Enjoy life while you can!

Life is too short!

Almost 15 months ago I suffered a heart attack. Thankfully, I had recently read about the different warning signs that men and women may experience and that list instantly popped into my mind. My first symptom seemed somewhat normal and with the pain in the back of my neck, I presumed that I needed a simple visit to my chiropractor. A few moments later I noticed a very unusual sensation in my chest – not pain – just a very strange sensation that I had never experienced before.

I wondered to myself, “Am I having a heart attack?”

Not wanting that to be the case and yet aware that I may be leaving the house abruptly and going on an overnight visit, I decided to close the windows on that warm, late summer day. I gathered my wallet and keys and returned to my chair feeling a little light-headed.

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Dwarf and miniature conifers can be easily grown and enjoyed for many years in containers.

Another moment later and I began to experience a mild but sharp pain shooting down my jaw and I said to myself, “That’s four, I’m calling 911.”

I made the call and wheeled my office chair out by the front door, which was already open due to the lovely warm day. A very, very slow ten minutes later the paramedics arrived and seemed to stroll slowly up my walkway to discover me sitting by the door.

“Hi Guys. Glad you’re here!”

After connecting me to their equipment, one of the medics casually informed me that he believed I was having a heart attack.

“I concur!” I replied, becoming a little anxious that we weren’t moving more expeditiously.

In what seemed far too long, they hooked me up and off we went, sirens blaring, to the best coronary hospital in the area. I wondered as we moved through light traffic on that Sunday early afternoon, why we seemed to be moving so slowly. I thought that the key to survival with heart attack victims was quick response and action!

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Even folks with very little garden space may enjoy the joy of gardening with dwarf and miniature conifers!

When I arrived at the Cath Lab, I was greeted with smiles and the good news that the team was all warmed up since I was the 4th guest that day. I was taken into the Cath Lab and the procedure was done to unblock two arteries. Everyone along the way told me that I had done everything right and there was a huge chance for survival and very little damage. Only about an hour had gone by from the time I called 911 to when the nice nurse wheeled me to the room where I spent the next 48 hours or so.

Of the 4 heart attack patients they saved that warm, summer Sunday, I was the first to check out and return home to rest.

You just never know when your time will come to move beyond life on this world. I strongly believe that one should always extend love and kindness to those they encounter and one should embrace every opportunity to have fun. I had an opportunity to talk about my garden and dwarf conifers with my nurse. Even though she was over-worked and stressed with her own struggles in life, I was able to share some gardening stories with her in the wee hours of the morning.

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Dwarf and miniature conifers can make the best containers look even better! The year-round color and texture of conifers sure is better than messy mounds of brown, dead foliage through the winter!

She seemed to enjoy the thought of adding dwarf and miniature conifers to the containers on her deck. She loves plants, and at this time in her life she simply doesn’t have time to care for a large garden. She does have time for several containers of mixed plants on her deck and she cherishes her quiet time with a warm cuppa brew in that small space. I told her about the year-round fun to be had when filling those containers with dwarf and miniature conifers.

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Even the smallest balcony can become a calming and therapeutic space with dwarf and miniature conifers!

I believe it was healing for me to share about my love of conifers and I believe it gave my nurse a new perspective on how she might enjoy gardening in the limited space that she can currently manage. Her eyes brightened as she began to think about the possibilities available to her in making that small space even more therapeutic until her life calms to the place where she can extend her own joy of gardening off of the deck and out into her yard.

Life is short – let’s enjoy it and bring as much joy as possible into the lives of those around us through a friendly smile—and gardening!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Mighty mini conifers!

After our unusually long, and beautifully warm and dry summer, the autumn season has turned on as if someone flipped a switch. Temperatures have dropped twenty five degrees and the rains have begun. This past weekend saw record-breaking rain accumulation throughout the Pacific Northwest combined with strong wind. Something about this sudden change of weather has had an impact on my plant focus.

Throughout the past several months I have had many opportunities to work in my garden. Working outdoors, breathing in the fresh, summer air, listening to all of the local critters flutter and scurry about while under the protective shade of the large trees that surround my property influenced some of my gardening and new plant choices. Having the opportunity to spend so much time in the wide open space seemed to have widened my interest in adding a few larger, faster growing conifers to my garden (not that I have space for any more large trees). I also expanded upon my use of larger annual flowers and vegetables which I interspersed among the conifers and other ornamental plants.

Tiny, slow-growing conifers are perfect for containers. The are full of color, texture and character and play well with other cool miniature plants.

I planted a small forest of Sunflowers to provide shade for a few of my more light sensitive conifers, and that strategy worked very well at protecting them from the intense summer sun. We even enjoyed harvesting Nerf football-sized melons from long vines that covered the ground, filling in spaces between conifers. But, as the seasons have changed, and I have retreated back indoors with a more limited view of my garden, so too has my plant focus changed from larger plants to delightful, miniature conifers.

The primary view of my garden through the cooler, wetter, winter months, feature many of  the containers on my patio. Dwarf and miniature conifers are perfect for containers gardens since they take many years to outgrow their space. One container in my garden comes to mind, that I originally planted six years ago, and in that time only one conifer in that grouping has been removed and transplanted into the garden. The three minis that remain continue to enjoy their prominent place on my patio.

Small, colorful conifers and other exciting ornamental plants make excellent year-round fillers for your favorite containers.

As I was recently sitting in my favorite chair near the wood stove, gazing out into the rainy garden, my eyes naturally focused on my containers and I was instantly taken in by the tiny conifers that I have collected over the years. As I was sitting there, it struck me that many of the containers consisted of “conifer couples” — pairs of tiny conifers that shared a theme of one kind or another. For example, ‘Jana’ and ‘Jessy’ shared a container while, ‘Thumbelina’ and ‘Elf’ happily reside in another. This has inspired me to post a series featuring some of my favorite  tiny conifer couples.

Stay tuned, next time I’ll introduce you to two cute little conifers, that if you’re like me, you will find them irresistible and not be satisfied until you find them both for a special place in your own garden.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Fairies and fighters

My wife and I recently had an opportunity to visit our favorite great-niece and great-nephew. They visited us nearly a year ago when they were five and seven years old. Both of them loved running around our garden, their active imaginations leading them in all kinds of adventures. I remember walking them down the initial paths, their eyes wide with curiosity, as they had their first experience in the conifer garden.

It took very little time for them to feel comfortable in exploring on their own, and in no time at all, as we sat on the patio sipping our iced tea, we could hear the sounds of their adventures. Our great-niece would tend to be the conversationalist, telling the story while interacting with the imaginary characters. Alternatively, our great-nephew would provide the sound effects. His jungle sounds and hurricane winds along with gunfire and explosions followed by the painful screams of fallen foes seemed out of place with her occasional words like, “magic rainbow,” “flying unicorn” and “queen of the fairies.”

Miniature Conifers
Miniature conifers are perfect for any mini theme garden whether it feature fairies or fighters.

Being that both of the children celebrate summer birthdays, we wanted to make sure to bring them each a gift so we could celebrate with them during our visit. I decided that the kids were old enough to begin to enjoy miniature container gardening, and my wife approved as long as I let her purchase some accessories to go along with the dwarf and miniature conifers I would select. Now, my wife, being of the feminine persuasion, opted for cute little Fairy Garden accessories; fanciful fences and furniture, little light-posts and lawn sculptures (including a miniature pink flamingo) and tiny paving stones.

The kids seemed just a little confused when we announced that we had brought them birthday presents, and then presented them with ceramic pots and miniature conifers. My wife, of course, wrapped her little accessories so that each child would open two or three small packages – looking a little like toys, their moods began to brighten. Once I explained that I was going to help them create their own miniature versions of my garden, they actually became very excited.

We began with the young girl. She delighted in helping to place the small plants in the pot and she began to tell a story of how the fairies planted the garden many years ago so that they would have a beautiful place for the Queen of the Fairies, should she ever happen to visit. Meanwhile, my great-nephew’s mood seemed to darken.

“I don’t want a fairy garden, those things are for girls” he said as he folded his arms, slumped down in his chair and made a classic pout-and-frown face.

His mother told him to straighten up and try not to hurt uncle Ed’s feelings. I began to think that perhaps he would have some small toys in his room that might be suitable to a miniature garden – in a theme that he would enjoy.

“Hey buddy, how about you show me your room?” I asked and he jumped out of his seat sparing no time to get away from all this fairy silliness. After showing me his collection of model fighter planes spanning about 50 years of military history, I noticed a bag of army-men on the shelf next to his bed. “Hey, I had army-men just like these when I was your age” I told him.

“Really?”

“Yeah, I used to take them out into my parents garden and play with them for hours out there.”

Before long, we decided that his miniature conifer garden would be really cool if, instead of fairies, we set some of his army-men in with the plants and rocks. He dug under his bed until he found an old shoebox filled with rocks he had collected and chose three that he thought would be perfect for his garden.

As we sat on the deck listening the children play with the characters in their own personalized miniature container gardens, I had a certain satisfaction that these two young family members would one day become confer lovers and go on to inspire another generation of Remsrola’s to do the same.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

A fluffy puff for your fairies

A while back I mentioned a little boy that behaved as if he was playing with fairies in my garden. Now, I’m not one to judge one way or the other on this kind of topic – just because I have not personally seen or experienced something, does not mean that it doesn’t exist. After all, there are quite a few people making miniature gardens these days, specifically for the fairies in their gardens. If one were to search the WEB, one would discover a surprising number of sites devoted to the existence of the whimsical little creatures. So, I suppose I should not have been surprised when I dropped in on my friends at Iseli Nursery earlier this week, and discovered that they had just decided on an interesting name for a delightful new little conifer with fluffy white foliage and a puffy growing habit.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Fairy Puff'

Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Fairy Puff’ looks like it would be perfectly suited to entice the fairies into any small garden. This new cultivar was discovered growing as a sport on Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘White Pygmy’ (which is a wonderful miniature conifer itself). ‘White Pygmy’ grows very slowly in a mounding shape with tiny, adult, scale-like foliage, of light green that is tipped with buttery yellow-white. When grown in shade, the light colored variegation is almost pure white, but in more sun, it tends to move toward a yellowish color.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'White Pygmy'
Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘White Pygmy’ has tiny, tight, scale-like foliage which is typically called, “adult foliage.”

‘Fairy Puff’ is a fluffy puff of white tipped, very light green juvenile foliage giving the plant a very soft texture, both visually and to the touch. This tiny plant is reported to prefer a light shearing to promote a tighter form as it does seem to grow a little more open than ‘White Pygmy’. The light shearing will also encourage lots of new juvenile foliage since, as ‘Fairy Puff’ matures, it will begin to make a transition into adult foliage, yet it will retain its near pure white variegation.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Fairy Puff'
Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Fairy Puff’ has soft, fluffy, juvenile foliage. Notice how its tiny scales are turning outward and resemble miniature blades.

I’m fairly confident that this cute little puff of fluffy foliage will draw the fairies in your garden to visit and take a rest on its inviting, clean, soft foliage. Watch for this new temptation to begin to make its presence known at your favorite miniature garden supplier and premium independently owned garden centers.

Ed
Conifer Lover

What did you plant in 1999?

The year was 1999. Some happy new homeowners had just moved onto their brand-new property with a blank slate ready for a landscape. One of their number one priorities was to install a fish pond, followed by a nice patio and then landscape plants. Spending most of their budget on the new pond, a collection of colorful Koi, and a very nice covered patio, there was little left for the landscape plants, so they did what many new homeowners do – they spent as little as possible to purchase the largest plants they could afford at the local big-box discount store.

Now, twelve years later, I receive a call from a young friend.

“Hey Ed. I wonder if you’d like to come over and check out our new house. It’s got a cool pond and a whole bunch of big trees – I think some of them are conifers!” He said as if trying to bait this old man’s interest. “I think we’re going to need to get rid of a bunch of these trees and I’m hoping you’ll give me some advice on what to keep.”

Sure enough, my young friends had purchased a nice home, built in 1999, with a fish pond, a nice covered patio – and a collection of species forest trees that were planted to screen the neighbor’s homes which had, in just twelve years, consumed a great portion of the backyard.

Miniature Conifers
Dwarf and miniature conifers, with their managable size, great color and texture and low-maintenance nature make them perfect companions to the natural setting of the backyard pond.

“We’d like to put a veggie garden in over here” my friend said pointing to an area that, because of the number of large trees planted, would receive less than two hours of direct sun per day in the summer. I doubt that much of the backyard will see any direct sun before May, and it will be back to mostly shade by mid September.

“You did say that you wanted to remove some of these large trees, correct?”

Thankfully, my friend is ready to remove most of these trees, opening up his property for a grand vegetable garden and a wonderful collection of dwarf and miniature conifers to complement the pond and make that space a delight. Since the neighbor’s trees have grown over the years as well, the selection of conifers I will recommend will make a much more tidy looking (and easy to maintain) living fence that will not out-grow its space while they regain a great portion of useable real estate and allow much more sunlight into their garden.

I drew up a quick design for my friends, showing them how to implement the plan in stages so that they can plan and budget for each phase of the project. They are excited to fire up the chainsaw and open up their space, and I’m excited that I’ve found a future source of firewood perfect for the fire pit in my own backyard.

The moral to my story is that bigger and cheaper is not always better when it comes to purchasing your landscape plants. It’s always a good idea to have a landscape plan and some understanding of the plants that you are purchasing. My friends are off to a good start and will have a premium garden to pass on to future homeowners, should they decide to sell and move, in another twelve years or so.

Next time I’ll talk about the pond design and my recommendations of dwarf and miniature conifers to complement that space.

Ed-
Conifer Lover