Plant “Carsten’s Wintergold” in front of your garden’s border or nestled near some rocks for winter interest. (Getty Images)

Plant “Carsten’s Wintergold” in front of your garden’s border or nestled near some rocks for winter interest. (Getty Images)

Plant these three pines to brighten up the winter garden

Conifers are the framework of borders and beds in the wintertime, helping to articulate these gardening spaces.

As much as I hate to admit that summer colors are fading, it is time to start thinking about what will look good in the garden all winter.

As the perennials melt down, the annuals die, and the deciduous trees and shrubs shed their foliage, the primary group of plants that can give us dependable winter color are the needle-leafed evergreens — which, botanically speaking, we call conifers.

Conifers become the framework of our borders and beds, helping us to remember how these spaces are articulated in our gardens.

Garden centers do an amazing job featuring conifers this time of year. You can find dozens of different genera featured front and center in displays to view wonderful examples of how to combine them with other winter interest plants. Many of them have taken on winter colors of plum and bronze instead of their summertime blues and greens. You might be surprised at the contrast and drama you can generate with conifers, just from the variety of foliage colors and growth habits that are available.

And don’t forget to look for miniature varieties that only grow an inch or less a year, which makes them well-suited for containers, rockeries or miniature gardens.

I will write more about the incredible variety of conifers available to Northwest gardeners in the following weeks, but for now I want to focus on three pines that caught my interest recently.

“Chief Joseph” shore pine: This is actually a mutation of our native shore pine that grows along the coast but is equally happy farther inland, as long as it gets good drainage. In many ways, the “Chief” is the holy grail of pine specimens. During the growing season it is completely underwhelming, but as soon as the days shorten and the nights cool off, “Chief Joseph” goes through a metamorphosis. Its needles turning a bright golden yellow and remains a beacon in the garden all winter long. The “Chief” is a slow grower that is best located in the background — somewhere where it can be overlooked in the summer but will light up the joint in the winter when we really need the illumination. Don’t be surprised by the price tag. These beauties are hard to propagate and, hence, are expensive but well worth the investment.

“Louie” white pine: This is a lovely, finely textured and graceful sport of Pinus strobus or Eastern white pine. Like all white pines, “Louie’s” needles are 3 to 4 inches long and come in bundles (called fascicles) of five needles. While most white pines have bluish-green needles, “Louie’s” are bright gold and keep their color throughout the year. “Louie” will grow to 20 feet tall and has a pyramidal form, so it lends itself well to becoming a focal point in the garden. That being said, if your garden is small, then I would recommend keeping it in the background, so there is room for more jewels in front of it.

“Carsten’s Wintergold” mugo pine: This is a dwarf pine that only grows to about 2 feet tall and several feet wide. In the summer it is a cute little bun of bright green needles, but as the winter approaches it does its chameleon thing like “Chief Joseph” and turns a rich gold. The colder the winter, the darker the foliage becomes. “Wintergold” looks good in the front of the border or nestled near some rocks. Like all pines, bright sun and good drainage are the secret to success.

Check out all the conifer displays at your local garden center this month and keep on gardening!

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com.

Two free classes

Sunnyside Nursery’s free gardening classes are back — but they’re online for now. A class winter pruning is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 7, followed by a hellebores class at 11 a.m. Nov. 8 via Zoom. With registration, you’ll receive a Zoom link to attend the online class. For more information or to sign up, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net/classes.

Talk to us

More in Life

Ancient White Park cows belonging to Burt Degroot Wednesday afternoon on a pasture on Ebey Island April 1, 2020 (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Snohomish rancher raises an ancient breed of cattle

The distinctive British horned livestock have been around since the Middle Ages.

According to Toyota, the 2021 Sienna minivan’s front design was inspired by the Shinkansen Japanese bullet train to impart a sleek, speedy and confident appearance. (Manufacturer photo)
2021 Toyota Sienna might be a game-changer for minivans

All new from the ground up, this fourth-generation version is styled to the nines. Seriously.

A pile of shoes by the front door can be annoying, but it is also evidence of loved ones living together under one roof. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Remembering to cherish the things a mom takes for granted

Here’s to the noise, the mess and the laughter that fills life between now and when the kids are grown.

Dr. Paul on battling adversity when it feels like a ‘dark night’

The Dalai Lama says: There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done — yesterday and tomorrow.

In the Netherlands, pot users go to coffeeshops — not jail.
A coffee shop conversation about marijuana in Amsterdam

If you pass a shop in the Netherlands full of plants displaying a Rastafarian flag, it doesn’t sell much coffee.

TAP Air Portugal rescheduled my flight — can I get a refund?

TAP Air Portugal reschedules — and then cancels — John Schmidt’s flights. He wants a refund, but the airline is offering a voucher. Who is right?

Rowan Catel and Carlos Narvaez perform in Olympic Ballet Theatre’s production of “Efanora,” premiering on YouTube on April 2. (Into Dust Photography)
Olympic Ballet Theatre returns with two virtual performances

“Efanora” and “In a Clearing” explore pandemic-era themes of loss, fear and grief through movement.

Close up of malus blossom in bloom
Six flowering crabapple trees you can fall in love with

Crabapples don’t have much of a following in the Northwest — yet. Extend the tree-blooming season with these varieties.

Everett Public Library presents “Introduction to Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest” April 13 via Crowdcast. (Herald file)
Outdoors classes and activities around Snohomish County

The listings include Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest updates and REI Lynnwood workshops.

Most Read