Electricity, bacon and burned hair

Ever have one of those dreams that seems so real that it lingers with you for hours – or even days? I had one a few nights ago, and it’s still haunting my thoughts. Not that it was a nightmare, it was just so strange and yet so real. Maybe it was real – but it couldn’t have been.

The day had begun just like any other. I met a good friend at my favorite coffee shop on Main Street, we talked about his new job, his new wife and his garden. I’ve been giving him landscaping suggestions and advice for a number of years. Two houses and two wives later, he’s beginning to really enjoy gardening – it’s something they enjoy doing together.

Pinus strobus 'Mini Twists'
‘Mini Twists’ provides an unusual texture and soothing color to the garden.

Anyway, we discussed several different plants that day, but one captured his attention more than any other that I suggested. Pinus strobus ‘Mini Twists’ is an exciting small tree with long, twisted, blue-green needles. The unusual twisted appearance of the needles makes me wonder if the little fella stuck his fingers in the electric outlet causing his hair to become frizzled! Overall, ‘Mini Twists’ will add an interesting texture to the garden – soft and coarse at the same time. Its dwarf growth rate will enable it to fit into most gardens, and it does respond well to a little candle pruning should a more compact form be desired.

In my dream, this same friend and I were strolling through my garden and I had just promised to give him my ‘Mini Twists’ in a small container. Suddenly, the air began to fill with electricity, I noticed the hair raising on my forearms, a very strange odor filled the air – like bacon and burned hair – and my inventor friend appeared right before us, his hair smoking and frizzed out.

“I’m sorry, Ed – I’m really, really sorry!” he said as he grabbed the ‘Mini Twists’ container out of my hands and disappeared in a flash of electricity, bacon and burned hair.

At that instant I awoke, my eyes wide open, my heart pounding and I must have vocally expressed my confusion because my wife suggested that if I was going to use that kind of language, I’d best get out of bed and join the navy. Even today, the memory still lingers and every once in a while I seem to catch a whiff of burned hair and bacon.

Pinus strobus 'Mini Twists'
Delicate looking bi-color needles of ‘Mini Twists’ make it a very special plant.

I still haven’t figured out what message my subconscious was trying to convey, but I think that I’d better make sure I have a couple of ‘Mini Twists’ in my garden just in case they become extremely valuable in some future economy!

Sleep well.

Conifer Lover

Weeping for the falls

Just about a year ago I featured a great new weeping white pine; one of
the 2009 Collectors Conifer of the Year plants made available through the
American Conifer Society. Pinus strobus ‘Niagara Falls’ is a wonderful
new selection with slower growth than the well known Pinus strobus
‘Pendula’. I’ve had people ask me if P.s.‘Niagara Falls’ is something they
should bother with if they already have a P.s. ‘Pendula’ in their collection.
For me, the answer is simple. If you have enough room in your garden, YES!

Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’ is a grand specimen that, like many weeping
conifers and depending on culture, may grow as a low, sprawling,
magnificent ground cover or a tall undulating specimen reaching out this
way and that. A fast grower, ‘Pendula’ will have long, exposed, silvery gray
branches that curve and add character and interest while its long needles
add softness as they sway like fine textured blades of grass in the
summer breeze.

Pinus strobus 'Pendula'
Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’ with growth three times as long as ‘Niagara Falls’ will often expose its silvery gray bare branches

With its slower growth, ‘Niagara Falls’ will appear to be a more fully
clothed plant with a similar but different effect in the garden. The shorter
annual growth allows its foliage to more effectively cover its branches as it
(again depending on culture) will mound and sprawl, occasionally sending
up a dominant leader which eventually flops over and continues to build its
unique character. The denseness of the foliage gives ‘Niagara Falls’ a
more coarse and full appearance, when compared with ‘Pendula’, and as
it sprawls in the garden amongst the rockery or over a wall, it surely does
bring to mind the grand waterfall of its namesake.

Pinus strobus 'Niagara Falls'
A young ‘Niagara Falls’ begins to show some character.

In smaller gardens, where space is limited, ‘Niagara Falls’ could be a very
desirable alternative to the larger, more open growing ‘Pendula’. In
gardens with plenty of space, I would definitely grow both of these
excellent forms of the weeping white pine to enjoy their unique
contributions to the landscape.

And the winner is….

Are you a member of the American Conifer Society? I can think of two reasons that you need to join right now. Last autumn, the ACS announced its two Collector Conifers of the Year for 2009. These two specimens are definitely conifers that you want in your own garden. They are both available to members through the ACS (SOLD OUT). You may be able find these two amazing cultivars in your fine local garden centers or from online vendors – but they are still quite rare.
Pinus heldrichi Smidtii
Pinus heldrichi 'Smidtii'

The dwarf selection is Pinus heldreichii ‘Smidtii’, a very slow grower that could attain a height of about 12 inches in ten years. This little fella is perfect in the rock garden or in containers. If acquired when quite small, it could live in a container garden for many years. In the rock garden, it is unlikely to ever outgrow its space. I love its rich dark green foliage and neat, compact habit. Mine is tiny compared to the one pictured here which is close to ten years old and nearly 10 inches high and 12 inches across.

Pinus strobus Niagara Falls
Pinus strobus 'Niagara Falls'

The second CCOY for 2009 is a weeping form of the Eastern White Pine. Pinus strobus ‘Niagara Falls’ began as a mutation on Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’. ‘Niagara Falls’ is a slower growing form with dense foliage that cascades as the tree will mound and sprawl looking quite like the famous falls on the border of New York and Ontario. As much as I have always loved ‘Pendula,’ this new form is a premium selection that should tend to be scaled more for today’s smaller gardens. Great weeping form and compact size.

These two selections are very likely going to be difficult to find for the next few years, so if these things have gotten you excited, why not become an ACS member and get your order in on these beauties before they are all gone? (Ok, it’s too late to get them from the ACS – but membership still has benefits like a great quarterly bulletin and an opportunity to get your hands on the 2010 Collector’s Conifers of the Year next spring.)

Conifer Lover