Conifers - 50 Shades Of Green

SORRY.  I couldn’t resist jumping on the “50 Shades Bandwagon”.  But it is true that even within the world of needle-leafed evergreens (what we nursery types call conifers) there is a wide variety of choice in foliar color from bright or dull green to bluish or chartreuse or to reddish and even variegated.  Truth be known, there are a heck of a lot more than 50 shades!


While evergreens form the backbone of our native forests (hence the state name of The Evergreen State) their domesticated relatives also form the structure and bones of our landscapes.  Fastigiate varieties become our focal points, mounding ones act as fillers and spreaders assume the role of ground covers.  They are also the consummate low maintenance plant assuming one selects the proper variety.  And because they come in so many shades of green they can provide enough variety to keep the landscape interesting.  


There are easily over 20 different genera of conifers and a gazillion species and cultivars available for planting in our yards today.  Some form symmetrical pyramids while others can be twisted and contorted or weeping or tall and narrow.  They come in just about every form and color imaginable.  These domesticated varieties are all mutants from some native forest variety somewhere in the world that a dedicated nursery professional found, propagated and introduced to the gardening public.  


One of the most respected wholesale growers of choice conifers is Iseli Nursery in Boring Oregon.  Over the years they have introduced hundreds of selections of conifers that are now gracing gardens all over the world.  (I like to think of them as the Baskin Robbins of the conifer world.)  Whether you are looking for a major feature in your landscape, something to create a privacy screen or just a little accent to place in a rock garden or container, most respected nurseries should have what you are looking for and this is an excellent time of the year to shop.  Many conifers still have their winter colors of plum and bronze instead of their summertime blue and green.  There are even a couple of pines that turn a bright yellow in the winter (Chief Joseph is the Holy Grail of pines).  You will be surprised at the contrast and drama you can generate with conifers just from the variety of foliage colors and growth habits that are available.  And don’t forget to look for miniature varieties that only grow an inch or less a year which makes them well suited for containers, rockeries or miniature gardens.


I of course have a few conifers that I have planted in my garden but probably my all-time favorite is the giant weeping Sequoia that at only a few feet wide shoots up to the sky like a rocket on an erratic trajectory and serves to anchor my entire front bed.  In the back garden is a slender Hinoki Cypress that got a little too big for its britches so I have been artfully (my words, not my wife’s) pruning it to better fit into the space.  Finally, on the other extreme is a cute little Korean Fir called Silver Pearl which sits in a pot by the back steps and stays nice and tidy by only growing an inch a season.


For more info on selecting and growing conifers first go to the Iseli Nursery website and make your list and then come to our class on Saturday March 7th and hear Jock Demme, sales manager for Iseli Nursery.