See you next year!

Just quick note to wish you all a Happy and Joy-filled Christmas Holiday Season! Pop on over to the Facebook page and say “Hi” to one another there until I return!

See you in 2011!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

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Federal coneheads

“Hey Ed! Did you see that one of the largest and most popular branches of the federal government have become coneheads?”

“Pardon me?”

“Yeah Ed, apparently the United States government has gone conehead!” laughed my friend. “You’ve got to check out their website.”

The conversation continued like this for a little while before I was able to get my friend to tell me exactly what he was talking about. As it turns out (and maybe many of you are already aware of this) one of the new Holiday designs for the United States Postal Service this year is a collection of four artist’s renderings featuring conifers.

I checked out the USPS website and found that they have holiday conifer stamps and other products available. The stamps feature nicely drawn details of the foliage and cones (or in the case of the Juniper, its berry-like structures). They also have very nicely produced postcards prestamped and with information about each conifer. I was very excited and impressed when I saw what they had to offer.

My wife and I were just talking a few days ago about our need to purchase more stamps for our holiday greeting cards this year. I hope she sees these great conifer stamps. Since they are Forever stamps, I think we should stock up now – then we’ll have plenty of conifer themed stamps to last us a very long time.

Check out the link above and you’ll find four conifers featured in the set including; Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir), Juniperus virginiana (Eastern Red Cedar), Picea pungens (Colorado Spruce) and Pinus ponderosa (Ponderosa Pine).

Happy Holidays!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Dear Santa…

It’s been a very long time since I have written a letter to Santa Claus. I remember one of the first times I wrote to Santa – it was a cold and rainy day, I was probably being fussy (as small children can get when the big holiday gets closer and the days are shorter, colder and wetter). I suppose I was five or six years old. I remember trying to write the letter, getting frustrated with my ability and going to Mom for help. She ended up doing most of the writing while I dictated my Christmas wishes to her, trusting that Santa would approve.

Picea omorika 'Kamenz'
Picea omorika 'Kamenz' is an excellent spreading specimen.

This year there are three conifers on my Christmas list that I am hoping Santa will find a way to deliver on that special morning. I’ve been admiring these three for a number of years during my visits to the display garden at Iseli Nursery. I love a good conifer hunt, and these three may still be rare out in the independent garden centers, I know I could make a special order through my favorite retailer, but I just haven’t done it yet. So, Santa, it’s up to you.

These are a few of my favorite things – all three are forms of Picea omorika, the Serbian spruce:

First on my list is a low, spreading, dwarf form named Picea omorika ‘Kamenz’. The one I’ve been admiring at Iseli is four or five feet across and about 10 inches tall. It has the typical two-toned needles of Picea omorika, with its green top and silver-coated underside. The needles radiate out from the branches in a way that they catch the light very well and seem to almost shimmer as the sun moves across the sky. This one looks to be a great choice for where a sturdy ground cover is desired as well as being a distinctive specimen in its own right.

Picea omorika 'Minima'
Picea omorika 'Minima' captivates my attention.

Number two is Picea omorika ‘Minima’. This enchanting little globe is covered with tiny, thin, two-toned needles giving ‘Minima’ a soft or delicate looking texture. Being the Serbian spruces are hardy to Zone 4, they are anything but delicate. Growth rate is still within the Dwarf range according to the chart published by The American Conifer Society, but it is on the slower growing end of the scale, creating a captivating, small globe-shaped plant that I have a difficult time taking my eyes off of when I am near.

Picea omorika 'Silberblue'
Picea omorika 'Silberblue' is a stunning beauty with silvery-blue needles and a perfectly symmetrical form.

Picea omorika ‘Silberblue’ is the third item on my wish list. This is a large growing tree with a perfectly symmetrical Christmas tree shape. It’s two-toned needles give the tree a silvery blue color that shines in the sun capturing the attention of anyone in its vicinity. Should Santa come through with this one, I’ll place it in a prominent place with room to grow and plan on it becoming a featured tree for future holiday decorations.

That’s it – my entire wish list for 2010. I’m hoping Santa reads my blog.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Decorate your Hillside

As far as I am concerned, it is now officially, winter. I know, winter does not officially begin until December 21st, but as soon as we set our clocks back to Pacific Standard Time, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and it seems like it’s dark two hours earlier. Whoever invented the tradition of decorating our homes with thousands of colorful lights for the holidays deserves high honors.

As the cold and darkness of winter engulfs our lives, it is very helpful to see neighborhoods all aglow in festivity. I used to think that people putting their lights up on Thanksgiving weekend were out of their mind. I have to admit though; I sure would like to see some festive lighting now! Of course if my wife finds out about my desire to see the lights go up early this year, I have a feeling the next morning I’ll get up and find a BIG pile of all our lights between me and my morning tea.

I took a quick stroll around my garden this morning between downpours. In the back of my mind I was thinking about which trees my wife might like to see all lit up with her favorite lights. One she always loves me to decorate is our large Picea pungens ‘Montgomery.’ No wonder, he’s a very big boy now and has that fantastic traditional Christmas tree shape. Not far from my ‘Montgomery’ I see another compact conifer that is getting to the size and shape that should please my wife when she sees him full of tiny white lights. 

Picea pungens 'Hillside'
Picea pungens 'Hillside' has a greener tone and is a little more compact that his cousin 'Montgomery' behind and to the right.

Picea pungens ‘Hillside’ is one of my favorite compact Colorado spruce trees. With a growth rate at ½ to ¾ that of ‘Montgomery,’ this dwarf conifer will spend his first 10 or 15 years looking a little more like a roundish mound than a cone-shaped tree, but as he matures, he’ll take on a nice compact pyramidal form. At 30 to 40 years old, the old specimen at Iseli’s display garden is just nine or ten feet tall. Mine is considerably younger but has a good start on its Christmas tree shape, so he’ll look great cloaked in lights. 

‘Hillside’ has more of a greenish tone than some of the other popular dwarf Colorado spruce, many of which sport bright shades of blue. But, who wants all their conifers to be the same color anyway? Not me. I love to see all the varying shades of green and blue (and even yellow) that the Colorado spruce contribute to my garden. 

Yes, I think with the new, low energy-consuming LED Christmas lights available these days, I just may be lighting up my corner of the neighborhood early this year. Maybe I’ll combat winter depression by starting a new tradition with four months of festive holiday lighting from Halloween to Valentine’s Day! 

Ed-
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!

Ed-
Conifer Lover