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Conifers of the Year – A Trial in Georgia (32 Replies)

Posted February 7, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Hi everyone,

I am in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia in zone 7 by the skin of my teeth (zone 7b and one zipcode away from zone 8a). Furthermore, we all know that “hardy” to zone 7 hardly means “will grow” in zone 7, especially when one’s zone 7 features crushing heat and humidity during the long summers.

Nevertheless, I made up my mind to have at go at growing all of the ACS conifers of the year from 2006 to 2014 (with the 2015 plants on the way!). Most of them I bought this past fall, so I haven’t accomplished anything, yet. I’ll update the forum in seven months or so on how the summer went.

ACS Collectors Conifer of the Year (2006 – 2014)

Pinus x schwerinii ‘Wiethorst‘ – Alive in a pot. Planted mid-fall.
Abies koreana ‘Icebreaker‘ – Died during its first summer. I purchased another one grafted onto Abies firma this fall, so we’ll see how that goes.

Picea abies ‘Gold Drift’ – Alive in the ground. Planted early this past fall.
Pinus mugo ‘Carsten’s’ – Alive in a pot. Planted mid-fall.
Cunninghamia lanceolata var. konishii ‘Little Leo’ – Alive in a pot. Planted it during the summer! Survived the remaining hot months.

Sciadopitys verticillata ‘Picola’ – Alive in a pot. Planted mid-fall.
Cedrus libani var. brevifolia ‘Kenwith’ – Alive in the ground. Planted last spring, and it survived the summer nicely.
Picea abies ‘Wichtel’ – Alive in a pot. Planted mid-fall.

Pinus parviflora ‘Bergman’ – Alive in the ground. Planted early this past fall.
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Chirimen’ – Alive in the ground. Planted this past spring, and it survived the summer (and is really a spectacular plant).

Ginkgo biloba ‘Mariken’ – ‘Mariken’ – Alive? in the ground. Planted early this past fall. The leaves never turned their fall color. They were green and just fell off all at once one day in November.
Larix decidua ‘Puli’ – ‘Puli’ – Alive in the ground, I assume. Planted late this past fall while already dormant. We’ll see what happens in spring.
Taxodium distichum ‘Pevé Minaret’ – Alive in the ground. Planted early this past fall.

Pinus heldreichii ‘Smidtii’ – Alive in a pot. Planted this past summer, and it survived the remainder.
Pinus strobus ‘Niagara Falls’ – Alive in the ground. Planted early this past fall.

Picea pungens ‘The Blues’ – Alive in the ground. Planted early this past fall.
Picea abies ‘Pusch’ – Alive in the ground. Planted mid-fall.

Picea omorika ‘Pendula Bruns’ – Alive in the ground. Planted early this past fall.
Picea orientalis ‘Tom Thumb Gold’ – Alive in the ground. Planted this three years ago. It has done very well and hasn’t burned in spite of a decent amount of summer sun.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Ogon’ – Alive in the ground. Planted this two years ago, and it’s growing like a weed. A very impressive young tree. I’m sad I won’t be around on its 300th birthday to see what it’s become.
Picea glauca ‘Pixie Dust’ – Alive in a pot. Planted mid-fall.


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Posted February 7, 2015 at 7:07 pm

wow, are you saying you have all of these?(standing ovation!!) wow, that’s a great list, I ordered the variegated pine from this year, but it was out of stock!! I’ll find it somewhere……..nothing like a pine that’s variegated you know? feel free to add some pictures to this thread 🙂

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Posted February 7, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Thanks. It took some effort to track some of them down. I am also taking the word of various mail-order nurseries that they’ve actually sent me the correct cultivar.

If there’s one that you’re particularly interested in, let me know, and I’ll post a picture.

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Posted February 8, 2015 at 11:03 am

how long have you been working on that list? any pictures you’d like to share are the ones we want to see 🙂

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Posted February 8, 2015 at 3:51 pm

I’ve been planting conifers for about three years now, but I only discovered the ACS Conifer of the Year program last spring. The Ogon and Tom Thumb Gold I planted before last year because I just happened to like them. It was pleasant surprise to discover they’d been named conifers of the year in past years. It made my search two plants easier!

In any case, the short answer to your question is about 10 months.

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Posted February 9, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Dean yes, do let us know how it goes. Also, this would be a great article for the CQ to let others know of your ambitious plans and results. It’s a great idea!

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Posted February 9, 2015 at 8:32 pm


I live in 7b (Marietta). North of you, I expect, but not too far. Some notes of my own:

-Wiethorst should do well here in the ground (mine’s doing all right — just don’t let it dry out).
-Kohout’s Icebreaker on firma has died twice for me, once for a friend in zone 7b. If you get yours to live, let me know what voodoo you used to keep it alive. I’ve had zero issue with any other koreana (brooms included). But that one is finicky.
-Gold Drift does well here, but doesn’t seem to want to be gold. Has a lovely shape, however, so it’s a nice looking plant.
-I’ve had okay luck with mugos. Carsten’s is in the ground and chugging along happily. Contrary to popular thought, my mugos HATE being dry. If you keep them from drying out, and make sure they get water at least once a week, they will be happier.
-Little Leo has survived bitterly cold winters and drought-filled summers (watered regularly with a drip irrigation system). Think it has a chance.
-Sciadopitys don’t like to get dry. But they do like decent drainage. A trick I use for mine is Solid Rain or the essentially identical Miracle Gro water crystals mixed in with the soil. They will help keep the soil moist in those times when rain and watering are scarce, and they help break things up to let the soil drain well, too.
-Kenwith has been a trooper. Survived a 5 month drought with only supplemental watering. I was worried about it, but libani generally does well here.
-Have never had a Picea abies that didn’t hang in there, though I’ve made sure to keep them from drying out. They don’t like dry weather at all.
-Bergman should do well on the right rootstock. It’s a good plant in 7b.
-Chirimen looks fantastic after some years. A good friend has a gorgeous, 10-year-old one in Dunwoody.
-Mariken can look spectacular when it changes, but it needs to get situated a little before it will do its colour dance. Give it a couple of years. And hope for a November that doesn’t drop into the single digits Fahrenheit (which pretty much ended fall colour in one fell swoop).
-GOOD luck with the Larix. They don’t like heat. Have never seen one live this far South. That said, don’t be discouraged. Nothing ventured…
-Peve Minaret does great here. Keep it wet wet. Like most Taxodium, it likes good, wet soil. I plant mine in drainage areas to ensure they get enough water, and they love it. If it starts to dry out, it will tell you by browning prodigiously. Also, ask Dave Olszyk to show you pictures of his Peve Minaret. He’s pruned it in a pretty spectacular way. 🙂
-Have never grown heldreichii personally, but Tom Cox has quite a few nice ones up at his place (7b just north of Alpharetta) doing quite well
-Niagara Falls looks great here when given time. You’ll love it.
-The Blues is spectacular when shaped/staked well. Don’t be afraid to have fun with it.
-Pusch is brilliant when it cones. The red of the cones lasts longer than the red of the new growth on Rubra Spicata, but it doesn’t last TOO long. Get some good pictures while it’s in full colour. Looks really great.
-Have yet to have a Pendula Bruns that has survived. I’ve NO idea why. No one I know in the area has one that’s survived, either. Omorika does fine here with zero issues (I’ve several, as do many others). But Pendula Bruns either has issues with being grafted onto Picea abies (a popular rootstock that does well here as well), or it’s just a weaker cultivar overall. May you have great success. 🙂
-Orientalis of all kinds do quite well here. Strong plant in this region.
-I have two Ogon. Tom Cox has what seems like an endless supply of them (some gargantuan ones). They love it here. Keep them wet. The wetter they are, the faster they grow. 🙂
-Pixie Dust is tricky. Picea glauca can have a lot of issues here, as they’re sort of borderline, which often opens them up to opportunistic infections and insect issues. Spider mites WILL be a problem. Don’t be afraid to apply neem oil once in a while to help keep things in check. I’ve lost some foliage on mine, but it’s still kicking along. It just looks a little barren on one side. This is NOT uncommon for Picea glauca plants here. Learn to love the new shapes they can present. 😉

Looking forward to hearing updates and seeing some pictures!

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Posted February 9, 2015 at 10:18 pm


Thanks for that response and your well wishes! Great stuff. I’m in Sandy Springs, indeed not far from you.

I’ve got an Abies koreana Silberlocke which I bought (on an unknown rootstock) because of the beautiful specimen at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. From reading Tom Cox and John Ruter’s book, though, it seems that the ABG plant may be grafted onto Abies firma. Are you growing koreana on their own roots?

I’ve been able to keep a Picea glauca ‘Conica’ alive for three years now without any problems, so maybe I can work the same magic with Pixie Dust.

My experience with Picea abies hasn’t been as good, and I’ve lost several of the small nest spruces. But the general consensus (which you confirm) is that Picea abies can survive here, so I’m hopeful for my Gold Drift and Pusch. I’ve also had trouble with mugo pines, two of which also died. Based on what you’ve said, it’s possible I didn’t quite water them enough, so I’ll keep on eye on the soil around my Carsten’s.

I’ve planted the larch on a north-facing slope at the bottom of a swale. I’m hoping to “microclimate” my way to success with this one.

Sorry to hear about your Pendula Bruns. I’ve got several other Omorika which are doing well, but I really like the appearance of a mature Pendula Bruns. Well, as with everything else, we’ll just have to see.


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Posted February 9, 2015 at 10:24 pm


Intriguing idea. I’m open to it, especially if I manage to actually keep most of these plants alive!


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Posted February 9, 2015 at 10:37 pm


Sandy Springs is right up the road. Would love to see your garden at some point. 🙂

Picea abies species abound in this area (same with Picea pungens). Seems every 3rd house seems to have a giant one. There’s a 20′ Picea pungens up the road off Lower Roswell Rd, and a bunch of enormous Picea abies that have to be 30’+.

As for koreana, I have some Abies on koreana rootstock that are doing well. Tom Cox has a gorgeous Abies koreana species tree that’s maybe 7-8 years old on its own roots. I’ve good faith they should do well here. Both of my Silberlockes, however, are on firma rootstock. Where did yours come from? I might know its rootstock. 🙂

Jody Karlin and Tom both have beautiful Silberlockes. Good, healthy, full plants. If you’ve not seen their gardens, you should definitely check them out.

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