Snow in the valley!

Although our summer arrived quite late, it was lovely, but it does seem as though we had our final day of phenomenal summer-like weather this past Saturday. The high temperature was a little over 80°, the sky was crystal clear in a beautiful gradient of deep, rich blue to soft blue tones near the horizon. There was a slight breeze making the warmth generating daytime chores very comfortable.

Suspecting that we were nearing the end of our dry, outdoor chore weather, we both concentrated on getting as much done in the garden as we could. I had already managed to plant all of my new plant acquisitions, so I didn’t get to dig in the dirt – well, that’s not true – I spent a good hour or two digging out a wheelbarrow load or two of weeds from my newly created/expanded beds. While doing so, I noticed plenty of nice big earthworms doing their jobs aerating the soil and creating their valuable compost in the process. I am disappointed that I was not able to lay a nice thick layer of mulch this year. I definitely need to make that a budget priority next year!

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'
Like snow on the valley floor, Pinus parviflora ‘Tanima no yuki’ appears as if it has been dusted with wintry precipitation.

Along with the several new conifers I planted this year, I also included several new Lavender plants. You might remember last spring I talked about Lavender being a great companion plant for my conifers. Both my wife and I have enjoyed their calming perfume and pretty little flowers. The bees have been happy and busily working their new discovery this summer. As thrilled as I am with my new collection of Lavender, I am even more excited about some of my new conifers.

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki' - Spring candle
The spring candle push of ‘Tanima no yuki’ is variegated green and white with bright pink highlights.

One of my most prized finds this year as been Pinus parviflora ‘Tanima no yuki’. This little Japanese white pine is a very slow grower within the Dwarf growth rate scale created by the American Conifer Society. The new plant I acquired had put on about two inches of new growth this year. Established plants that I have seen will grow up to three or four inches of new growth, but in a very irregular fashion, creating a small mound with slightly twisted foliage. One of the great features of this new conifer is its variegated foliage.

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki' - summer foliage
The maturing summer foliage Pinus parviflora ‘Tanima no yuki’ is soft and fluffy with white variegation.

When ‘Tanima no yuki’ begins to push its new growth in spring, the candles are a combination of bright pink, green and white. These candles seem to push later than other dwarf Japanese white pines and take even longer for the needles to begin to unfurl and extend outward giving the plant its full, fuzzy appearance. When the needles lengthen and expose themselves, they will have a varying amount of whitish variegation, giving the whole plant a look as if it has been dusted with snow – which incidentally is what the Japanese name translates to: Snow in the Valley.

Hopefully we will have some dry weather and a few days of warmer temperatures before the real rainy season sets in. Although, as winter arrives, we’ll enjoy the year-round beauty of our conifer garden through the large windows while seated in our favorite chairs, sipping warm cups of tea near the wood stove.

Conifer Lover

Feelin’ the love

This has been a fantastic summer for enjoying our fire pit. Some summers are so hot that at nine or ten o’clock at night, when we feel like sitting around a campfire, it is still 80 degrees outside. Not this year. This year, not only do I wear a sweatshirt, but I actually enjoy the warmth of the fire.

Pinus parviflora 'Bergman'
Pinus parviflora ‘Bergman’ is an elegant specimen in the garden.

Last night as my wife and I were snuggled in our Adirondack love seat near the fire pit, out of nowhere my wife mentioned how much she liked the Pinus parviflora ‘Bergman’ just across the pit from where we sat. Now, hearing this from my wife was quite a surprise because she has always made it crystal clear that she does not like pines.  (Actually, there are a few pines in the garden that she has admired over the years – and now that I am thinking about it, they have all been cultivars of Pinus parviflora (the Japanese white pine).

Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'
Pinus parviflora ‘Goldilocks’ appears as a bright golden yellow small tree. Closer inspection of the foliage reveals beautiful two-toned needles.

In my last post I mentioned one of our favored variegated conifers, Pinus parviflora ‘Ogon janome’. My wife loves its soft foliage and variegated needles. Pinus parviflora ‘Goldilocks’ is another brightly colored cultivar that my wife absolutely loves. ‘Goldilocks’ is one the brightest yellows you will see in a pine.  Depending on culture, Goldilocks can be trained as a very straight tree or be allowed to follow the beat of its own drummer and mature into a wonderful specimen with gentle curves that add striking character to this small tree.

Pinus parviflora 'Catherine Elizabeth'
Pinus parviflora ‘Catherine Elizabeth’ is a delightful garden additon – I encourage you to invite her into your garden today.

Another Japanese white pine that has won the admiration of my wife is Pinus parviflora ‘Catherine Elizabeth’. This delightful little beauty is soft textured with short bluish green needles and a compact rounded form. Growing just a few inches a year, ‘Catherine Elizabeth’ will fill her space in the garden relatively slowly. She responds well to a little candle pruning in spring/early summer if you desire a tighter, more compact plant.

Pinus parviflora 'Glauca Nana' seedling under evaluation.
This seedling of Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca Nana’ has quite the character. Tiny needles and miniature habit make this one to watch for in the future.

The last time my wife joined me for a walk around the display gardens at Iseli, she honed right in on one of the smallest Japanese white pines I have ever seen. This is one of Iseli’s seedlings under evaluation. With new growth of two or three centimeters and tiny curled needles, this irregularly formed miniature captured both our imaginations. I don’t expect to see this little fella in the local garden center anytime soon, but it sure is something to look forward to.

I’m excited that my wife is beginning to move past her dislike of pines in general and is finding joy in a broader group of conifers. Go team conifer!

Conifer Lover

Windswept without a breeze

I am always drawn to conifers that display some kind of character. True, most of the tiny dwarf conifers that I love so much are very uniformly shaped little mounds, globes or pyramids, but trees with an unusual shape will capture my attention and inspire my imagination in a way the garden gems cannot. The art of bonsai involves many years of meticulous training and care to reproduce, in miniature, forms of trees found in nature; trees that have been struggling to survive on a cliff side, branches bent in a constant coastal wind or by year after year of snow load.

Pinus parviflora 'Fukuzumi'

I love when I am introduced to a conifer cultivar that grows naturally in a contorted or windswept form even without the slightest breeze or snowfall. One such tree is Pinus parviflora ‘Fukuzumi.’ This form of the Japanese White Pine grows from a young age with the characteristic look of a pine beat down over millennia to grow at extreme angles giving the trunk nice movement and a welcome aesthetic appeal. The fine textured blue-green needles and prolific cone bearing habit add to the pleasure this tree gives in my garden. In fact, it is quite common to find three years of cones remaining on a tree for cone-heads like me to enjoy.

I can see this tree becoming very popular as more and more people discover its unique beauty. Hopefully, landscape designers begin to realize its usefulness as a low maintenance, rugged looking windswept tree for those special places in the garden.

Conifer Lover