I have often written about the “four season garden” and how good plant choices can help you to achieve this elusive goal; a garden that is interesting and beautiful year-round. Evergreens play a major role in such a landscape, particularly in the winter, with their shape, texture and colour.
Conifers with weeping forms are among the most interesting of all plants for a four season garden. Not only do they provide foliage texture and colour, but their growth habit makes them the perfect choice for a focal point, naturally drawing your eye to them as they move upward and outward through your garden.
The most interesting aspect of weeping conifers is their uniqueness; just like snowflakes no two are alike. Each has its own character which is revealed over time as the plant grows. Most don’t have a truly upright growth habit, requiring staking and training initially in the nursery. When trained upward for several years and then allowed to weep gracefully on their own the effect is beautiful. A few are truly upright, with a single leader or trunk and pendulous branches coming off.
No matter what their habit, you will find yourself being mesmerized over time by these unique evergreens, grateful for their presence in your garden through the seasons.
Picea glauca ‘Pendula’ (Weeping White Spruce)-these have a strong central leader and a very narrow pyramidal habit. Needles are an attractive bluish-green. It’s like a weeping pencil in the landscape, growing 3.5m tall and only 1m wide.
Picea abies ‘Pendula’ (Weeping Norway Spruce)-Dark green needles and easily grown upright or allowed to scramble as an undulating large-scale groundcover over slopes and walls. I have seen one trained along a long fence some 7m long, spectacular! Picea pungens ‘The Blues’ has a similar form with the deep blue foliage of a Colorado Spruce.
Picea omorika ‘Pendula’ (Weeping Serbian Spruce)-a magnificent formal tree with an open form in youth and graceful twisted, weeping branch ends. Undersides of needles are attractive silver. Matures at 6m high.
Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’ (Weeping White Pine)-spruce aren’t the only conifers that weep. This plant has long, soft bluish-green needles with twisting, pendulous branches. Forms range from tall and slender to low and broad, ultimately growing 3m.
Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ (Weeping Larch)-a deciduous conifer which loses its needles in winter, revealing tawny brown twigs. Fresh lime-green foliage in spring nearly glows on a cloudy day. Over time branching divides until a mature plant looks like an unusual large animal. Also found in a twisted form.
Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’-forms a large specimen with long sweeping branches. The cultivar ‘Green Arrow’ has darker foliage and a much tighter growth habit, growing 5.5m tall but only 60 cm wide.
Keep your eyes open for weeping conifers in public and private gardens over the next few months and make note of forms that you like. You will not be disappointed with the transformation that will occur in your garden when one of these “personalities” makes an appearance.