I talk quite a bit about how dwarf and miniature conifers are perfect for year-round color and interest in the garden. There simply is no better way to have a fantastically enjoyable garden, all year long, without incorporating at least some of these amazing plants into the garden design. That being said, there may be no better time to fully enjoy the amazing beauty of conifers (or any garden plant) than in the spring and summer months… well, unless you count autumn, which also has its definite advantages.
Spring brings on the fresh new growth of most all landscape plants, but climatic conditions may prevent some from fully enjoying all their garden has to offer. By the time summer arrives (at least in the Pacific Northwest) rain has become far less frequent and temperatures are very enjoyable, drawing most folks outdoors to enjoy all kinds of activities. One of the activities I love is simply strolling through my garden; or honestly, anyone’s garden!
Today I decided to share some inspirational views of the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden located on the grounds of Iseli Nursery in Boring, Oregon. I have spent a great many years associated with these folks, and their plants and gardens are always an inspiration.
Many folks will never have an opportunity to visit the beautiful private gardens at this wholesale nursery, but I am very happy to share some of the views I have enjoyed over the years. I hope you are inspired by these gardens as much as I have been.
I had one of those strange dreams early this morning. I was sitting at a table with my inventor friend. He was holding an unusual looking small box with several different colored wires sticking out, curving, and going back in. On the top of the box was a small red light and a large toggle switch. The light was dim and flashing slowly as we talked.
Suddenly, my friend’s face changed from his usual very serious look to one of mischievous joy. “Here we go!” he said and then flipped the switch. The flashing red light steadily became brighter and flashed more and more quickly until it seemed to be a solid glow. And that’s when it happened.
I seemed to be flying – or floating – high above a lush green mountainous forest. Off in the distance I saw a small glow and as quickly as I wondered what it was, I was hovering over a vast forest fire. In no time, the fire was out with just the smoldering after effect of what had once been the undergrowth of a giant redwood forest (Sequoiadendron giganteum).
I found myself on the ground now and as I turned, viewing everything around me, the forest began to come alive with new growth. Tiny seedlings began to sprout and a new generation of redwoods were beginning to emerge. Time moved at an incredible speed as I continued to turn, taking in the view. The young seedlings quickly grew larger and larger as the older generation of trees began to die and fall, undergrowth filled in and died away, and eventually, the tree closest to where I stood, which I saw emerge as a seedling, was a couple of hundred feet tall with a huge girth to its trunk – like pictures I have seen of giant redwoods thousands of years old.
Just then, as quickly as I found myself above that vast forest, I was sitting next to my grinning friend. “How was that?” he asked just as my cat started his morning routine of kneading my chest. I awoke.
Did you know that there are several selections of the giant redwood that are suitable for contemporary gardens? These days, most any gardener may enjoy the sensation of a 3,000 year old forest in their own backyard – even in containers on the patio or balcony – without traveling through time and space.
There are very small, slow growing cultivars, such as ‘Little Stan’ or ‘Blauer Eichzwerg’ that are perfect for smaller theme gardens or containers. I love the blue forms that will grow into large trees but with shades of blue from the soft, bright blue of ‘Power Blue’ to ‘Hazel Smith’ and ‘Glaucum’. ‘Greenpeace’ is a gorgeous, rich green tree that is slightly slower than the species, and develops into a broadly pyramidal form. Finally, there are several weeping forms, from the popular classic, ‘Pendula’, to more recent introductions like, ‘Barabits Requiem’.
No wonder I’m dreaming about giant redwoods – I love them!
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.
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.
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,
(And thanks to Mr. Smith, my photographer friend at Iseli, for getting these stormy weather garden shots with his iPhone, at a moments notice.)
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.
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!”
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.
My wife and I love autumn in the garden center – I think it might even be more fun than a garden center in springtime!
We had an opportunity to get away for the weekend. Living so near the Oregon coast, we try to spend at least one weekend per year there. This year it has taken us 10 months, but we finally made it. We enjoyed our drive over the Oregon Coast Range, driving along the river while watching the golden leaves of the native Big Leaf Maples swish and swirl as they fell to the ground and swept up again by passing cars. Of course the coast was refreshing, and to our surprise, the weather was mild with just a few clouds and a very slight breeze.
Our trip home was even more gorgeous. The sun was shining bright and the sky was bright blue and the air smelled fresh and clean. We decided to take the scenic route home, which just happened to take us by one of our favorite garden centers. As we made our approach, we could see the place was prepared for autumn sales with a large space devoted to well-placed, plump orange pumpkins ready to be selected by the excited children running through with occasional glances back to mom saying, “I want this one!”
My wife had found her way to the carts, so I was confident that I had a moment to check out the conifer section – just in case there were any new arrivals, or I could find a great end-of-season bargain. As I slowly meandered through the discount section, I overheard a conversation that one of the workers was having with her customer.
“What I’m looking for are some ways to add splashes of blue color to my garden. I just can’t seem to find anything that is blue – especially this time of year.”
I immediately looked over at the conifer section and then back to the nursery worker. “Well, blue is a very rare color in the garden, there really aren’t very many flowers that are blue and, finding anything blue this time of year… well, this is the time of year for red and orange and yellow!” she answered.
Now I am finding myself in a somewhat frustrating position. My wife definitely has autumn decorations on her mind, and I can see her coming back out to the sales yard with her cart. I look back over to the conifer section and I can easily see that they have several very nice blue conifers in stock, ranging in growth rate from the very dwarf to those that will grow into full-sized trees–plants that will provide a wonderful, year-round blue to this customer’s garden.
I glance back over to my wife, she has spotted me and gives me a little wave. I wave back as I begin to move closer to the conversation taking place not 15 feet away. My wife sees me making my approach and I try not to look her way as I can see from the corner of my eye that she is beginning to shake her head.
“Hi, I don’t mean to be bother you, but I couldn’t help overhearing that you are interested in adding some nice blue color to your garden.” I say, hoping not to seem impolite.
“Yes I am.” says the customer while the worker looks on with an inquisitive face.
“I noticed that there are some beautiful blue conifers over there.” pointing to the conifer section, “Now, I don’t know what size your space may be, but they do have a nice variety of cultivars that could fit in a small space or others that will grow to become majestic blue specimen trees.” I glance over my shoulder and see that my wife has changed directions and is heading toward the pumpkin patch.
“I hadn’t even thought of conifers when she asked me that question.” said the worker. “Yes, we have some excellent blue dwarf conifers that might be just what you are looking for…” she said as she began to lead the way to the conifers.
The customer thanked me and I tipped my hat and made my way back to my wife just as she was picking up a pumpkin and placing it in the cart. “I want one of these warty ones,” I said as I wandered through the patch.