December 27, 2009

An overcast winter day reveals colorful evergreens

A Cedrus atlanticus, or the common Atlantic Cedar, sparkles in the melting snow.

These golden evergreens are often seen as houseplants or mini Christmas trees, but in the cold greenhouse, they thrive, and can grow into massively impressive specimens for northern gardens. I drag the pot out every spring, and the vertical golden needled trees stand out in our very non tropical climate.

Yesterday and today, brought temperatures above freezing here in New England. We know it's only for a short break from winter, for tomorrow, we are expecting some snow again, and the long range forecast shows little relief from single digit temperatures, so we must enjoy it while we can.

The melting snow has revealed foliage on the various evergreen shrubs around the yard, and I thought that I would capture some of the more interesting ones, since the light it nice with the reflection off of the snow, and the overcast sky, seems to enhance some of the colors.

In the greenhouse, the juxtaposition of a tropical Rhododendron, Vireya 'Valentines Day' with buds, and a Ozothamnus, just looks a little Christmasy.

A yellow HInoki Cypress which is a dwarf form in the alpine garden, practically screams yellow.

This now ten year old variegated Juniper tree, is starting to look quite nice. I'm not very fond of variegated anything, really, but some species attract me when variegated, especially when variegation is more rarely seen. Juniperus chinensis 'Kaizuka Variegata'

Thuja plicata ‘Zebrina’, grown from a tiny cutting from Dan Hinkley's Heronswood Nursery from when I visited there in 1996. It is finally starting to take off, and required a sheering this year, to help keep it in shape.

OK, this is in the greenhouse, but I am still attracted to this Ozothamnus 'Sussex Silver' which I brought back from a nursery in Oregon last March. Tender for us in Zone 5 near Boston, I must grow this as a container plant in the cold greenhouse. All of the Ozothamnus species have interesting silvery foliage, but this one promises more, some color from flowers, plus an exceptional display of silvery evergreen foliage.

The Japanese ground Bamboo, Sasa vietchii always looks most interesting in the winter. In our climate, it only runs moderately, and I can't live without it ( by choice). Only waist high, the evergreen foliage is useful for Holiday baskets, and in the snow, it looks amazing. The beige edges of the leaves are not variegation, but actually dead leaf edges that transform the all green summer leaf, into a white edged wonder. I love seeing these in the snow.

Ilex crenata 'Golden Gem', is a yellowish form of the more common Japanese Holly, Ilex crenata. This plant is hardy to zone 6, but so far, has survived 3 winters here. I think this year I may move this specimen, since it get's completely hidden in the summer by ornamental Rhubarb from Tibet. I will trim it back, and relocate it where I can see it's evergreen golden leaves all winter. Right now, it's a little scraggly.

In a trough, the alpine primrose Primula marginata, shows off it's sharp dentated leaf edges and white 'farina', what the primrose growers call the white powder that covers the leaves of well grown specimens. In the greenhouse, I have to be careful not to wash it off with a hose, but more is formed outdoors in extreme weather. These plants grow high in the Alps, in the mists of summer, or under deep, dry snowfall. Difficult conditions to reproduce in our wet climate at sea level. This is a more challenging alpine primrose, but I was inspired to grow it in troughs, after visiting the garden of Primula expert Kris Fenderson in New Hampshire. He grows his P. marginata in pure Pro Mix ( a peat based soil) in simple half whisky barrels. There is so much to learn still, in growing many alpines, since old books state that many of these fussy species prefer fast drainage and gravel, newer research shows that many grow best in clay substrates, or peat based commercial soil mixes too. Our troughs potted in pure, hard clay, have the best Saxifrages and even alpine Draba's growing perfectly. Still, more experimentation needs to occur. This primula will have it'd dead foliage torn off carefully, so that it doesn't rot, but the real reward is the lavender flowers in early spring.

These pleached hornbeams will not drop their foliage until spring, but isn't the color refreshing in the winter?

No need for garland, when you have Alaskan Cedar. I love the drooping long branches.

I noticed today the many lichens and mosses growing on trunks. Here, the trunk on a yellow flowered Magnolia 'Gold Finch" shows off some of these tiny displays like a miniature garden.


  1. Wow! I love your photography. Great post, so pleased to have fouund your blog.

    RO :o)

  2. That yellow Hinoki cypress is divine! I have 'Minima' which is the common dwarf, and want to add more to the collection. Perhaps my favourite conifer.

  3. I love the colors and textures that you captured in your pics. Great job.

  4. Thanks for the info on Ruth Stout, I will definately be tracking down the book. It may go into the same catagory as Elizabeth Lawrence's Little Bulb book.

    Your posting on evergreens is wonderful. I must admit they are missing in my garden. As many gardeners do, my garden was planted with perennials first and now I am starting to think of more shrubs, trees and evergreens. I guess we all do this at first because we want instant gardens and our pockets can afford the perennials sooner.

    Thuja plicata ‘Zebrina’ is beautiful and I love Sasa vietchii. I had meant to add that to the garden this year but maybe this will go on the list for spring ordering.

  5. This is a nice collection of plants and great photographs too. Can you please tell me what the plant is in shot #2?

  6. The evergreen in number two is a mystery to me, but it is very common, since it is sold at the Holidays as a potted green, and at spring flower shows. Does anyone know the name? I could not find it.


It's always a good thing to leave a comment!