It’s the ‘Mother Lode’!

Imagine, if you will, you’re walking along one of the rivers or streams near the Mother Lode Highway 49 in the state of California. You can hear birds singing and a mild breeze rustles the leaves of the trees all around you. You deeply breathe in the calming aroma of the forest. Suddenly you see a glimmer of gold sparkling just under the surface of the water. Your heart jumps, you dash into the water and grasp that little shimmering nugget of gold!

Now, imagine that you are walking along a huge production of recently potted ‘Wiltoni’ juniper. Literally tens of thousands of identical clones of bluish green prostrate plants appear as a flowing river of conifers. Suddenly, you catch a glimpse of what looks like a small golden branch on one of the multitude of one gallon containers. Your heart jumps and you dash into the massive group of plants to grasp that little oddity with the one blue branch and one gold.

That’s what happened when Juniperus horizontalis ‘Mother Lode’ was discovered at Iseli Nursery in 1980.

Mature planting of Mother Lode with other great conifers.
Mature planting of ‘Mother Lode’ with other great conifers.

Jean Iseli always encouraged his employees to keep an eye out for unusual mutations on the plants growing at his wholesale nursery. A great many sports, witches brooms and other oddities have been collected, inspected and evaluated over the years, but few ever become something viable for the nursery industry. ‘Mother Lode’ is one of those selected mutations that has proved itself to be a winner in the garden.

Mother Lode featured in a hypertufa container.
‘Mother Lode’ featured in a hypertufa container.

Its bright golden yellow color is sure to attract attention and its prostrate habit makes it a valuable accent in the garden. Plant this beauty near any of the blue spruce or other dark green conifers for a terrific color contrast. Use it near other exciting garden plants like a deep red Japanese maple and the effect is stunning. The bright golden color becomes influenced by the same plum tones that make ‘Wiltoni’ turn almost purple giving ‘Mother Lode’ a unique pinkish orange color during the cold winter months.

‘Mother Lode’ is a great plant to use in containers, in the rock garden, in mass plantings for a dramatic color statement or even grafted on a standard to create a delightful golden cascade. Hardy to Zone 3, it will perform best in well-drained soil. Its best color will develop in full sun, but in harsh summer conditions, some shade may be advisable to prevent sunburn.

Conifer Lover

Lying in the Shade

The other day I was thinking about different conifers that are classified as weeping or pendulous or prostrate. Some have very striking pendulous habits that require help to attain any real height at all. Others will begin their lives crawling along the ground and then with some maturity begin to show upward strength as they twist and curve and bend their way to unique and fascinating specimens. Still others will grow tall and straight as an arrow with all their lateral branches turning and growing straight to the ground where they then sprawl and make a ground cover skirt around the base of the tree. Some become full size trees while others are dwarf. The diversity within this category of conifer is truly amazing.

Tsuga canadensis 'Cole's Prostrate'

One of my absolute favorite prostrate growing conifers is Tsuga canadensis ‘Cole’s Prostrate.’ While most hemlocks tend to prefer some shade, ‘Cole’s Prostrate’ thrives in it. I love the way it lies tightly to the ground as it crawls and sprawls its way in the garden. Planted in the rockery, it will soften the texture of the rocks and fall over the edge of a wall like a waterfall. I like to stake mine when young to establish some height and encourage a unique form before allowing it to do its own thing.

Yes – weeping, pendulous and prostrate conifers – I love them!

Conifer Lover

Thanks to my friends at Iseli Nursery for the links!