The fantastic four

This is the third morning that I’ve been able to spend time in my garden while enjoying the late winter sun. Yes, it’s been mostly sunny for three days in a row!

Sunny mornings can fill an old heart with joy. As I work to get the garden cleaned up and ready to come alive again, I hear birds singing and squirrels chasing each other through the trees that surround my property. We had some strong winds blow quite a lot of debris into my garden from those same large trees. As my wife and I pick up fallen boughs, I am finding very little damage to my conifers. I was most concerned about some of my miniature Chamaecyparis since they can be a little finicky in the best of conditions. I am happy to report that they are all doing very well.

There are four of these mini-Chams that look particularly good in my garden right now. All four would be considered miniature (except perhaps, ‘Just Dandy’ which would be on the slower growing end of the dwarf scale) as listed by the American Conifer Society. All four are rich dark green in color and each has its own unique growth habit or form.

Chamaecyparis obtusa Ellie B.
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Ellie B.’

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Ellie B.’ is a wonderful little plant with an upright growth habit. Its tightly held, shiny dark green foliage and slightly irregular form make it a nice miniature sculpture in the rock garden or containers.

Chamaecyparis obtusa Gnome - grafted on standard
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gnome’ – grafted on standard

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gnome’ like its name suggests is a very slow growing miniature conifer. Grown from cuttings, ‘Gnome’ is a very compact plant with tiny, dark green foliage which forms a small globe-shaped mound. Again, excellent in containers and the alpine or rock garden.

Chamaecyparis obtusa Just Dandy
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Just Dandy’

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Just Dandy’ is just that, “dandy.” The fastest of the four mini-Chams on the list today, but still remains a small green mound in the garden. Slow growing with small foliage and a slightly open habit which can help it “breathe” a little better than some other extremely compact conifers, this one is great in containers for a few years and then transplants well into the garden.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana’ is one of my first conifer loves. Rich dark green foliage on a slow growing mounding plant that is slightly faster than ‘Ellie B,’ make this older selection a worthy addition to your garden.

Keep an eye out for these little beauties coming to a garden center near you!

Conifer Lover

A giant gnome’s hat

There is just something about gardening that inspires in me visions of whimsical creatures like fairies, gnomes and the like. Perhaps it’s my love for the dwarf and miniature conifers. As I work with delightfully small versions of our giant forest trees, I am often reminded of the stories from my youth about the magical and often mischievous sprites of ancient folklore.

Picea omorika 'Nana'

Last week I was introducing a new friend to my conifer garden and his young son asked me where the gnomes live. My friend and I laughed a little about this inquiry, and then I asked the young lad why he thought gnomes were living in my garden. Pointing down the path about 60 feet or so toward my Picea omorika ‘Nana’, he said, “Cuz one of ’em left his hat over there.” Sure enough, my specimen of about 18 years looks very much like a gnome’s hat – a really big gnome that is.

The Dwarf Serbian spruce makes a great garden tree with its classic conical shape, blue-green foliage and low maintenance tidy habit. ‘Nana’ is also hardy to Zone 4, so I know it would be popular with the folks in those very cold winter regions around the USA and other parts of the world. Growing at a rate of three or four inches per year in my climate, it is definitely a dwarf compared to its parent tree. But if it survives for 300 years, it could potentially be quite a giant itself.

Conifer lover

Thanks again to the good folks at Iseli for the photo links.

My Dear ‘Nana’

I first became interested in dwarf conifers back in the early 1970’s. In those days, I was working with a landscaper primarily doing yard and garden care. I had the opportunity to mow lawns and pull weeds in some of the finest private gardens in my area. That was when I was introduced to my first love. She was a beauty, short for her age and bigger around than tall with lovely dark green, tightly held foliage. I’m going to guess that she was nearly 30 years old at the time and truly a sight to behold. My boss called her “Dwarf Hinoki,” but I came to know her as ‘Nana.’

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana'

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana’ was my first dwarf conifer love and that admiration has lasted all these years. She’s so soft and has a wonderful rich dark green color all year long. In fact, I’ve noticed as it has gotten colder over the past couple of weeks and some conifers have bronzed or become yellowish, ‘Nana’ seems to get darker and darker. In spring, as her new growth begins, she’ll brighten to fresh grass green and darken as the new foliage matures through the season.

‘Nana’ is one of the true miniature conifers that is well suited to rock gardens and container gardens of all kinds. Acquired when small, ‘Nana’ will be perfect for a trough garden for several years. When she outgrows that space, she may be easily transplanted to a container all her own or into the landscape. She’ll just need well drained soil and a sunny location.

My oldest specimen has a prominent place in my front garden, and I’ve recently purchased a second little plant in a four inch pot. I’m not sure exactly where this little beauty will go, but I couldn’t resist her during my last visit to the garden center in November!

Conifer Lover