Sunday, October 19th, 2008...5:06 pm

Conifers

Fall is a good time to attend gardening lectures. Not that there isn’t a lot of work still left to do in the garden: harvesting if you have vegetable gardens, putting your plants to sleep for the winter if you have flowers, bringing in summer bulbs like gladioli,  planting next spring’s bulbs like daffodils, etc.  But since there are many good lectures going on in the Fall, like the Perennial Plant Conference on Friday, October 17th at Swarthmore, when readers have free time, they should make every effort to attend.

To that end of going to lectures to learn more, TheGardenLady attended a lecture entitled “Conifers for Your Garden” given by Steven Kristoph who has taught about conifer trees at Rutgers University for over 25 years. He also owns Steven Kristoph Nursery and has a website

Steven opened his lecture by saying how pleased he was that so many people attended his lecture since so many excellent websites can be Goggled up on conifer trees that one can find out just about all there is to know about conifers without leaving home.  Conifer trees are defined as a grouping of trees with needle or scale-like leaves (e.g. pine, spruce, cypress) and bear cones. They are usually, but not always, evergreen. A website that he recommends is The American Conifer Society.  This website lists all the conifers with photos as well as tells the readers where there are lectures or symposium on conifers.

TheGardenLady was interested in attending this lecture to see if she could learn about a conifer that would be a good understory tree to plant in her front yard.  Not that TheGardenLady doesn’t have a lot of trees on her property, but she also has a lot of lawn that has to be mowed. And as nice as mowed lawn looks, as TheGardenLady ages, lawn mowing becomes more and more difficult so that the thought of less and less lawn seems very desirable.  In his lecture Kristoph was going to talk about 38 conifers. Hopefully, there would be one conifer that he would talk about that could grow in the shade under the massive old Sycamore trees. But not one conifer was mentioned by Steven that sounded like it would meet TheGardenLady’s needs.

All the conifers he spoke about wanted sun – many were specimen trees, standing alone in the sun. So after the presentation, TheGardenLady went to talk to the speaker who told her that maybe the Hinoke Cypress which is a false cypress or the Arbirvutae which is the true cypress might grow in the difficult condition of under massive deciduous trees.  From his suggestions I am considering one of the dwarf hinoki cypresses, Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Pygmaea’ or the Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’.  But I will have to see how pricey they are before I make my decision.

Meantime, lectures like catalogs are times for dreaming- dreaming about the future. One of my favorite  conifers is the deciduous one, Dawn redwood- Metasequoia Glyptostoboides which comes in a gold needled cultivar called Gold Rush. The regular form has leaves that turn a urns a unique pinkish tan to reddish bronze before dropping in the fall. This tree is one of the oldest living “fossils” on earth.  TheGardenLady would love to see a Dawn Redwood growing in her back yard.

If I were designing a new garden I would plant so many of the conifers Steven Kristoph spoke about- trees that are unique and architectural and add so much interest to the garden’s look – conifers like the Japanese Cryptomeria, Cryptomeria Japnica or Pinus Bungeana, the Lacebark Pine. Ah, to be rich like Croesus or a DuPont and to be able to create a garden for oneself and humanity. Every time I go to one of these wonderful gardens, like the Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Mass. I thank the Lord that there were/are people with the foresight (and money)  to make gardens for mere mortals like TheGardenLady to enjoy.

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