Coniferous Trees and Shrubs

Doing the "trying to go to sleep by counting plants in the garden" trick made me realize I have planted a decent variety of conifers here at Chickadee Gardens. I am not talking about the Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), of which we have dozens on the property, or the grand fir (Abies grandis), another native tree of which we have several. I am referring to the many false cypress (Chamaecyparis spp.), cypress (Cupressus spp.), junipers (Juniperus spp.), pines (Pinus spp.) and other miscellaneous treasures in the garden.

Conifers are defined as a type of tree that produces cones. Typically evergreen. they all have needles or scale-like leaves, and there are a few deciduous conifers out there, namely larch or Larix spp. or dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides. 

They add so much to the landscape: they serve as vital elements of hedgerows that are so useful for wildlife, windbreaks and privacy. They are evergreen (mostly) adding freshness, structure and life throughout the year. Their shapes are varied, often serving as sculptural elements - as in the case of columnar trees, exclamation points in the landscape. Their presence sets off flashier perennials and annuals. Many of the slow-growing compact and dwarf varieties have a place in even the smallest of gardens, even in containers, contributing to the year-round garden. Let us now forget our worries for a spell and go on a conifer tour of Chickadee Gardens.

Pinus parviflora 'Glauca' or Japanese white pine was given to us from a friend whose garden had become too shady for it. It's a beauty and we look forward to watching it grow and fill in over the years.

Cupressus arizonica 'Nathan's Gold' - a special tree given to us by our friend Nathan who grew it from cuttings of a friend's tree, a sort of Cupressus arizonica. It has no official name, we just named it after Nathan.

Detail of Cupressus arizonica 'Nathan's Gold'

This is a white pine shrub that came unlabeled from Mean's Nursery a few years back. It's some dwarf form of Pinus strobus I think, or eastern white pine. We have four of these on the property.

Chamaecyparis thyoides 'Heatherbun' is a sweet mounding conifer only 2' or so tall and wide. It has soft green growth most of the year but in winter the foliage turn a purplish color.

A wider shot of Chamaecyparis thyoides 'Heatherbun' in cold weather.

Cupressus macrocarpa 'Donard Gold' will eventually reach 40' or more. We have three that were gifted to us by Nathan. They are planted near the southern edge of the property so we can see them out the window in winter.

Foliage detail on C. 'Donard Gold'

Cryptomeria japonica 'Knaptonensis', a rather petite Japanese cedar reaching only a couple of feet in height after 10 years. The cream variegation is what stands out here.

Cryptomeria japonica 'Knaptonensis' - shown here at about 3 years old in a wider shot.

Juniper conferta 'Blue Pacific', a prostrate or ground cover juniper, was introduced to me by Danger Garden's blog some years ago. I never forgot that post and my plant lust after seeing it in her garden. When I found a few at my local Ace Hardware store, I snatched them up. I think I have four or five in the garden. I think Danger's grew much faster than mine have - they will reach about 1' x 7' in 10 years. Mine are each about 2' wide, they have a way to go to reach that 7' mark.

One of my favorite conifers is this Cupressus bakeri or Modoc cypress. It is native to southern Oregon and California, eventually reaching 100' or so, but it is slow growing. It was given to me by Nathan who had no room for it, I gladly accepted it.

Wide shot of Cupressus bakeri. This specimen is about 9' tall.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Wissel's Saguaro', named for its resemblance to the Saguaro cactus. Painfully slow-growing, it will eventually reach heights of 6 to 12'. This is a great example of a specimen plant, that is to say it certainly stands out and was a challenge for me to place in the perfect location. I couldn't just drop it in the middle of the grass, it is an anchor of sorts so needed an appropriate site that required such an anchor.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Snow Reversion' is a reversion of C. p. 'Snow'. I think that we at Joy Creek Nursery are the only ones that sell it. At any rate, the one in the gardens of Joy Creek Nursery is so cool, it looks like a friendly monster. Slow-growing, this will eventually reach 8' or so.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Treasure Island', a sweet little conifer that reaches only about 2 to 3' in height. It does best in part shade as its golden-tipped foliage will burn in full sun in our experience.

Cupressus sempervirens or Italian cypress have done ok for me, not great. I had five I planted in the autumn of 2016 right before the worst winter I can remember. Two were moved the next spring and did not survive. These three have, however, and I think they will come into their own in a few years. They can get really tall, but that's ok - their width remains only 10' or so at maturity. I'm hoping they add some vertical element to the edge of our property.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis' (I think), three of which were gifted to me by my mother who decided she didn't want to have to take care of plants in pots any longer. We gladly accepted them. Slow-growing, they work well in containers.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Blue Feathers' is another petite conifer that will eventually be 5' rounded shrub. Its blue cast adds variety to the garden, most of its neighbors are bright green so this stands out as very blue. Purchased at my local Ace Hardware, I am fairly certain it was grown by Youngblood Nursery.

Chamaecyparis thyoides 'Little Jamie' was a throw away from work a few years ago. Please ignore the internal brown foliage - it does this every year at this time. In spring it all turns bright green and fills in. This particular specimen is kind of sparce and bonsai-ish, which is why I like it and saved it.

Another Chamaceyparis obtusa, this one is the variety 'Alaska', or Alaska Hinoki cypress. I found this one at my local Ace Hardware, I believe it came from Youngblood Nursery here in Oregon. It will grow to about 12' tall and has a contorted look to its needles. Very cool and difficult to find.

Cupressus arizonica var. glabra 'Blue Ice', another gift from my friend Nathan. I saw a few of these in Austin last year, they are such an impressive color shift in the landscape and require little water once established. They will get large, though - they top out at 40'.

Juniperus communis 'Compressa' is another columnar conifer. This is supposed to be a truly dwarf conifer at only a few feet high, but what's available now seems to be much larger, topping out at 10' or so.

This Oregon native, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Barry's Silver' or Port Orford cedar is one of my favorite conifers. It is nearly at its mature height of about 6' tall and has withstood a move from the old garden and handles drought quite well. Originally introduced to me by Xera Plants, I have since added a few more to the edge of the shade garden.

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Boulevard' has frosted foliage and a wide conical shape. It will eventually reach 30' but is a slow grower.

Lastly a deciduous conifer, dawn redwood or Metasequoia glyptostroboides. It could eventually reach 100' and tolerates wet soil. The best fall color (shown here) is in full sun, but we have it in part shade, but with enough sun. It is ancient - said to have lived 50,000,000 years ago but not discovered in the wild until the 1940's.

That wraps a look at most of the conifers in our gardens (I'll save a few others for a rainy day). Most are still immature, but are still lovely. They will change the landscape here over the years as they gain height (some of them) and cast shadows, others will remain petite but fill out. They all have something unique to contribute to the garden, I wouldn't do without these 365-days-a-year plants that really earn their keep come winter.

Well, that's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. And oh, by the way, this is my 300th post! Hooray for that! See . . . gardening is never dull, there's always something to discover, I find, which keeps me and this blog going. Happy gardening one and all!


The Gymnosperm Database (

The American Conifer Society

The Conifer Collection at the Oregon Garden

Great Plant Picks Conifer List


  1. You DO have quite the collection! Other than junipers, conifers are less common here. My immediate area was once known for its huge stone pines but that population has been steadily decreasing as a result of infestations by pine bark beetles - it's a sad thing to see one after another wither away.

    1. Pines are among my favorites - that's a pity about the pine bark beetles. I wonder why conifers are less common - maybe they require more water? What evergreen trees are common to your area, Kris?

    2. That's a good question, Tamara. I haven't really thought about it. My own garden trees are mostly evergreen - Arbutus, Agonis, citrus of various kinds - but then my garden doesn't look like everyone else's in my neighborhood. I should do a survey! Palm trees (some of which are actually grasses in botanical terms), California peppers (Schinus molle) and coast live oaks may be the most prevalent evergreen trees region-wide.

  2. I bought C. l. 'Barry's Silver' in October when visiting a nursery in Eugene. I think I like it more than 'Wilma Goldcrest' if that's possible. However, my favorite conifer is Hemlock or Tsuga. I am mush when I see them. :) I sure wish I had two acres to grow all the lovelies you have!

    1. Isn't 'Barry's Silver' beautiful? I also love Tsuga, I forgot to add that one onto my blog! They are stunning....I especially love the contorted ones that grow in high elevation areas.

  3. You have a great collection of some really interesting specimens. Here in winter our conifers are the mainstays of the dormant garden. Mostly spruce but there are a few pine and juniper species that show well too. Congratulations on your 300th post! Quite a milestone.

    1. Thank you luv2garden! Conifers are the best, and yes - the mainstays of the dormant garden - that's an excellent way to describe their effectiveness. Never underestimate a conifer. Thanks for the congrats, too!

  4. I’m so glad you got a few ‘Blue Pacific’ juniper, they’re so good! And I need to add a ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’... it’s just wrong that I don’t have one...

    1. Oh, yeah, love those 'Blue Pacific'....soo soo good.

      Wissel's Saguaro - a great one. I found a one gallon at ACE for about 12 bucks, want me to get it for you?


Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments! I love hearing them, I will approve comments as soon as I can. Yay!

Popular Posts