One thing I love about the end of January is the nursery and seed catalogs begin to arrive in my mailbox. This always launches the debate in our family about how much of our garden budget will go to conifers and how much will be designated to new flower seed. My wife and I immediately agreed that this year we would devote a little more space and time to growing fresh vegetables. There is nothing like a fresh tomato or ear of corn right out of the garden.
Then I had a fun idea – I suggested we start a lollipop garden.
I’m certain you have seen them – those little lollipop looking topiaries sculpted out of everything from ivy to herbs, and yes, conifers. One advantage with conifers is that if you choose a good dwarf or miniature that has been grafted on an 18 to 30 inch “standard,” you will have a very minimum amount of care to keep it small and manageable for many years.
For example, imagine planting a silvery blue Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ that appears as a blue ball floating above the soil and then filling the space under it with an assortment of colorful flowers. Or, if you prefer container gardening and your desire is to brighten up your patio or deck, you could choose from green, orange, yellow or blue low-maintenance conifers grafted on standards. Then, plant your new lollipop in the center of a well-made ceramic pot and fill in around it with flowers of varying colors and heights. Better yet, replace the flowers with other colorful conifers for a low maintenance year-round color display.
Don’t let the cold and dreary days of winter stop you from planning your spring gardening adventures and imagine a crop of colorful conifer lollipops brightening your own special place.
My miniature container gardens have really come to life the past few weeks. All the dwarf and miniature conifers are pushing their new growth and the companion succulents and mini-heathers are performing admirably. Two of the hot spots in my containers right now are both miniature Hinoki Cypress cultivars selected for their bright gold foliage color and extremely slow growth rates.
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Golden Sprite’ has been a favorite of mine for many years. This little nugget of gold has tiny foliage that slowly grows into an irregularly shaped mound that is broader than tall. At fifteen years old, my oldest specimen is nearly 10 inches across and approximately seven inches tall. The foliage is so tight that I can barely stick a finger into this plant. I love its unusual mounded shape – this one really has a lot of character.
Another golden nugget of conifer joy is Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Butter Ball’. At first glance, you might think it’s identical to ‘Golden Sprite’, but upon closer inspection you’ll find that it is a more open grower giving it a chance to “breathe” a little bit. The tiny foliage is more a lemon-yellow color and it is noticeably looser than that of ‘Golden Sprite’ suggesting a slightly faster growth rate. Mine is still quite young, and it will have many more years in its current container before I will need to become concerned with transplanting it into the garden.
Both these little golden nuggets are valuable additions to my container garden. As they mature, I look forward to placing them in my rock garden (which will give me an excuse to purchase a couple more small ones to re-plant into containers.)