The naked silhouette

The sky was dark gray. The clouds were thick and low rendering the nearby hills to appear more as shadows than the beautiful, rich, green, tree-covered mounds that I knew them to be. The rain was falling at a 30° angle in a heavy, fine mist, which contributed to the obfuscation of the bright and warming rays of the sun. Looking at my watch, I confirmed that it was near noon, though outside it was dark enough that one might confuse the time of day by several hours thinking we were in the midst of twilight.

I poked the few hot coals which remained of the morning fire and added additional fuel to warm the house since we had no intention of venturing out on this day. Once the fire had settled into place, I did the same in my favorite chair. My wife joined me with a cup of tea and the newspaper while I sat and gazed out of the picture window which overlooks the main section of my garden. The cat insisted he needed some attention before he nestled himself back upon his favorite chair near the same window, through which was the focus of my attention.

Acer palmatum dissectum 'Ever Red'
The sculptural framework of an old lace-leaf maple.

By now, all but a few leaves had fallen from my deciduous trees leaving my collection of conifers as the primary players in my winter garden composition. As I slowly scanned the garden, admiring how my tiny, newer plants looked happy and healthy in their new homes and enjoying the forms and textures of older specimens that had been maturing in this garden for quite a number of years, my eyes came to rest upon the naked silhouette of a very beautifully shaped, older Red Laceleaf Japanese Maple.

Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Ever Red’ is one of the old standards in the world of landscape gardening. A Japanese selection, imported into Europe and given the name, ‘Dissectum Nigrum’, it made its way to the United States and was marketed commercially under the name ‘Ever Red’. Nomenclature purists will insist that the only legitimate name is ‘Dissectum Nigrum’, but it is grown in nurseries from coast to coast with the name ‘Ever Red’ and one is more likely to find it in the local garden center with that name.

Acer palmatum dissectum 'Ever Red'
Beautifully clothed during the summer with red lacy leaves.

Of course, this time of year, and of particular note on this dim, gray, drizzly day, was the characteristic branching structure of the tree. The lace-leaf maples, for the most part, are known for their low-growing, mounding, arched to weeping branches and their curvaceous main trunk. I like to keep my lace-leaf maples trimmed with a somewhat open form which, even during the peak of the summer growing season, when the finely dissected, colorful leaves cover the plant, allows a veiled glimpse of the inner structure of the tree. Then, after the brilliant autumn show of brightly colored leaves comes to its finale and the foliage falls and is swept away, the magnificent beauty of the sculptural framework may be appreciated to its fullest.

The rain eventually slowed and came to a brief end on that otherwise gloomy day. Within minutes the moisture began to accumulate in tiny droplets along the branches of my lovely, naked tree. Its intricate form became highlighted with tiny reflective sparkles of light as the clouds thinned and the sun began to poke its powerful golden rays of light down into my garden for a few moments, before the next shower began.

Conifer Lover

Golden light or dark snowy skies

They’ve been warning us for days now of the huge snowstorm that is going to blast us with several inches of snow down to the valley floor. For those of us who love a little snow from time to time, of course, want to believe. Really, we do. Those of us who have lived in western Oregon for most of our lives have learned that usually the first or second panicked reports from our local news-casters are false alarms.

Sure, get the kids all hyped-up about snow and their heads filled with visions of days off school, building all kinds of snow sculptures, snowball fights, sledding, and in general, just having a great time! While parents, on the other hand, need to make child-care plans should the schools actually close. Sure, there are some snowflakes falling from the sky – if you are fortunate enough to find yourself above 500 feet in elevation – but it’s just a tease, it is not near cold enough to stick and accrue any reasonable accumulation.

Snowy Conifer Garden
The conifer garden looks fantastic in the midst of dark, stormy skies and a blanket of snow.

I would love to see my garden in a blanket of snow. What is it about a garden full of trees and shrubs, of all shapes and sizes, either sprinkled lightly or heavily covered in snow, that brings such a sense of peace and happiness? I haven’t had that pleasure since 2008, which turned out to be quite an unusual snow year for us with a big fluffy blanket of snow in January, and then again in December, in what possibly became the largest snow event in 40 years!

The Sunny Conifer Garden
The conifer garden glows in the low winter sun.

Winter in the conifer garden is a beautiful time of year. We have had one of the driest Decembers in recent memory, and with that dryness, we actually had many days that were filled with sunshine! Oh, how beautiful are the conifers, dressed in their winter colors with the low, golden winter sun illuminating the scene in a hue of warmth; which brings to the soul, hope of the coming spring.

OK local weather forecasters, just keep teasing us with promises of a big snow event, I’m ready to enjoy the transformation of beauty it will create in my garden. But, rain or shine, snow or silver thaw, the conifer garden will be a place of beauty to be enjoyed, not only by me, but by all the critters that have made this little garden their home.

Conifer Lover