to turn and will generally carry our fall color season to the end of November. Of course by then, Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ will have begun his bright golden yellow show which will persist through the winter along with other winter color conifers.

Often the tree to bring the autumn color season to a close in my garden, Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ is a favorite sight near the end of the show.

Autumn has always been a favorite season for me and no matter what happened in September, with our autumn season kicking into gear, I sense new life even as many of my garden plants are beginning to go dormant for their winter rest. As for me, I’ll be enjoying the garden in all its autumn glory and settling into my favorite chair near the woodstove with a cup of tea, anticipating the winter months ahead.

Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ begins his winter season of color just about the time that the deciduous trees and shrubs have finished their Autumn show.

Hooray for autumn!

Conifer Lover

Betrayed love

I have a confession to make. My eyes have been wandering. There are some pretty young things in town and they’ve been tempting me away from my true love.

This time of year can be a real challenge for the devoted cone-head. Ordinarily it is a very rare instance when my eyes can be drawn away from my true love of conifers. This time of year though, when the Japanese maples dress themselves in their delicious hot red and orange and yellow foliage – sigh – even the most loyal can be drawn to their seductive beauty.

Autumn foliage of Acer japonicum Vitifolium
Autumn foliage of Acer japonicum ‘Vitifolium’

Acer japonicum ‘Vitifolium’ is one of those beauties that is the most difficult to
resist in my garden right now. This shapely small tree does tempt me in the spring with its bright green fresh new foliage and tiny white flowers surrounded by red bracts. During the summer months, ‘Vitifolium’ is easier to resist as she makes a nicely textured filler in the garden. But, in the midst of autumn, she becomes a stunning beacon of seduction that I simply cannot take my eyes off of.

The autumn colors of ‘Vitifolium’ begin with golden tones that quickly brighten to yellow. Then, seemingly overnight, her intense scarlet tones will appear making her absolutely irresistible! Placed near dark green, blue or golden conifers she will boldly cry out, “Look at me!”

Yes, I feel as though I have betrayed my love because I know that ‘Vitifolium’ will not be the only seductress to tempt me away from my conifers this autumn. I will enjoy the show knowing that in just a few weeks, those beautiful colors will all be blown away or swept into the compost pile, while my conifers, my true love, will be waiting for me to return my adoration to them.

Conifer Lover

Easily distracted

I climbed out of bed this morning and began my regular routine when suddenly it hit me, it’s the middle of October! I know they say time goes faster as you grow older, but at this rate the years will fly by at the speed of months and I’ll be 90 before I know it! As I shook the sleep out of my foggy skull, I also realized that the joys of autumn are upon us.

There is something very special about autumn. I’m not sure if it is the crisp cool air, the scent of apple cider and wood stove smoke or the sight of pumpkins and scarecrows and witches, oh my! Whatever it is, I really love autumn.

Wait a minute – I know what it is – it’s the intense color of fall foliage!

Acer shirasawanum Aureum in the autumn garden
Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ in the autumn garden

Today, I need to share with you a very special small tree called the Golden Full Moon Maple or Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’. This native of Japan is a sturdy tree hardy to Zone 5 with very bright yellow new foliage in spring. The new leaves look soft and delicate. As they mature, the leaves will develop a rich golden yellow tone and in some climates, may actually sunburn just a little. Planting the tree where it will receive some protection from hot afternoon sun is a good idea. As autumn arrives, the yellow leaves begin to transform into bright golden yellow then orange and finally a blend of intense reds. The show is spectacular and can last for several weeks. I noticed this morning that mine is just showing the first signs of turning.

Autumm foliage colors
Autumn foliage colors

Ordinarily my focus is on my conifers, but this time of year I am easily distracted by the explosion of color provided by my collection of Japanese Maples. I have a feeling, I’ll be sharing more of these with you in the coming weeks

Conifer Lover