Thanksgiving feast

Hand Turkey

I trust you all had a very pleasant Thanksgiving holiday last week and I presume most of you have traditions that have been passed down through the generations and have morphed as families split and merge.

One tradition that remains very popular with most of the folks I know involves family and friends getting together for the big Thanksgiving meal. In our family, the host will provide the turkey and dressing and a side dish or two, while the guests will bring a favorite side dish or dessert. I must say, I was quite pleased with all the fixin’s at the table this year.

First and foremost, is the ‘Butter Ball’ turkey which roasted slowly in the oven. One guest was feeling adventurous and wanted  to cook a ‘Rhode Island Red’ with the rotisserie grill on the patio, which worked out quite well since we had a very nice ‘Sherwood Flame.’ Since the grill was going, another guest insisted upon adding a ‘Blue Snake’ to the menu, and I was just happy that he had removed all of its ‘Blue Feathers’ before serving. By this time, I decided that it was time for something to drink and I added a ‘Lemon Twist’ for good flavor.

I also enjoyed a tasty ‘Heather Bun’ with dinner and although I thought the ‘Mushroom’ was ‘Just Dandy’, one guest had a bad reaction and was running from one end of the house to the other screaming something about being chased by a ‘Black Dragon.’

Happy TurkeyAll in all, I think the meal was a great success and shortly after I ate my ‘Mint Truffle,’ I curled up on the couch like a ‘Fat Cat’ while my wife got out her ‘St. Mary’s Broom’ and insisted that she begin to clean up before she sat down on her ‘Golden Tuffet.’

I hope your holiday was a success as well.

Conifer Lover

Goodbye, autumn’s colorful leaves, hello…

As I sit gazing out the picture window, I see a non-stop flow of leaves blowing horizontally through my field of view. The cat has been agitated since this wind storm began to stir things up last night – he’s not a fan of the wind I think. Most all of the brightly colored leaves that I have been enjoying for the past few weeks have been pounded off by the rain or blown off the trees now. There are a few trees here and there whose leaves appear to be hanging on for dear life as the stormy wind blows, shaking and pulling them in its attempt to strip the trees for winter.

Stormy Garden
Take a walk in a stormy conifer garden and you'll still have quite a lot to see and enjoy.

One advantage to my deciduous trees dropping their leaves is, in their bareness, they open up new views to my garden that I have missed seeing from this location since early spring when I rejoiced in the arrival of their new foliage. One of the new spaces I planted is on the opposite side of a very unique Japanese maple I acquired some years ago. Although I love this odd little tree, it is nice that through the winter months, as it waits patiently for spring, it becomes almost invisible, allowing me a view of some terrific dwarf and miniature conifers sitting alongside a few of my new lavender plants.

Conifer Garden
The conifer garden is full of color, texture and excitement - even during the most dreary weather.

I have fewer perennials to clean up this autumn since my conifers are growing and filling in space. I continue to add more conifers in places where I have pulled out other more troublesome plants. As beautiful as the conifer garden is through the growing season, it is the late fall and winter months, when other ornamental plants are turning to brown heaps or bare twigs, that my conifers really shine in the garden. Even in the most dreary, cold, wet, gray, windy days, the conifers stand center stage in all their glorious texture, color and assortment of interesting shapes and forms. How much more dreary, the winter garden would be, without conifers.

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for coming along with me,

Conifer Lover

(And thanks to Mr. Smith, my photographer friend at Iseli, for getting these stormy weather garden shots with his iPhone, at a moments notice.)

Blue’s hues

As I was talking a stroll through the garden yesterday afternoon, enjoying what is becoming the end of the autumn color season, what I found to be the most striking were the blue conifers. I have always loved my blue conifers – always admired the varied and sometimes subtle color differences, but there was just something about the way the low autumn sun was hitting the colorful foliage that made these particular plants stand out.

Picea pungens 'Hoopsii'
Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’ stands out in the bright autumn sun.

There really are so many different shades of blue within the conifer world. You have Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’ as an example of one of the very brightest blues, then you have the varying blue hues throughout the range of cultivars of Blue Colorado spruce from the good strong blues of ‘Fat Albert’, ‘Montgomery’, ‘St. Mary’s Broom’, and ‘Procumbens’ in forms that stretch from full-sized, large trees, to small dwarfs and ground covers – all in peaceful, calming, hues of blue. Then there are the blue-greens such as,  ‘Roundabout’ or ‘Waldbrunn’ whose color is not the bright blue of those mentioned before, nor can these selections be considered to be simply, green.

Picea pungens 'St. Mary's Broom'
Picea pungens ‘St. Mary’s Broom’ is an excellent, small dwarf conifer, perfect for almost any type of garden.
Picea pungens 'St. Mary's Broom'
The needles of ‘St. Mary’s Broom’ (and essentially all forms of Blue Spruce) are actually green. They are covered with a fine, waxy substance that gives the plants foliage a blue hue.

And that’s just a few selections of Picea pungens (Colorado spruce). There are other wonderfully hardy spruce that can add to the blue pallet of your garden.

Picea omorika 'Nana'
Looking up into the foliage Picea omorika ‘Nana’ shows off the bi-colored foliage of this beautiful cone-shaped tree.

Other spruce species also produce exciting blue hues. Picea omorika (Serbian spruce) has several cultivars with wonderful bi-colored needles that give the plants a silvery-blue-gray appearance from a distance – some appear more blue than others, but all seem to shimmer in the autumn. ‘Nana’ is a somewhat large growing dwarf with annual growth of about six inches, growing into a full, compact silvery, blue-green cone-shaped small tree.

Picea sitchensis ‘Silberzwerg’ is a beautiful silvery-blue selection of the Sitka spruce. Vigorous and yet very compact, its thin, sharp needles are bi-colored with the same kind of waxy coating that covers the undersides of needles in several conifer species and totally covering the needles of the Blue Colorado spruce varieties.

Picea sitchensis 'Silberzwerg'
Like P.o. ‘Nana’, Picea sitchensis ‘Silberzwerg’ has bi-colored foliage that gives the plant its blue hue..

These are just of few of the blue hues available for year-round color. All of these selections are cold hardy and will do well in the greater area of the USA and Canada. Of course, there are excellent blues to be found in selections of Cedrus, Chamaecyparis, Cupressus, Juniperus, Pinus and Tsuga that may also extend into our more southern climates.

The more I think about it, the more I believe there just isn’t any reason that gardens all over the country shouldn’t be filled with conifers, large to small, providing, structure, texture, wildlife habitat and year-round color.

Conifer Lover

Santa and the Sester Dwarf

I know it seems early, but really, we are into the 2nd week of November. Thanksgiving is just two weeks away and Christmas – well, it’s coming quickly – and chances are, your family enjoys doing some kind of festive decorating for the holiday season. I know mine does.

A few posts back I mentioned that I was making an attempt to encourage my wife to miniaturize our holiday decorating to some degree. I talked about creating some winter themed container plantings which featured dwarf and miniature conifers. As I began to work on some of those new plantings, I realized how perfect these kinds of decorations would be for my urban friends living in apartments or condos. Most all of them have at least a small patio or balcony where they enjoy potted plants throughout the warmer season. Why not utilize those same pots that are now filled with spent annuals and perennials and fill them with holiday themed plants featuring conifers?

Picea pungens 'Sester Dwarf'
An ideal living Christmas tree, Picea pungens ‘Sester Dwarf’ looks great in a premium clay pot.

Some plantings could be larger and remain just outside the sliding glass door that leads out to the patio or balcony. Other smaller (and therefore more portable) containers could be brought indoors during the day to be enjoyed by the family and guests, and then be set back outside to prevent the plants from thinking spring had arrived early and begin to break dormancy. This same technique could be modified for folks desiring to enjoy a living Christmas tree this year.

In a past post I discussed methods of keeping a living Christmas tree in good health so that it can be planted in the garden following the holidays. Another option is to simply leave your featured tree for the holidays in a container and enjoy it on the patio or deck all year long. This seems to make great sense for the urban dwellers with limited space, both indoors or out.

Picea pungens ‘Sester Dwarf’ is an ideal selection for holiday decorating. This compact, symmetrical, Christmas-tree-shaped dwarf conifer has a pleasant, soft blue color to its foliage and looks good from sizes, small to large. It is definitely one dwarf conifer that I will be using this year for some of the new containers I am planting for our front walkway. Being a slow-growing conifer, ‘Sester Dwarf’ will be very well behaved in a quality container for a number of years. Then, one might either plant it in the garden or simply move it into a larger container to be enjoyed as your decorating heart desires.

Some additional great choices for containerized, living Christmas trees include:

Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’
Picea glauca ‘Conica’
Picea glauca ‘Jean’s Dilly’
Pinus mugo ‘Tannenbaum’
Pinus helrichi leucodermis ‘Compact Gem’
Pinus helrichi leucodermis ‘Irish Bell’

It’s not too early to begin to make your plans for a successful season of holiday decorating!

Conifer Lover

Golden autumn glow

If I were to wager a guess as to what color is the most striking  – the most eye-catching color of autumn, I would have to say it would be the bright scarlet, oranges and reds of the majority of trees in my local area. Having said that, today I want to point out some extraordinary fall-foliage plants whose primary color is yellow.

Cerciciphyllum japonicum 'Morioka Weeping'
This Cerciciphyllum japonicum ‘Morioka Weeping’ begins to glow in the early morning sun.

One of the first plants to catch my eye this morning, just as the sun was beginning to peak up over the distant hills was Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Morioka Weeping’. This deciduous, broad-leaved tree is covered with roundish, almost heart-shaped leaves. Right now, these normally green leaves are turning a deliciously warm shade of yellow with a hint of orange. I noticed yesterday how nicely the tree was coloring up, but this morning, as it was hit with that low sunrise, the tree began to glow in a spectacular way. Most of the garden remained in the darkness of early morning, hint of frost on the edges of my conifers, but this wonderful pendulous tree was lit up and beckoning to the other plants, “Wake up, it’s a beautiful day!”

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush'
Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’ provides a stunning golden-yellow color from spring through fall

I finished my breakfast and continued to watch the show outside my picture window as the bright autumn sunrise steadily climbed and shot its spotlight on another golden deciduous tree – this time, a conifer. Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’ is a dazzling golden conifer all year-round. It’s new growth emerges a soft yet very bright yellow and seems to become more intensely bright as the season progresses. Finally, with the cooler temperatures that autumn bring, the bright yellow foliage begins to exhibit a hint of red which gives the long branchlets and overall golden hue. Again, this color continues to intensify until all of the foliage drops to the ground, creating quite a colorful carpet of gold beneath the then, bare framework of the Golden Dawn Redwood.

Soon, my Larix, Taxodium and  Pseudolarix will also turn their assorted shades of golden-yellow and drop their needles in anticipation of our coming winter months. I look forward to the intense shots of color those deciduous conifers will provide while making way for more late season sunlight to fall into my garden with the absence of their foliar screens.

Conifer Lover