If one were to simply view the garden today from a nice window, it would look spectacular with our clear blue sky and full sunshine. But, like much of the rest of the country, the cold arctic air is finally making its way into our corner of the Pacific Northwest. It is one of those days that brighten the spirit when indoors looking out, but to go out into this weather, well, I think I will remain here, near my wood stove. Although the temperature is officially 26°F, with the wind-chill factor of our strong east wind, the real-feel temperature near the Columbia River Gorge drops down even further! That is just darned cold for us folks that are used to an average February high temperature near 50.
All of the colors of my conifers, from the many blues and shades of green and golden yellow, to the winter mahogany and plum colors, appear particularly intense with the clear blue sky and the bright, low winter sun. Today, it really is the yellow conifers that are putting on the most intense show. Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ is absolutely stunning, as are other winter-gold pines, but one plant is standing out above the crowd for me right now. In fact, this plant seems to be waving to attract as much attention as possible due to the effects of the gusty east wind.
Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Salinga Aurea’ is a plant ideally suited for the more temperate climate we enjoy here in the Pacific Northwest. Rated at USDA Zone 7, ‘Salinga Aurea’ simply will not survive in the harsh winter regions around the country, but it is definitely a tree worthy of placement in most any garden where winter temperatures do not drop below 0°F.
I remember the first time I saw this bright, lemon yellow conifer. It looked like a very vigorous, brightly colored, Gold Thread Branch Cypress. Only a few years old, it still had its growing support stake and was a few feet tall with very long, somewhat sparsely spaced, bright yellow thread-like foliage. I loved the color and the weeping habit, but I had to use my imagination to visualize what a larger tree might look like as it began to fill in. Thankfully, I didn’t need to rely on my imagination alone because I was visiting my friends at Iseli Nursery at the time, and my tour guide was pleased to take me to another location to see larger specimens growing in their container yard. Now, many years later, I am very pleased to see that they have planted a specimen in the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden, and it is magnificent!
They continued to train their garden specimen up a bamboo stake to a height of about 10 or 12 feet. Now that it is established, it is continuing its upward growth on its own. Its branches grow outward nearly parallel to the ground and begin to droop gently near their tips. Golden lateral branchlets weep off of the main branches and the overall effect is simply stunning!
‘Salinga Aurea’ will eventually become a large specimen in the garden. Pruning of the more vigorous horizontal branches can encourage a more narrow form for many years, but this specimen in an absolute beauty and I would suggest planning a place for it in your garden where it may stand alone and be enjoyed from all angles as it weeps and sways in gentle breezes or strong winter wind.