Raising Taxus

I think this year I have seen more discussion on the subject of taxes than any in recent history. We have a new administration voted in with the promise of “Hope” and “Change”. As April 15 draws nearer (tax day in the USA), there are a lot of Americans who are hoping to get to keep some of their change. Whatever your perspective on the new administration, and the changes to the tax code, one thing I am fairly confident in, is gold.

Perhaps investing in our gardens during slow economic times is a great investment too. As we spend time in the garden, we work our muscles and respiratory systems which help to reduce stress. Gardening helps us to invest in our future happiness by providing us with a very pleasant place to entertain and relax – or even provide food to help us cut costs. Investing in gold for the garden is a great way to add interest and excitement and using gold conifers is the way to add bright color to your garden all year-round. 

Taxus cuspidata Nana Aurescens
Taxus cuspidata 'Nana Aurescens'

This year, I am pleased that I will be raising Taxus in my garden; specifically, Taxus cuspidata ‘Nana Aurescens’. This is an incredibly useful plant with its low spreading habit and bright gold foliage color, Zone 4 hardiness and being somewhat deer resistant. On a dark, dreary, cloudy, rainy day like today, ‘Nana Aurescens’ glows in the garden providing such an outstanding sunny-yellow color that you almost feel warmer just looking at it. A compact grower, it responds well to shearing if you are so inclined, but with thoughtful planning before planting, it shouldn’t outgrow its space for many, many years.

In my book, unlike raising taxes, raising Taxus is a very good thing.

Conifer Lover

Colorful Conifers

I am getting excited about spring! The days are getting longer, the sun is peaking out from behind the clouds from time to time, and I’ve been able to work in my garden with just a sweatshirt and vest instead of my winter coat and raingear.  The garden beds have been pretty much cleared of the remains of last year’s perennials and the debris that had blown in over the winter.

Every year as I’m doing my late winter cleanup, I tell myself to fill in more of my garden spaces with dwarf conifers since they require so little care and provide color all year long. I know my wife will try to talk me into adding just a few more flowering plants, and I’m sure that I’ll give in because they are great companions to my conifers, but I know I’m going to use most of my garden budget this year to increase my collection of low maintenance, colorful, dwarf conifers.

Thuja occidentalis 'Golden Tuffet'

The first one on my list is Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Tuffet’ for its rich golden orange color, fine texture and compact form. I’ve got just the place for it near the gray-green of my Picea pungens ‘Globe’, the bright blue of my Picea pungens ‘St. Mary’s Broom,’ the rich green of Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’ and the deep red of my Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Crimson Queen.’ This little corner of color will loose the reds of the ‘Crimson Queen’ Japanese maple during the winter, but all the other colors will remain year-round.

I’m sure once I’ve brought home and planted a ‘Golden Tuffet’, my wife will be happy with the color spot it provides (and I’ll have eliminated another area of annuals in my garden with a colorful, easy care plant that we can enjoy year after year).

Conifer Lover

Color spots

Every spring my wife wants to go to the local garden center and bring home “color spots.” You know, those annuals that you can buy in six or eight packs and plant them around the garden to provide splashes of color for a few months in spring and summer. I keep reminding her that dwarf conifers make great color spots.

For one thing, they last all year long – not just a few months. And secondly, they are such low maintenance – you never need to “dead head” them or constantly fertilize them to force their best performance.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'White Pygmy'

Take Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘White Pygmy’ for example. Here’s a great dwarf conifer that appears as a speckled green and white mound. Over several years, this little ball of color will still be a very manageable size in the garden – very much the same scale as color spots tend to be – and all you need to do is plant it and enjoy!

Even in winter, ‘White Pygmy’ remains a bright spot in what would otherwise be an empty space where the color spot used to be.

It’s taking some time, but my wife is coming around – pretty soon, I think she might forget about those annuals all together.

Conifer Lover

Photo kindly provided by my friends at Iseli Nursery.