The “Fluffy” arborvitae has the ability to light up a Northwest landscape with its golden needles. (Proven Winners)

The “Fluffy” arborvitae has the ability to light up a Northwest landscape with its golden needles. (Proven Winners)

Gold tones of ‘Fluffy’ conifers make the landscape sparkle

It’s a new variety of Thuja plicata, native to the Pacific coast, known as western arborvitae.

  • Friday, September 18, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

By Norman Winter / Special to the Herald

The weather forecast has several days with morning lows in the 60s, which is a cause for celebration. We can look for those long-lost fleece vests and, even better, it gives horticulturists like The Garden Guy the ticket to forget flowers for a week and write about a new golden conifer called “Fluffy.”

There is nothing that adds a thrill to the winter landscape quite like conifers, and I’ll be the first to admit I have been doing a conifer happy dance all summer even through June’s staggering heat. You see The Garden Guy added nine “Fluffy” arborvitaes to the landscape, months ago, and I love them.

“Fluffy” is a great new variety of Thuja plicata known as western red cedar or western arborvitae. I’ve fallen in love with all sorts of conifers, Chamaecyapris, Cedrus, Cephalotaxus, Cryptomeria and Cupressus to name just a few. It ignited an unquenchable passion for conifers.

So “Fluffy,” which offers drop-dead gorgeous golden needlelike foliage, was simply more than I could pass up. When I told my wife that I had nine conifers coming by truck, the look I got was not one of glee. She grew up in Texas, and the only conifers she appreciates are tall pines.

If you look at “Fluffy” on Proven Winners website you will immediately want one — or in my case, that number was nine. It is hard to imagine a prettier small conifer than “Fluffy.” With nine, I knew I had the opportunity to give it the full sun treatment and work my way down to the various shades of sunlight. First, know that everywhere I have planted it has thrived.

In the full sun, the foliage is gold. The more shade, the foliage is more chartreuse with gold tips. These light up this filtered sunlit garden, where it is partnered with blue hydrangeas, azaleas and loropetalums. Nearby there are also spreading plum yew which are indeed conifers, too, but I am not telling.

In my almost full-sun area, I combined “Fluffy” with a patch of “Blue Rug” juniper. This partnership should mature into a real picture and opens the door for more dwarf conifer acquisitions. In the meantime, however I used the new ColorBlaze “Wicked Hot” coleus as a backdrop. This coleus always looks as though it is a glowing ember of fire which contrasts wonderfully with “Fluffy’s” golden needles.

In my last treatment I am using “Fluffy” as the backdrop to a dry creek that does indeed flow during November rains. In between the creek, which is a work in progress, I have 15 daylilies. This area gets full morning sun until about 1 p.m. These “Fluffy” plants have colored up with a lot more gold than the filtered azalea area.

Fluffy reaches 5 to 10 feet in height with a spread of 5 feet. It naturally develops that conical or Christmas tree shape. If your soil is tight, heavy clay and not well drained, then plan on amending it with 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and work the bed to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. The best idea might be to copy what the commercial landscapers do, planting on raised beds accomplished by bringing in a prepared soil mix.

Even though good drainage is paramount, water will be necessary to allow the conifers to maintain their health and appearance and to get roots acclimated and expanded in your bed. Be sure and add a good layer of mulch to keep soil temperatures moderate, conserve moisture and deter weed growth.

“Fluffy” has the ability to create excitement in the garden, or in large containers on the porch, patio and deck. Warning, you may just find it ignites a passion for confers in you too!

Norman Winter is a horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.”

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