Getting into the holiday mood

This time of year, with the deciduous trees nearly bare from our recent cold wind storm, crisp, cold temperatures and the winter holidays on their way, I can’t help but begin to become excited. In the USA, our Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner, and for me, that means spending time surrounded by some of the people I love. It also means that it is time to begin outdoor winter decorating, which includes displaying little lights on many of my “Christmas tree shaped” conifers. I am not sure how or when Christmas trees were determined to be perfectly conically shaped, or how the tradition of decorating trees and houses with lights came about, but I sure do enjoy it!

‘Banderica’ is a superb choice for the garden – any time of year!

Some folks seem to think that more is better when it comes to decorating their space with lights. Some even go to the extreme with computer controlled lighting that is in sync with music, and some even broadcast the music over a low-power FM signal so drivers may enjoy the show in their cars. I, on the other hand, am perhaps a bit more of a traditionalist and I like a more subtle approach to my lighting technique. Several of my dwarf conifers are just the right size and shape for that traditional look of conically shaped trees strung with lights. You may recall my experience stringing a non-traditionally shaped tree some years ago, if not you can check it out here.

Some of my favorite small trees to decorate with lights this time of year include Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’ and ‘Sester Dwarf’. Both of these dwarf forms of Colorado Blue Spruce have very nice blue needles that really shine when I string them with either colored or plain white lights, plus they stand out all year long with their great color.

A few choice pines to decorate include Pinus leucodermis (heldreichii) ‘Banderica’, ‘Irish Bell’ and ‘Compact Gem’. ‘Banderica’ has taken some time to become sizable enough to decorate, but now that it has matured, this very slow grower is a short, chubby tree that complements the other two in this section. ‘Irish Bell’ is a faster grower, but provides the same kind of broadly conical shape in a more open form. ‘Compact Gem’ is very nice with its taller and more narrow stature. I love planting these three in a group that shows off their varying forms and sizes while providing a great effect when they are all lit up for the holidays!

Coney Island’, this nice green mound of fine textured foliage, is as great in the summer garden as it is when covered with tiny lights through the holiday season!

But hey, I am certainly not going to limit myself to the traditional conical shapes when deciding on where to place lights in my garden. I like to cover the larger globe shaped conifers as well and turn them into giant, glowing snowballs! One in my garden is Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Globe’, which lights up brightly and gives off a wonderfully therapeutic scent during the decorating process. Another great rounded conifer to decorate is, Pinus strobus ‘Coney Island’ which comes pre-decorated with an abundance of delightfully dangling small cone ornaments – just add lights. One final plant to list this time is Picea abies ‘Fat Cat’. I just love this one with its nice, tidy, compact, rounded form – it’s perfect for those net lights which can simply be laid over the plant for easy installation and removal.

Okay, my fingers are warmed up from all this typing, I think I had better get into the garage and start going through my boxes of lights. Let the holidays begin!

Conifer Lover

Dr. Seuss, the Grinch and me

My wife talked me into purchasing some of the new LED Christmas lights to display on the conifers in our front garden. I was happy to oblige since I really like the idea of the reduced energy costs these super efficient lights should provide.

So, I’m up on a ladder, making an attempt to decorate my maturing Weeping Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Pendulum’), and I notice that cars are slowing down to have a look at what’s going on. As they slow down, I can see fingers pointing and smiles and then they speed off. The first couple of cars I didn’t give much attention to, but then the third, fourth, fifth… I began to become a little concerned – was my fly open?

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'
Three Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum' at the Oregon Garden

Finally, one car actually came to a complete stop and the passenger jumped out to take a picture. I must have had an inquisitive expression on my face because the driver’s window slid down and he shouted, “Nice Grinch trees!” and gave me a thumbs up.

I had to think about that for a moment. I didn’t remember any trees being associated with the Grinch, so I concluded that he must have meant, “Dr. Seuss trees,” as perhaps seen in the Grinch story. Just about then, I must have reached too far to my right, the three legged ladder began to tip over and I grabbed hard onto the eighteen foot tree I was working on. Somehow I managed to regain my balance and using my left foot, I pulled the ladder back to solid ground where I was able to position myself securely in place. I looked around, a little red in the face, and was relieved that no one was driving by at that moment.

I decided that particular tree’s lighting display was finished and I carefully tiptoed back down the steps of the ladder and found a safe place to sit down and wipe my face of the debris it picked up while I was in my tight embrace with the tree.

As I sat there, I looked up at my “Grinch tree” and had a little chuckle as I thought of some of the Dr. Seuss characters I’ve seen precariously balanced on similar looking tree’s of that author’s imagination. Now I was a little disappointed that no one was there to see my impromptu “performance art” interpretation of one of those scenes.

May I encourage all of you to be particularly careful this holiday season so that you might enjoy many more years of gardening with conifers!

Conifer Lover