Pining for Conifers in Winter


My townhouse garden doesn’t yield much in the way of evergreen trimmings for the holidays. So to cover these pots that hold coleus all season I snatched some juniper clippings from a nearby garden I adopted. The juniper parts still look good three months after they were cut, I’m happy to note.

I was happy enough with my juniper container until I visited the U.S. Botanic Garden last week and saw their conifer-filled containers. My only consolation is that my juniper clippings were free and my pots actually fit in my garden.

Nice contrasts in color, texture and habit.

There’s almost as much variety in this group of conifers growing in the ground. There were no visible labels, so who knows what they are or where they’re from – not me.

I wanted to see what we deprived Easterners have in the way of evergreen so next visited the USBG’s Regional Garden where I knew all the plants would be native to the Mid-Atlantic.  I’d recently heard Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, the famous Garden Professor located in Washington State, rhapsodize over the smell of wood chip mulch (her cause celebre) because in her area it’s so often made of pine. Ah, pines. Don’t see enough of them around here. (Source: Joe Gardener podcast, one of three excellent episodes about myth-busting.)

But look here – a gorgeous pine on the left. And, that’s it for conifers in this 2-acre garden, as far as I could find. But how about broadleaf evergreens?

Okay, here’s an American Osmanthus, something I didn’t know existed until spotting this one.

And what a shocker! A prostrate American holly called ‘Maryland Dwarf’!

A nice winterberry holly  redtwig dogwood at its most colorful.

Finally, palmettos like this dwarf may be evergreen and native and all, but they don’t look like winter to me and sure aren’t something that invites touch. Like pine trees.

I may have been born on the wrong coast.


  1. I believe that’s a red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), not a winterberry holly. Same habitat (moist, acid), similarly cheery dose of red in the winter scene (provided birds haven’t stripped the berries from the holly).

  2. If you want to see a nice collection of conifers (and other winter standouts0 you should come up to Cornell University in Ithaca, specifically to Cornell Plantations, the botanical garden. They specifically created a section called the Winter Garden so that there would be four-season interest. It’s a wonderful place. If you ever think of coming up here at any season, let me know. I’d be delighted to meet you over there!

  3. I miss the US Botanical Garden and the National Arboretum, and all the regional public gardens in the Washington-Baltimore area! I lived in Severna Park, MD for over a decade before moving to Louisville, KY. I particularly miss my many broadleaf evergreens, especially the cold-hardy Ackerman C. oliefera hybrids, which basically bloomed from October through February and then the C. japonicas, which start in March. There’s a great collection of Camellias at the National Arboretum, in the Asian garden, including the original C. oliefera plant used in Bill Ackerman’s breeding program. I miss zone 7! Here in Louisville, I have 2 Ackerman hybrid camellias, ‘Winter’s Cupid and Ashton’s Ballet, but I had over a dozen in my Maryland garden, and did not have to site them in a sheltered location, as I do here.

Comments are closed.