Creeping Creepers

I love autumn. After the very long, dry and warm spring and summer of 2018, I am very thankful and encouraged by the recent transition to our cooler, misty, gray days and intermittent rain showers. We may only receive a week or two of relief from the dry weather. While the local weather soothsayer ensures that our autumn will return to dry and sunny conditions, this native born Oregonian is enjoying the cool, gray mist and the ground-soaking rain showers that we have received the past several days.

Pinus banksiana 'Schoodic'
Pinus banksiana ‘Schoodic’

Certainly one of my favorite aspects of the autumn season is all the delightful colors that our gardens and native trees begin to exhibit. Not far from my home, the local community college planted a long row of deciduous trees that explode into a widely varying array of bright red, yellow, burgundy, purple and orange. I believe the trees must have been a horticultural school experiment and we are now enjoying this delightful array of color from a batch of American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) seedlings propagated 30 to 40 years ago. The resulting seedlings were planted along one of the main – once rural – hi-ways, moving traffic North and South through this, now, growing urban setting.

Pinus sylvestris 'Albyn Prostrata'
Pinus sylvestris ‘Albyn Prostrata’

Along with the inevitable change of season and its invigorating color-show, comes the season of spooks and creepy stories of ghosts and ghouls and the downright fun of Halloween with children dressed in their favorite spooky costumes. It won’t be long and we will see scores of creeping creepers in the neighborhood, laughing their way from door to door as participating folks greet the kids with handfuls of delectable Treats to ward off the chance of some unfortunate Trick being played on them.

Pinus sylvestris 'Hillside Creeper'
Pinus sylvestris ‘Hillside Creeper’

Some of my favorite conifers just happen to be creeping creepers themselves.

A few very rugged and hardy creepers for the garden include the pines: Pinus banksiana ‘Schoodic’, Pinus sylvestris ‘Albyn Prostrata’ and Pinus sylvestris ‘Hillside Creeper’. These pines are hardy to Zones 2, 3 and 4 respectively and vary in color from rich green to shades of bluish-green. All three of these creeping selections are vigorous growers while being easy to maintain in a small garden space if needed. Growing low to the ground, they will each, very slowly, begin to mound in layers upon themselves, slowly gaining in height. Each will spread in the garden, flowing around rocks, garden ornaments or other plants with only the occasional pruning needed to help guide them on their way. If the gardener desires increased height, each of these selections respond well to being raised a foot or two (or three) upon a bamboo stake and then allowed to continue on their way. The creative gardener may choose to create waves with their creeping conifers for increased interest.

Other choice selections for adding hardy and colorful, ground-covering waves of creeping fun in the garden are:

Of course, I could add a bounty of creeping Junipers to this list, but I think those might be best reserved to a future post. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the creepy creepers creeping their way through your neighborhood in the near future and for those special colorful creepers at your local independent garden centers!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

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Some things are worth waiting for

First off, my apologies for my long absence. After a number of life-changing events,  I believe I have returned to the place where I may resume my humble addition to the gardening world.

In my absense, I find the world of gardening has not slowed down at all and there are a great number of exciting new plants that I will want to share with you here in my blog. Of course, there are new conifers to admire and covet, as well as further additions to the hardy Jack Frost® and Pacific Rim® maples to share.

This post, I find that I am driven to present a new dwarf Hinoki Cypress that was first introduced by my friends at Iseli Nursery a few years ago. I call it “new” since it is still relatively unknown and is certainly worthy of greater attention.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Thoweil'
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweil’

Many gardeners are familiar with the standard Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) for its rich green color and somewhat feathery or lacy foliage. It can be grown as a stately single specimen or utilized in pairs or groups for a formal garden appeal. This Japanese forest tree became popular in western gardens well over one hundred years ago and has been the parent to thousands of dwarf, colorful and very unique new cultivars. Some of my very favorite dwarf conifers have their parentage in Chamaecyparis obtusa and were selected as unusual seedling offspring or witch’s broom mutations and then propagated, creating generations of identical clones with the special characteristics of their unique parents.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweil’ was named by the late Ed Rezek, an east coast conifer aficionado, in honor of two Dutch plants-men, Thom Delange and Weil Linnsen, hence, “ThoWeil.”

With so many dwarf and unusual cultivars of Hinoki Cypress already in cultivation and in the trade, one may wonder why we would need another variation. This, of course, is a very valid point and something the creative minds at Iseli are always considering when they choose to produce a new plant. “What makes this one different or better than the many other selections already on the market?”

In the case of ‘Thoweil’, it fulfills a need in today’s gardens where other conifers simply do not. Many people love the look—the stately upright habit—of the standard Hinoki Cypress. It is a beautiful tree. These days, most of us simply do not have the room in our gardens to enjoy it in its peak of beauty, nor do we tend to have ancestors living in our same estate for generations to enjoy the trees that we plant (and certainly few have any idea what trees their great-grand parents may have planted – or even where they may have lived).

With ‘Thoweil’ and its slow, yet vigorous growth rate, not only may we enjoy a beautiful garden tree in our own lifetime, but we may enjoy the fact that it is scaled perfectly in our smaller, 21st century gardens. But that’s not all! ‘Thoweil’ has a growth habit that can be encouraged to grow as either a unique sculptural form, or as a formal form, with just a little directional pruning of branches when the tree is young.

Its rich, dark green, small, densely formed foliage fills out its branches covering the plant and filling in its space. Some branches may be allowed to grow outward in naturally erratic directions to bring the overall tree into a natural sculptural form. If desired, the erratic branches may be trimmed to encourage the tree into a narrow form. Either way, the tree is also a slow enough grower, that it could even be enjoyed on the deck or patio for many years in a decorative container.

At first look, the prospective gardener may think this is just another Hinoki, but when one looks beyond a first glance, one may see the beauty and real treasure that ‘Thoweil’ could be in today’s gardens.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Looking for something Primo!

There is something very exciting about this spring. I’m looking forward to seeing my favorite garden centers fill up with all kinds of fresh new plants. From colorful annuals for some of the patio pots to colorful conifers for around the overall landscape and for use in patio containers.

Thuja-occidentalis-Primo-IslPrim
Primo™ Arborvitae is an exciting new dwarf conifer.

You know I love the miniature and dwarf conifers and it’s always a thrill to discover what new items are arriving at the local garden center. One plant on my list is a very new introduction to the nursery trade. Some lucky folks were able to pre-order early release plants through membership in the American Conifer Society.

Thuja-occidentalis-Primo-IslPrim-tall
A small amount of pruning can encourage Primo™ to grow into a very slender form.

The society annually selects a couple of conifers as their Collector’s Conifers of the Year and Thuja occidentalis Primo (‘IslPrim’) was one selected for 2017. I don’t expect to find this “primo” little plant yet, but I am certainly going to keep my eyes open at every garden center I visit!

Primo originated out of a batch of Thuja occidentalis ‘Zmatlik’ seedlings. ‘Zmatlik’ has dense, unusually coarse textured foliage on a narrow, medium-fast growing tree. It is very useful as a garden screen and is hardy into Zone 3! Primo was selected out of thousands of seedlings due to its very coarse and curious foliage. Over the years of pre-release observation, it was noted that with a small amount of pruning, Primo could be very easily maintained as a narrow, small spire. When left to grow naturally, each individual plant will grow very slowly into its own sculptural form.

I am so excited about this new introduction—even if I need to wait another year, this cool little conifer will be worth the wait, and I will very likely have just the right place prepared for it to be planted.

Good hunting (conifers)!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Happy November!

happynovemeber-2016My goodness, how time has flown by this year! So much to do, so little time to complete it all. Sometimes I need to remember to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful life I have all around me.

We are already in the fall of the year. Time has brought us round to where things seem to slow down (at least for a little while) if for no other reason than the old bones just move more slowly as cold temperatures and gray rains replace the warmth and life-giving spring and summer months.

I hope you are all enjoying what you can of the amazing transformation going on, as trees become a blaze of color, and leaves fall to cover the ground in colorful carpets. Soon, around my area, we’ll have many more hours of darkness than light and the light we do get will mostly be dimmed by the thick cover of clouds and rain. I look forward to the surprise, energizing days when the sun does manage to shine in the coming winter months and I can putter around out in the new, developing garden.

In the mean time, I’ll be considering all kinds of new conifers to include in my garden. When I come across something exciting, I’ll be sure to share it with you on these pages.

Stay warm!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

 

Not your mama’s hedgerow

Over my years of gardening, I have been inspired by all different kinds of tremendous garden designs. Many have had a lasting impact on me, while others have faded away like so many memories do over time. I love large garden spaces that present the opportunity to create smaller, more intimate garden rooms to enjoy while strolling through the garden or when available, being able to stop and dwell in a “private” space which is enclosed by all kinds of plants. I try to keep mental notes of those inspirational settings so that I can draw from them to implement similar concepts in the gardens I design.

Picea-abies-Pendula-screen
Picea abies ‘Pendula’ may be easily trained to provide an excellent, low-maintenance screen.

When we arrived at our little lot, the 30 year-old fence showed signs of haphazard repair, barely helping the fence to stand and with the first big windstorm, down came sections that had not yet been patched together. Fortunately, we were prepared and had already scheduled the old, rotting fence to be removed and an nice chain-link fence to be put in its place. Of course we lost any privacy the old fence provided, but my strategy is to utilize a number of great conifers (and other exciting plants) to create natural screening that will grow and eventually offer complete privacy to our back-yard space.

Picea-pungens-The-Blues
Picea pungens ‘The Blues’ is pliable when young and can be trained for height, breadth or however you might desire.

To achieve this goal, I have an overall strategy that will utilize a number of different selections, planted in layers, beginning near the fence and then working inward toward areas that will feature smaller, more ornamental plants, vegetables and herbs. I have already planned the placement of “rooms” that will be considered more private than others and will require planting combinations that will fill in quickly to provide the desired screening effect as soon as possible.

My first strategy is to plant an initial layer that will block eye-level views into our garden from the adjacent city park. My desire is that this outer layer will be as low-maintenance as possible. I have no desire to spend the final years of my life shearing large hedges to contain them and keep them looking tidy. I’ll be using a combination of groups of weeping conifers for this Fence Layer of the screen.

Thuja-occidentalis-Jantar
The super bright color of Thuja occidentalis ‘Jantar’ can brighten most any space.

Picea abies ‘Pendula’ can be commonly found in many garden centers around the USA. What I love about using this selection as a screen is that it has a perfect curtain-like effect. Similar to the example photo above from the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden, I’ll be staking my plants to a height of about seven feet, along my five foot chain-link fence. As the trees grow, I’ll spread side branches along the top of the fence and their lateral branches will fall and eventually cover the fence from tree to tree. I will also take side branches at about the six foot mark and train them loosely from tree to tree for a softly sweeping effect. At the top, once I no longer train the central leader up the stake, it will simply flop over creating a rounded top. Planting several of these in a line along the fence will create a very attractive, first level of screening.

Tsuga-heterophylla-Thorsens-Weeping
A finer textured option for garden screening, Tsuga heterophylla ‘Thorsen’s Weeping’ may be trained along fence or even to cover a gazebo to provide privacy and shade.

I don’t intend to simply plant a row of Weeping Norway spruce along the entire length of my fence – that would be terribly monotonous. My plan is to use the same technique with conifers of different colors or textures depending on what “room” of the garden they are screening. In a more shaded area, I’ll use the shade tolerant, Tsuga heterophylla ‘Thorsen’s Weeping’ with very much the same technique of training. To brighten a smaller space, I may use Picea pungens ‘The Blues’, which has a very similar growth habit but its bright silvery, powder blue color will reflect light. To really brighten a space, a hedge of Thuja occidentalis ‘Jantar’PP#22296 could be used. I may plant a row along the north side of my vegetable garden to reflect more light into the space for those sun-loving plants.

Remember, the weeping plants I’ve mentioned today are just the first layer of screening that I will be using in my new garden. I’ll also consider mixing a row of a combination of these plants (or others) for a beautiful non-conventional screen. Imagine the color of ‘Jantar’ placed between a pair of ‘The Blues’ and continuing that effect for 30 feet or more. Stay tuned to learn more of my strategy to screen my garden for privacy – and for fun!

Ed-
Conifer Lover