Friday, July 27, 2012

Variegated Conifers Part 2

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Phil's Flurries'

This week's web log concludes last week's thoughts on variegated conifers. These quirky plants originate as seedling variants or via foliage mutations. Remember that foliage mutations do not necessarily imply a "witch's broom" origin -- the opposite can occur, where foliage bolts, as with Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Kosteri Fast Form', or reverts with a different color as with Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Phil's Flurries', presented last week as one of our introductions.

Picea orientalis 'Sulphur Flush'
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Kosteri Fast Form'

Picea orientalis 'Sulphur Flush'

Picea orientalis 'Sulphur Flush' is of seedling origin, and in fact, is also known as 'Silver Seedling'. It originated in Holland over thirty years ago. What I grow as 'Sulphur Flush' is identical to 'Silver Seedling', and some suggest that 'Sulphur Flush' is actually a name for some other seedling. I don't know the facts, but I'm always amused by others who know less, but presume they know more. After thinking about it now, I guess I'll probably change my labels to 'Silver Seedling'. But what I do know, after growing this cultivar for a dozen years, is that no two really look alike, at least not in my nursery. One plant can have various-colored shoots, so during propagation, that might account for my one original tree now featuring different-looking offspring. If the shoots are too green, that's not good. If the shoots are too white, that's also not good. The aim is to have the cultivar with a pretty frosting of white, but not too white and weak to live. The two photos shown above almost seem like two different cultivars. So don't think that plants are so simple and easy to categorize.

Pinus aristata 'Lemon Frost'

Speaking of a "pretty frosting," consider Pinus aristata 'Lemon Frost', a Don Howse (of Porterhowse Farms) introduction of a few years ago. Not only does it have the white resin specks of the aristata species, but the needles also display a subtle golden frosting. I suspect that lean soils or reduced irrigation might enhance the variegation, but I've never actually experimented with that.

Pinus cembroides 'Pina Nevada'

Pinus cembroides 'Pina Nevada' has been featured by me before. I've watched visitors walk past my largest tree (only 7' tall) in summer without seeming to notice it. But in winter the needles shine brilliantly, and everyone wants to know where my rows of hundreds are located. This "dragon's eye" Mexican "stone" pine was discovered in 1992 by the late JC Raulston on a plant collection trip with Yucca Do Nursery, and you can see Raulston's photos of the original tree on the JC Raulston Arboretum website. We propagate by grafting onto vigorous Pinus strobiformis rootstock, but still the cultivar remains weak. Many of our starts die within a year or two or three, and almost certainly will die if left unprotected in a container in winter when small. 'Pina Nevada' is truly a wimp, but oh so beautiful once established.

Pinus densiflora 'Golden Ghost'

Pinus densiflora 'Cesarini's Variegated'

Two "Japanese Red Pines," Pinus densiflora 'Golden Ghost' and 'Cesarini's Variegated' are similar, and both are more dwarf than the old 'Oculis Draconis' that hardly anyone grows anymore. 'Golden Ghost's' banding is more yellow than the white of 'Cesarini's Variegated'. Colors intensify in winter, and furthermore, they glow much brighter in midwest and east coast locations. Neither are really good cultivars for a western Oregon garden, in my experience, but they sure do shine elsewhere.

Pinus mugo 'Yellow Point'

 Pinus mugo 'Sunshine'

Pinus mugo 'Yellow Point' didn't impress me for its first eight or ten years here. Yes, the needles were slightly yellow, but I supposed it was like the previous two densiflora cultivars, that western Oregon just wasn't the place for it. A few years ago, in late August in our Display Garden, I was astounded to discover it throbbing with cream-yellow at the ends of the branchlets. The photos above don't do justice to the way it looked that day. But still, it is rather moody; for I have just now walked out to take a look at it, and I'm sorry to report that it's just a green blob today. Pinus mugo 'Sunshine' can vary as well, by being intensely-colored one day, and dull at another time. It displays the dragon eye's banding, and can be a bright cheerful yellow when it feels like it.

Pinus parviflora 'Fukai'

Pinus parviflora 'Fukai'

I hate to repeat the same song, but Pinus parviflora 'Fukai' is another tree that varies in its appeal. At its best, it absolutely sparkles with cream white. I find that it requires full sun, and, fortunately, does not burn. 'Fukai' originated in Sweden, then eventually it was introduced by the late Mr. Horstmann of Schneverdingen, Germany. As I whine about the shortcomings of these variegated pines, I wonder if other growers and gardeners share my experience. Perhaps for you they are always spectacular, and you might wonder if I'm just a chronic complainer. But for me these pines are like women: every day they are a little different, and some days very different. Or, or is it me?

Pinus parviflora 'Hani'

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'

Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'

Pinus parviflora 'Hani' and 'Tanima no yuki' are appealing, with puffs of snow-white needles at the branch tips. Both require afternoon shade when we reach the mid-nineties. They are wonderful miniatures loved by all, except that they are very slow to get established. Oops, there I go complaining again.

Pinus parviflora 'Himeko janome'
Pinus parviflora 'Ogon janome'

Pinus parviflora 'Himeko janome'

Pinus parviflora 'Ogon janome'

Pinus parvifloras 'Himeko janome' and 'Ogon janome' are famous dragon's-eye dwarfs. Without the label I probably can't tell them apart. Someone much smarter than me, who used to work here (but was ultimately fired), declared emphatically that 'Himeko janome' was "much more colorful." Well, I've even taken a branch of 'Himeko janome' over to its counterpart, and I still can't tell them apart.

Pinus thunbergii 'Shirome janome'

Pinus thunbergii 'Shirome janome' in winter
Pinus thunbergii 'Shirome janome' in spring

Pinus thunbergii 'Torafu matsu'

Sciadopitys verticillata 'Fireworks'

Pinus thunbergii 'Shirome janome' is a variegated "Japanese Black Pine" with yellow banding. 'Torafu matsu' ("matsu" means pine in Japanese) is different in that its needles are tipped with gold. In winter 'Torafu matsu' takes on an orange color, as seen above. The "Japanese Umbrella Pine," which is not a true pine of course, has a cultivar called Sciadopitys verticillata 'Fireworks' which is similarly tipped in gold. The photo above is not really adequate to demonstrate this variegation, but in person, I was very impressed to see a row of them in a German's field.

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Frence Beauty'
Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Albospica'

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Frence Beauty' is often spelled wrong, as 'French Beauty', and I've even seen it listed as 'France Beauty'. Maybe the rest of the plant world is correct and I am the knucklehead, because I usually see it listed as 'French Beauty'. But I do remember a visit to the unique nursery of Wiel Linssen in Holland about ten years ago, the source of my first scions, where it was labeled 'Frence Beauty', and at that time being introduced to a plant collector, a Mr. Frence...from Hungary I believe. Hmmm, just wondering....Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Albospica' is similar, but with more pure white variegation than the cream, or yellowish-white of 'F? Beauty'.

Taxus baccata 'Intermezzo'

Taxus baccata 'Intermezzo', with its columnar form, can be liberally colored with yellow portions, or not. "Or not" means only sparsely colored with yellow portions. Another one of those variegated conifers where no two look alike, where one plant presents itself with great excitement, while another should just stay in the closet.

Thuja orientalis 'Van Hoey Smith'

I'll finish Variegated Conifers with Thuja orientalis 'Van Hoey Smith', a plant that I unintentionally-and completely unofficially-named (see web log of 1/13/12). I apologize again if I have sullied the integrity of horticultural nomenclature. Still, it's a great plant, and the best specimen I've ever seen grows in front of the door of Arrowhead Alpines in the middle of Michigan, sent by us years earlier. Sadly, owner Bob has passed, but I pray that his beautiful conifer continues to thrive.

So, enough of variegated conifers. Some of you love them and some of you don't. As a group, I would conclude that they are over-rated, or, more accurately, over-presented. The gardening public can judge, as I'm overly vested and cannot be trusted. But I'll repeat what I said last week: use them sparingly.


  1. Smug Bucholz hahahahaha. The picture reminded me of a catholic priest i once knew. We would always comment on his drinking of the sacrament wine, while some would say it was if he soaked his nose in it.

  2. I have just found your site and I am excited to see wonderful pictures and information on variegated conifers. If your blog permits or you are inclined to I would like to know nurseries small or large where an individual could purchase unusual conifers. I have a small collection in my Walkabout Gardens but I wish you add more. I just purchased and put into my collection Thuja orientalis 'Van Hoey Smith'. I am in love with the texture and color of this conifer. My next conifer I am looking to purchase is Pinus parviflora 'Tanima no yuki'.
    My zone is now a 5 rating.

  3. Very nice post. You did alot of work on this. I am too, looking for colorful plants for the garden, that do not necessarily have blooms. May a reference you for a couple of the ones I refer to? Thanks .