Winter blues

“Look Ed, this whole episode about you and your ‘Montgomery’? Well, I don’t know what kind of spell you put on me, but I can’t get my mind off of your darn blue conifers!”

You can imagine the look on my face as I sat in my favorite coffee shop with my nemesis, The Flower Girl.

“Hahaha… oh c’mon, we like to tease each other a lot, but you’ve always appreciated conifers to some degree – haven’t you? I asked.

“Sure… to some tiny, little, microscopic degree yes, it’s true. I don’t know what it is though. Maybe the light was hitting my ‘Hoopsi’ just right the other day, but it was shining so bright  – and it was virtually the only color in my garden. I’ve just had some kind of new hunger for blue in my garden, and there sure aren’t any flowers that would produce that much effect in the dead of winter.”

Thinking to myself that the world of conifers had just won a major victory, I simply said, “I see… and how does that make you feel?” Which produced my friend’s trademark punch to my shoulder.

Of course I referred her to some of my past blog posts regarding great blue conifers including, Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’, Picea pungens ‘Procumbens’, and the blue dwarfs. But one in particular came to mind that I don’t believe I have mentioned in this space before. The Blue Nest Spruce.

At first glance, some may be lead to think that this delightful bluish/gray/green mound is a dwarf form of the Norway Spruce, Picea abies. A very old and popular cultivar called, ‘Nidiformis’ is commonly called the Bird’s Nest Spruce. But the cultivar I have in mind is actually from the Colorado Spruce, Picea pungens.

Picea pungens 'Waldbrunn'
Picea pungens ‘Waldbrunn’

‘Waldbrunn’ has a very fine texture created by its thin sharp needles. A low growing, almost spreading mound, ‘Waldbrunn’s color and form are both unique when compared with other compact versions of the Colorado spruce. In my friend’s garden, which is dominated by flowering perennials, annuals and shrubs, I would place ‘Waldbrunn’ in widely spaced conifer groupings to allow plenty of room for growth and to provide more winter interest in her otherwise empty winter garden. Planting near other blues of varying shapes and sizes will work nicely, since she is interested in adding more blue to her winter landscape. Placing near green (both bright and dark) or yellows, it will provide a pleasant color contrast without looking out of place. During the summer months, when flowers and Japanese maples are in their full color, ‘Waldbrunn’ provides a unique texture and color contrast.

I am thrilled to see my friend’s passion for conifers begin to awaken. I am very excited that during our visit she genuinely wanted me to tell her about three or four compact blue conifers that would work in her “cottage garden.” Not only that, but this time she picked up the bill at the coffee shop.

Conifer Lover

Weal kwissmas twees

Yesterday morning I was sitting near the window of my favorite little coffee shop in the heart of town. As I was sipping a warm and frothy hot chocolate, there came a “tap tap tap” at the window and one of my friends and her little girl were waving at me – I motioned them to join me.

“Sure is cold outside!” my friend said as her greeting.

“Hi Mistoor Wems-a-wola.” said the cute little blonde with pretty blue eyes.

“Hi sweetheart – are you and Mommy having fun today?”

“Yes! We are kwissmas shopping and we are going to get a weal kwissmas twee!

I looked up at the little girl’s mother and asked, “A living Christmas Tree, huh?”

“Yes, but I’m not sure that we can keep it alive. I’m so happy we found you here today. Do you think it’s a good idea?”

As we sat and chatted for a little while, I told her of an old Irishman I had met years ago. This old fella was full of all kinds of plant knowledge. Although I had always enjoyed the adventure of hunting for and cutting a fresh tree, this plantsman was an advocate for living Christmas trees.

Fat Albert Blue Spruce
'Fat Albert' will make a great Christmas tree and a fantastic addition to the garden.

“They’re a little more work,” I remember him telling me, “but the benefit is that you get to plant another tree in your garden when the season is over.”

Knowing where your new tree will live after Christmas is helpful in choosing the right tree for both your holiday, and your landscape. One of his tricks was to dig a hole as soon as you decide where your tree will live out its life. He emphasized that it could freeze hard any day – so be prepared. Dig your hole as you would for any tree you would plant in your landscape, and then fill it with mulch bags, or straw, and take proper precautions so you don’t create a safety hazard.

He recommended taking a family trip to the nursery as early as Thanksgiving. The nursery should still have the best selection of living trees at that time. Enjoy your tree on your patio or deck until just a few days before Christmas – it is important that a living tree stay inside for only 3-5 days. If they are in a warm house any longer than one week, they could break dormancy and greatly reduce their chance for survival outdoors.

Place the tree so that it is away from any heat vents, fireplaces or other direct heat sources. After the holiday, if the weather is temperate, (upper 30’s – 50’s) go ahead and plant – making sure to water thoroughly. If the weather is frigid, take the tree into a cold garage or enclosed patio to ‘harden’ it back off for a few days prior to planting. If the weather conditions absolutely do not allow for planting a tree, keep it protected in a cold garage, shed, or against the homes foundation until it can be properly planted. Don’t let the roots dry out while you are waiting for adequate planting conditions.

Containerized trees will be the easiest to handle and the cleanest to maintain in the home. While the tree is inside, keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet. Using ice cubes as a form of drip irrigation can work quite well. Be sure to place a saucer under the container to catch any drainage.

Conifer Lover

Fat Albert’s Blues

One of my favorite conifers is ‘Fat Albert.’ This one is amazing with its great steel blue color and full, formal upright conical habit. In its younger years it will make a great outdoor Christmas tree, and as it matures, it will be a stately specimen worthy of most any garden.

Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’- photo provided by my friends at Iseli Nursery.

Picea pungens 'Fat Albert'
Picea pungens 'Fat Albert'

Conifer Lover