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For Gardeners in the Know it's Conifer Time

03 November 2012

Evergreens, spruce, junipers and Pink Flamingo Mulhy???

Pink Flamingo Mulhy grass is this week's plant of the week. Never has a grass so tough looked so pretty! Neat, tidy mounds of dark green foliage produce giant puffballs of flamingo pink plumes that last half the year from summer through fall. This knee high native is so effortless to grow it tolerates anything Mother Nature throws its way! Long lived and impervious to pests and disease and in stunning plume now through the end of the year. Best time to plant this autumn bloomer is definitely autumn.



Conifers are those evergreen plants that have needles for leaves. Spruce, cypress, cedar, arborvitae, and the local pine are all conifers. They are harvested in October for shipping to retailers, so the largest selection of sizes and varieties is at garden centers in November. Anticipating the holiday shopping rush ahead, gardeners "in the know" pick from the best of the conifers by shopping for them early. This is so whether shopping for an addition to a landscape or for use as decoration.

The 20% rule pertains to plants as they are harvested from the fields. The first 20% just look better; they are more shapely, and richer in color. This 20%, the best of the crops, go fast so that by the second weekend of the holiday shopping season the perfect evergreen becomes harder to find. The secret is to buy before the post-Thanksgiving rush. Even if you're not quite ready for your holiday greens, buy them now and hold them until you are ready to use them.

Now, for the most popular, the truest blues, and some surprising new conifer varieties: Fat Albert Blue Spruce, with a striking silver blue color, is undisputed the most popular fir. Cousin to the Colorado spruce without the huge stature, Fat Albert often is referred to as the 'Christmas Tree' variety and deservedly so. Its perfect holiday shape presents branch layers that are easy to lace with ornaments.

Wichita Blue Juniper is my personal favorite for a small silvery blue conifer good for lining a driveway or in containers flanking steps at the front door. All junipers grow naturally in the mountains, but this one has an almost tidy appearance that won't outgrow its space. Plant in a good-sized clay container and you could use this variety as a Christmas tree for many years to come. Absolutely beautiful when Christmas lights are added.


The Noble fir is the most desirable cut Christmas tree in December, but the tree itself will not grow in Arizona. Fortunately, Northern Arizona's centennial tree is the Deador Cedar. This giant stretched outreached arms to its owners in classic Christmas tree form. Once established in a landscape, requires virtually no care to keep its good looks and pest free style. The thick needles retain moisture making this tree very drought hardy, but pleasing to the eye. This tree grows over 50' tall so give it a lot of space.

Any artist would love the Hinoki False Cypress as a yard accent. This unusual tree has a great shape and an intense green color with very uncommon conifer foliage. A tall central leader heads up from the ground with unusual fan-shaped branches protruding at all angles. The shape is so extraordinary that it begs to be placed as the centerpiece of an ornamental garden, the anchor of a raised bed, or simply as a stand-alone plant in a jade green glazed container. Gardeners who have "seen it all" are surprised and awestruck when they first see this cypress.

You're invited to join in on the Facebook fun, where you can share some gardening inspiration or simply follow the happenings of the local garden scene. Free mums were given away to the fans of my Facebook page who were first to identify the most common and misunderstood of all our native perennials. I plan to come up with other garden I.D. games for fun and education. If you're on Facebook join the fun and 'Like' me at www.facebook.com/watters1815 . Who knows, you just might be the winner of the next free plant!

Until next week, I'll see you at the garden center.


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