Outdoor Plants

Golden Conifers for Grey Days

How many words does a meteorologist have for rain? Sprinkles, showers, deluges, or monsoon – they all add up to one thing – grey skies. Living in Seattle we get a fair amount of this wet stuff but to be honest it isn’t the rain that bothers me so much as the lack of sunshine. So to get me through the next few months I look for other ways to bring a little warmth back into my life and golden conifers are one of the best.

Golden Foliage

Truthfully I used to think conifers were boring. That was in the days of those house-swallowing junipers and monstrous Leyland cypress planted as a hedge between zero lot line homes. Thankfully times have changed and there are so many fabulous colors, sizes, and shapes to choose from that I have become a convert.

When selecting conifers with golden foliage I am seeking those that look as though they are supposed to be that color! There are some that quite frankly just look plain sick. So here are a few of my favorites, all of which I have grown for several years and have been accepted into Karen’s Foliage Hall of Fame.

This beauty has surpassed all my expectations and proven itself an invaluable conifer for containers and the landscape. Unlike many plants with golden foliage, this one does not scorch in full sun. It even transitions through bright chartreuse in summer to deep gold in fall and burnt orange tones in winter just in case you still thought conifers boring!

Cotoneaster lacteus

This is not a conifer for the small garden but if you have space this beacon will grab your attention. New growth is a pale yellow maturing to a soft gold so at any one time it appears to be almost variegated. I love it here against the evergreen Parney’s cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lacteus), heavily laden with clusters of ruby berries.

To its right is a sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) which creates a fabulous display that lasts for over two months.

Liquidambar styraciflua

Deer got the better of two younger conifers and did some damage by rubbing against this one but so far the tree has won!

This fluffy conifer leaped into my arms a few years ago. I’d purchased one for a client and it was a miracle that I parted with it. It was therefore pretty inevitable that I would simply have to get one for myself, wasn’t it?

Just when I think I can’t stand another grey day, Louie makes me smile. He’s a modest size reaching 3-4′ tall and 3′ wide in 10 years, 10-12′ x 6-8′ at maturity, and will tolerate full sun although he may initially get a little sunburned.

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