Crazy About Conifers
With gardens featuring over 50 different varieties, master gardener Paul James reveals why he's crazy about conifers.
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It's no secret that master gardener Paul James is a conifer enthusiast. And with plants like this young golden Deodar cedar (Cedrus diodara 'Aurea') (figure A), it's easy to see why. While not a true weeper, this beauty will nevertheless develop gracefully arching branches as it matures and will ultimately reach 25 feet or so.
This weeping bald cypress (figure B), a deciduous conifer, will only get more striking over time.
A new weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Pendula') will spread to nearly 10 feet wide while remaining only five feet high.
This Japanese pine (Pinus parviflora 'Glauca' ) (figure C) will eventually top out at 50 to 80 feet tall, "but not in my lifetime," says James. This variety is often used as a bonsai specimen because it is such a slow grower.
This yew (figure D), also called (Taxus baccata stricta 'Aurea'), is a narrow, upright grower that should grow to about eight feet tall. Taxus is the genus in which all yews reside. Baccata means having fruits with a pulpy, berry-like texture. Stricta means strict, upright, and Aureameans golden.
"Here's a plant I can't seem to find a home for — an Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica)," says James. "Although it's hardy in my area and enjoys hot weather, it doesn't hold up well in high humidity, which is plentiful around here."
This is Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Split Rock', a named variety of the famed Hinoki falsecypress (figure E). "As you can see, I've stuck it in a pot at least for now, because even when full grown it's short, topping out at only about three to four feet."
Here's another dwarf form of the Hinoki and it too has found a home in a container. "This Hinoki will grow to about eight feet tall, so I'm going to plant it directly in the garden in a place where it gets full sun up until about mid day, followed by afternoon shade (figure G)."
This little Cryptomeria 'Elegans Compacta' is a real winner. It too can be a bit difficult to grow in a humid environment, so he's planted it in a container so he can move it around all until he finds a perfect spot for it.
"This is Picea sitchensis 'Papoose,' a young spruce (figure H) that I read about and had to have," James says.
And finally, this curious plant isn't a conifer, but it is an evergreen (figure I). It's Araucaria araucara, better known as the monkey puzzle tree, native to Chile. And in the wild it can reach heights of 40 feet. "Of course, it isn't nearly hardy anywhere in my area, so I'll have to over-winter it indoors. And why is it called the monkey puzzle tree? Well, some say it's because only a monkey is capable of climbing it without being stabbed by its thornlike leaves."