Deb Babcock: Garden-worthy evergreens

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As you look out into the garden at this time of year, it’s easy to see where you might want to add some winter interest and green color outside the regular growing season. Now is a good time to start planning any garden changes you’d like to make in the spring.

Evergreens in the garden can be an inspired addition adding much beauty with little maintenance. Here are some evergreen trees worth considering for a Steamboat garden.

Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens) and its several cultivars represent a classical choice for your garden. The cultivar “R.H. Montgomery” is a wonderful one to consider with its uniform blue color and dwarf size, reaching 3 feet in 10 years. “Spring Ghost” is another blue spruce cultivar that is a slow-growing, pyramid-shaped evergreen on which new growth is white as though covered in powdered sugar. The “Fat Albert” cultivar makes a good living Christmas tree with its slow growth (10 feet in 10 years).

The bluish-white foliage of the western U.S. native white fir (Abies concolor ‘Candicans’) is another good choice for a Steamboat garden. It requires full sun and grows slowly to reach as high as 30 feet in 30 years. It tolerates a wide range of soil, except heavy clay, and is relatively drought tolerant.

The bright gold foliage of the Golden threadleaf Sawara cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea) is an 8-foot evergreen with drooping threadlike branchlets. The foliage is brightest when this evergreen is grown in full sun.

The Juniper scopulorum “Medora” is a slow-growing evergreen that reaches 10 feet in height with a 2.5 foot width. Its branches are narrow and dense with a bluish-green tinge.

The Tanyosho Pine, a revered Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora “umbraculifera”), is a gorgeous choice for a protected area of your garden or in a container that can be moved as the weather changes. It provides slow to moderate growth reaching a height of 12 to 20 feet with numerous trunks growing from its base. It does not tolerate hot, dry or cold winds though is hardy to minus 20 degrees.

In general, look for evergreens suitable for our USDA Zone 3 to 4 climate. Needle color, shape of the tree and its branches, bark color and texture, and of course, full height and width at maturity should all be taken into consideration.

When you consider an evergreen for your garden, consider the site conditions. It should be planted in an area that allows for good soil drainage, adequate sunlight and enough space to accommodate the tree at its mature size. Generally, you don’t want to plant an evergreen in the lawn or near a sprinkler head as the water can rot the roots.

These trees are best planted in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked. In the winter, consider a moisture retaining spray or provide other protection from the drying winter winds and sun. After a couple growing seasons, the trees should be acclimated and not require protection.

Deb Babcock is a volunteer Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.

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