Six on Saturday – 08JAN2022 – Snowy Boughs

It’s cold here (-16C overnight), there’s a bit of snow on the ground (we had a few cms of powder Thursday night) and it’s time to acknowledge the contribution evergreen shrubs and trees make to northern gardens in winter. Without them, the landscape would be nothing but white, with skeletal grey and brown trunks and branches sticking up. So yaaay for the conifers, with foliage in various shades of green, with some blue and bronze thrown in. For The Propagator‘s Six on Saturday this week, I went out yesterday morning and chose six snow dusted evergreens to demonstrate.

I have two blue spruces – Picea pungens – I think at least half the homes in North America have at least one. And why not? It’s a hardy tree and the colour, especially in late spring on new growth, is spectacular.
The farmer from whom we bought our land planted tree lines of Austrian pine – Pinus nigra – that are quite huge now.
In the summer, this small juniper – Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’ has glowing, golden yellow foliage. In winter, like several other conifers, the needles become a dull bronze.
Juniperus scopulorum is native to the Rocky Mountains, in western North America. And it’s not fond of clay soil. That’s maybe why the shape of my specimen, which I’ve had for about five years now, doesn’t look anything like it should. In the summer these needles also have a blueish tinge, so I’m guessing it may be the cultivar ‘Wichita Blue.’
This fir tree came to me via a street planter in Toronto, where it had been planted and lit up one Christmas several years ago. It’s a slow grower, adding only a few inches every year, and has densely packed needles.
This may be my favourite of them all. It’s another juniper – Juniperus virginiana. For some reason, it’s more common name is Easter Red Cedar. It’s native here, and can be found EVERYWHERE in this county, likely because it’s the only (or perhaps the fastest growing) small tree that will thrive in our rocky, dry, clay soil. That means, of course, that it will form a reliable wind or privacy screen as well as looking great either massed or solo. They can be reliably transplanted, pruned/clipped as needed and grow in shade as well as full sun. (In sun, they grow compact and very full. In shade the branches are widely spaced, creating some interesting architectural statements.) The best part is they are immensely popular with birds. Most mornings I spot (well, first I hear, then I spot) a dozen or so small birds flitting through a few of these small trees, pecking away and finding goodness knows what to eat.


  1. Goodness! Why on Earth is Eastern red cedar your favorite of these Six?! I happen to like it also, but I get a lot of flack from those who are familiar with it. I brought mine back from Oklahoma, along with a lot of other seed. Since they grew from seed, they are not even garden cultivars. I enjoy them so much though, just because they are native North American junipers. Beyond that, I can not explain what I like about them. Nor do I have any idea of what to do with them in the garden. In California, old cedar closets were made with incense cedar, because it is native to regions that are much closer to where the Eastern red cedar is native to. However, my old cedar lined trunk was made by Ethan Allen, in a region where Eastern red cedar is native, so was outfitted with the real deal.

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    1. Ha! I know….people generally like to yank them out here. But I prefer a field of J. virginiana to a field of buckthorn! And, as you note, the wood is really beautiful – a number of craftspeople here turn it into lovely objects.

      It’s also neat how it will grow, and adapt, to different conditions, and look different in them. While a spruce always looks like a spruce…

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      1. To me, they looked like little cypress trees. I really do not know what to do with mine, but will likely let them grow as they want to. We can not plant any species of juniper at work, but I can plant them at home, although I sort of wonder why they are not allowed. If they have potential to naturalize, I will need to reconsider.

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  2. It’s been a number of years since we haven’t had a real amount of snow (2013) even if every year we have a few flakes but nothing comparable with Canada of course! Superb photos with the reflections of the sun

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  3. No snow here……….but a bit chilly this am! Love all your spruces! Trees make the world a better place! My favorite in your garden is the Austrian Pine! I have a Woodland Garden in my back yard and don’t know what it would be like without it ! The cottage would be MUCH hotter! Cady

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  4. You are right and the evergreens are beautiful and so important for garden structure. Oddly, I can grow Eastern Red Cedar here (supposedly) I do see them around but don’t have any. My mother had them in her garden..600 miles north of me…

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  5. Now I have a mystery to solve. Your mention of the Eastern Red Cedar reminds me that I recently saw a sign denoting what I remember as a ‘Gulf Red Cedar’ in a nature preserve. I can’t find anything about the species with a quick search, but when I pass by that way again I’ll get the scientific name. It certainly had the form of yours, and it really was attractive. Of course, we don’t get the snow that makes all of these even more beautiful!

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    1. Juniperus silicicola maybe? ( From the University of Florida IFAS site) The description of growing confitions the site provides is remarkably similar to V. virginiana. My tree bible, Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, says J. silicicola is “considered a separate species by some, but in most recognizable characteristics is simply J. virginiana with a southern coastal/Florida distribution.” There are also numerous commercially created cultivars out there, which is news to me!

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