What's Coming Up 72: Witchhazel bloom, conifers, salt damage, holly miner, cold

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In this issue:

Conifers: Making spirits bright
Plants in holiday lore
Telling pine from spruce or fir, hemlock or yew
Telltale conifer names
Scrub & screen, grin & grow-an

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Image overview of issue 72

If you think that color in a garden comes only during the growing season, you're focusing too much attention on flowers. There are winter blooming plants even in zone 5 where we garden, such as spring witchhazel shrubs
(Hamamelis vernalis and H. mollis hybrids; below, left) and the perennials called Christmas rose and lenten rose
(Helleborus species; below, right). Yet it will be months
before their color registers on the scene.

WitchhzlBlm0396.jpg HelleborHour0005.jpg

In the meanwhile, evergreens rule supreme, alone or in combinations like this gold juniper and concolor fir combination, below. In this issue are tips for telling one conifer from another, so you can identify what looks good
now and know what to shop for next spring.
You're reading the image overview. Download the pdf to read more in the complete text of this issue.


Conifers have so many forms and hues! In every group of evergreens, from arbs to yews, there are varieties with different and variegated foliage color. It can be bewildering to sort them out. So, when I see one I like, my first move is to determine which group it belongs to.  Download the pdf to read the complete text of topics illustrated here.


Can you name these groups? Download the pdf for the complete illustrated text and see page 4 for a key.

If it looks like a Christmas tree, you're wise to check for a match among pines, spruces and firs. You can pick out a pine by looking for those with needles arranged in bunches.


Pine (Pinus) needles are attached to the stem in groups. Each packet has 2- to 5 needles, the number determined for each plant by its species' genes. On the left in this photo is a twoneedle pine species and on the right, a 5- needle species. There are a few exceptional pines, species with single needles or needles in sixes.
Deviations are to be expected in this large genus, which has 110 species, triple the number in Picea (spruce), the next biggest conifer group.

You're reading the image overview. Download the pdf to read more in the complete text of this issue.

If the needles are singly-borne, then it's probably not a pine but a spruce (Picea) or fir (Abies).
Look at needle shape, plus how they are arranged on and attached to the branch.


At top in this picture is a fir. Its needles are flat, while the spruce needles below it are four sided. A fir's typical needle arrangement is like teeth of a double-sided comb. Compare that to the spruce, with its needles spirally arranged all 'round the twig.

Most telling of fir or spruce, each fir needle is attached to its branch within a circular depression. When the needle is shed, the entire needle drops away leaving the depression smooth. On the other hand, spruces have hard projections on the twig and one needle arises from each of these "pulvini." The needle I pulled from this twig has its honey-brown pulvinus attached. When a spruce needle is shed, its pulvinus remains. So a spruce twig which has lost its needles is covered in picky nibs.

You're reading the image overview. Download the pdf to read more in the complete text of this issue.

Junipers (Juniperus), falsecypresses (Chamaecyparis) and arborvitae (Thuja) do not have needles. They have tiny leaves, which sets them apart from pine, fir or spruce.


I've pulled away one segment from each of the twigs in this photo. Some people think these are individual needles but they are not. Each is a tiny twig covered with even tinier leaves.

On the left, the falsecypress' leaves are pointed -- awlshaped. On the right, the twig is covered in scale-like leaves. Most arborvitae have only scale-like leaves on a plant, while junipers and falsecypresses may have both types on one plant -- scale-shaped leaves on their blooming-age branches (mature wood) and awl-shaped on wood that's not ready to flower (juvenile).

 Download the pdf for the complete illustrated text.

Fruits will help you separate juniper from arb or falsecypress. Junipers produce "berries." Arborvitaes and falsecypresses bear cones. 


At left , a juniper species with smooth, dark blue fruits and another with lumpier, grayer fruits. Juniper berries do not ever take on the brown, scaly appearance most often associated with cones.

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Below: Arborvitae, its cones still green. As they ripen they will become brown and separate at the seams


Fruits are the giveaway between yew and hemlock, as well. 


 Yew (Taxus) is on the left in the picture above, and hemlock (Tsuga) is on the right.
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  Hemlocks have cones (left). Yew seeds form in red, berry-like structures.


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The berry-bearing yew pictured here is a female. It is also a particularly desirable hedge plant, as are female hollies. In part, that's because of the attractive berries. Even more, it's because the female plant devotes energy to fruit production at the expense of other growth. They extend their branches a bit less each year than their male counterparts. So they remain in shape longer after a clipping!





Top, pines in an all-gold form, variegated gold and green types, and solid green. Bottom, some evergreens' gold and white tissue takes on an amber or pink tinge during winter.

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Below, One section of the extensive dwarf conifer collection at Michigan State University's Hidden Lake Gardens near Tipton, Michigan. Look, choose one you like, read the tag - simple plant ID! (In answer to deer-plagued, observant readers: Yes, that is an electric fence around the collection. It's the inner fence of two.)

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