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

Posted October 25, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Picea pungens actually do really well in this area. There are dozens of them up and down the streets. Have to make sure it’s on a good rootstock, though. Pinus strobus drops all its old needles this time of year. Makes for some fun yellowing in contrast with the bluish green needles. Perfectly normal.

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Posted October 25, 2015 at 2:10 pm

I’ve got several globosa blue spruce which have done well for several years, but many of the very old trees I’ve seen in the southern Appalachians don’t look great.

I’ve never really paid attention to rootstock of spruces before. I would guess Picea abies or picea orientalis would be the best for the South. Neil, do you know how often these are used as understock in the trade?

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Posted October 25, 2015 at 2:18 pm

Hard to say, Dean. Rootstock is basically “whatever is compatible and cheap locally.” A lot of the ‘tried and true’ rootstock combinations are based on little in the way of empirical data and more along the lines of “I tried this. It worked. This is what I will use from now on.” Rootstock experimentation is actually pretty uncommon. As for what people use, it’s generally a matter of what they can locally get as cheaply as they can get it. It’s a business, so they’ll use whatever’s cheap and available in their area. That’s often Picea abies. But it isn’t always. And so there’s no guarantee, even from year to year, what someone will use. But once a nursery generally finds one thing that works, that’s the ONE thing they will use time and time again, because, as I said, experimentation is uncommon. It’s about numbers.

I would say, given the slow speed of orientalis to germinate and grow, it’s liable to be an incredibly uncommon rootstock. Picea abies is quick, cheap, and available more often than not, so it’s going to be probably top choice, with Picea pungens coming in there as well as an option, since, in certain areas, it’s easily available. The only way you will know for sure what’s being used, though, is to ask. And if they don’t have an answer, don’t buy the plant if you can’t afford to watch it die, as you never know what it’s going to be.

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Posted December 10, 2015 at 9:10 am

I am very interested in this topic. We are moving to a new home in central alabama and the front and back yard are basically a clean slate, and about 10 times the space I’ve had in years past. I would like to plant as many conifers as I can.

So far I’ve ordered (awaiting delivery from Conifer Kingdom):
Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke on Firma rootstock
Abies lasiocarpa ‘Glacier’ on firma rootstock
Abies squamata ‘Flaky’ on firma rootstock

I also have a picea pungen ‘hoopsii’ on abies rootstock that I’d like to make my center piece tree somewhere in the front yard.

I reallllly want a Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’as well.

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Posted December 10, 2015 at 11:24 am

Hi Zachua,

I think all of those are good options. I have each of the firs on firma that you have ordered, and all have done well (though mine are still small). Skylands is a beautiful tree, and I’ve had success with that and all of my other picea orientalis – it’s a good species for at least the more northern South. I’ve had the least luck with picea pungens, although I’m not sure what the rootstock are for any of mine.

Good luck, and please post about your successes (and failures)!


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Posted December 10, 2015 at 11:42 am

Hi Dean, will do!
I’m pretty excited that the orientalis and omorika grow well here. I’ve also heard that picea chihuahuana will grow here.

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Posted December 10, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Picea chihuahuana will definitely grow there. But watch those needles! CRAZY sharp!
Omorika I’ve had mixed luck with where I am (7b — just north of Atlanta). Some species plants have done well. Some of my omorika has been a dismal failure (I’ve lost 3 omorika Pimoko, and 2 Pendula Bruns). But I don’t know what roots the Pimoko was on, so I don’t know what to say about that. Orientalis has been rock steady in full sun or full shade here (and I mean FULL shade). No issues at all with any of my Orientalis species or cultivars. I have Skylands here in full sun and it’s pretty happy. And bright.
Lasciocarpa ‘Glacier’ will want a break in the heat. Give it a little shade if you can. It’s not a hot-weather-lover.
Give Hoopsii plenty of water in warm weather. Picea pungens loves its water. Just… not too much. 😉 But at LEAST once a week in summer give it a good soaking or it will absolutely drop needles right and left.

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Posted December 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Neil, that is great to hear!

Any suggestions for a conifer to plant on each corner of my house? Something that will be substantial enough to anchor and soften the corners, add a little color, etc? I thought about a Chamaecyparis obtusa Wells Special or a Lutea Compacta Golden Hinoki Cypress.

I also thought about planting a hoopsii in conjunction with something yellow, on each corner, but the one I have is only about a foot tall and would take quite a long time to fill in. Of course I’m open to purchasing something a little more mature if that’s the ticket.

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Posted December 10, 2015 at 3:20 pm

How far from the corner? Obviously, many of those are going to get pretty big over time. If you’re okay with shearing/pruning the inside next to the house (and how it looks), that’s cool, though. The possibilities, really, are near endless. Chamaecyparis wants good sun to stay gold. If there are shady spots or even non-full-sun spots, it will green out pretty quickly, so keep that in mind if planting a golden one for colour.

We all have different tastes, though. I am, for instance, WILDLY partial to firs. Something about their rarity in the area perhaps, or the fact that I grew up with more of them in nature than is possible in the Southeast lowlands. I have 51 firs in my garden representing 21 different species and on 15 different root stocks. We can grow a really wide variety of things here.

I love my firs and spruces, but sometimes, nothing beats a nice Pinus parviflora or spectacular Cupressus glabra.

A bright gold Cupressus glabra ‘Limelight’ or bright blue Cupressus glabra ‘Blue Ice’ or even whitish Cupressus glabra ‘Sulphurea’ all would do brilliantly in your area, and provide for some spectacular colour and form.

And, of course, don’t forget the variegateds! 😉

As I say, the possibilities are near endless.

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Posted December 10, 2015 at 9:39 pm

I find Chamaecyparis obtusa to be one of the great conifer species for Southern gardens when it comes to cultivar variety, and most will make excellent accent plants. As Neil noted, it’s difficult to recommend a specific plant without knowing the details about your space, but there really is a cultivar for just about every situation you could imagine (including fairly significant shade). The one thing the species lacks is a good blue cultivar, although some are “blue-ish.” But there are plenty of other blue conifers that will grow fine here.

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