Many people might not have know that the ubiquitous Juniper of the 60's and 70's landscapes is a dwarf form of Juniperus chinensis. Many a front yards were covered with "low" growing Juniperus chinensis 'Pfitzeriana' that eventually out grew their allotted space along the walkways and sidewalks only to be sheered and cursed. We had one across the street that ate our baseballs, and when we are out I had to crawl under the plants looking for a season worth of balls. (I did a quick google street view and they are gone.) This plant was responsible for the dislike of any Juniper by horticulturist, which is to bad. It also has an interesting history and is now recognized as a hybrid, Juniperus xpfitzeriana ‘Wilhelm Pfitzer’.
How are dwarfs produced? There is a great article on the Iseli Nursery webpage so I will offer a shorter version. Most of the variations are the result of genetic mutations and are found either in the field as a bud mutation, a witches brooms or in seed beds of large nurseries. I have found several witches brooms (there is one in Scotts Valley) and in the past sent parts to Iseli Nursery for grafting. One was successfully grafted and on a visit to the nursery I saw "my" 5 plants. They were growing weakly in the bullpen, and did not make the "cut". The specimen they gave me died several years later.
This is Pinus mugo 'Mops' with a witches broom, which will likely become a named cultivar.
Dwarf conifers are slow growing cultivars and usually listed by how large they will be at 10 years old. I have seen some dwarf collections get out of control. In fact, I planted one on the campus of Spokane Community College. It was only a fraction of the plants that came out of the garden of a great friend and master gardener Milo Ball. He asked us to pull some plants because he was selling the house and the realtor suggested he make the landscape look a bit more "normal". We removed over 100 plants and you could not tell!
This is garden after 10 years…. whoops, guess I planted too many in to small of a space.
If you want them to stay small, put them in nice pots, they will stay much smaller than in the ground. Some of the nicest displays I have seen use troughs for pots.
I think I will focus only on those I have seen locally. However, I might throw in some if the species grows successfully here, perhaps to encourage people to try them. They will be arranged alphabetically.
I have created a map of dwarf conifers in Aptos with a link here and on the maps page.
Abies concolor grows very well here, but I have not seen any of the dwarfs planted, or even standard cultivars. Too bad.
Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'. Pretty common in SC, this plant is pretty typical, located in Seacliff. Some seem bluer than others. Some nurseries train them upright with twisting stems.
Chamaecyparis have lots of cultivars, from every species.
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana has produced lots of cultivars, but most of them are color or habit variations of the species and not really dwarfs. Many of the dwarfs are narrow upright growers like 'Ellwoodii' that's pretty common and has its own post.
Chamaecyparis obtusa the Hinoki cypress has developed hundreds of cultivars, many slower growing, some with gold or yellow, some with fern like foliage. In fact I doubt many Hinoki cypress planted in SC are the straight species. One of the more popular cultivars is the yellow foliaged 'Crippsii' seen below lighting up the landscape on a dark rainy day. A bit to the right is another dwarf, but green.
This is Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera 'Aurea Nana'. Long thin thread like branches and all yellow. Might burn in full sun.
Cupressus macrocarpa 'Greenstead Magnificent'
I know of only a few cultivars of our native Monterey cypress and I love this one. Growing 8+ feet wide and at least 2 feet tall, with a blue cast to the foliage and weeping tips. Much of the literature says 6" tall, don't be fooled.
Picea abies 'Pendula' is a great weeping conifer. Several cultivariants here, some growing ever so slightly up and then mostly on the ground…. though I suspect these low growers labeled 'Pendula' but may have come from a cultivar like 'Inversa'. I planted this one to grow over and down this basalt rock. The plant covered an area over 12' x 12' in 8 years.
And then many upright with weeping laterals…… These are from the National Arboretum in DC.
Picea glauca conica is a naturally occurring dwarf form of the white spruce often know as P. glauca albertiana. Many of the them develop shoots that are no longer dwarf and need to be pruned out quickly or they ruin the shape. Most people consider this a cultivar, but I am not sure. Anyway, called the Dwarf Alberta Spruce. There are at least a dozen selections from this that are smaller, bluer, variegated and who knows what else.
Picea pungens 'Globosa'
Way too many round globes to know for sure, but most likely candidate for the non-serious rare conifer collector. This is at the Missouri Botanic Garden (really nice garden).
Don't know the cultivar on this one but you can find them grafted up high. Not sure what the purpose is, maybe to make the plant look larger in a container? But if I wanted a dwarf, then make it small.
Picea sitchensis 'Papoose'
I have not seen one of these but the species grows well here, keep an eye out for one. We found it marginally hardy in the snow, but you can find full sized specimens in SC.
Pinus densiflora 'Umbraculifera'
The Tanyoso Pine also called the Table Top Pine. Actually gets pretty big, but not for many years. This image is from the Morton Arboretum. Below is one in Aptos.
One of the cool things about this dwarf is the quantify of cones it can produce yearly.
Pinus densi-thunbergii 'Jane Kluis' is an awesome dwarf pine. A hybrid cultivar growing slowly with a flat top and rounded shape. This plant has japanese black pine genes so it grows well here.
Pinus mugo mugo is very commonly in our landscapes, you just have to look down rather than up. Perhaps the most common dwarf conifer besides the junipers. All over the place and all over the place on height and width. There must be 50 cultivars of this plant, P. mugo pumilo is very common. 'Mops' is pretty common. I doubt I could name any of them in the landscape, unless its one of the really odd ones.
There are also many very dwarf selections like my favorite, 'Mitch's Mini'.
Pinus nigra 'Thunderhead' is a great dwarf form of the Austrian Pine. It features slower growth and large white winter buds contrasting with dark green leaves. Can easily be kept below 10' so you can see the buds.
This is Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'. Like many cultivars with pendula in the name, this cultivar has pendulous lateral branches but can grow sideways as well.
Thuja orientalis 'Aurea Nana' and its slight variations are everywhere in town. I have already shown some pictures of this and its assorted cultivars, but I will include them here as well. Old school plant, very common in 70's style landscapes. Pretty classic sight, there is a front door in there somewhere. Dwarf means slow growing…...
Tsuga canadensis 'Pendula' was a shock to see in a garden recently. I have not seen one Hemlock tree in 10 years while living in SC. I do like them, they have a very soft texture, and small leaves like a fir tree. So this is what they can look like, at Wisley Garden, but below is the one I saw……give it 20 years….
One problem identifying dwarf conifer clones is they will look different on different rootstocks. Many are propagated via grafting and propagators use different rootstocks. For example, putting a japanese white pine clone on 4 different white pine species will result in different growth rates and eventually a different looking plant. The former propagation manager at Isley Nursery told me they called them Cultivariants. I recall an article in a conifer periodical showing the results of this situation. The goal of a nursery is to produce the plants via cuttings, which results in almost identical plants.
Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'
203 Santa Cruz Ave Aptos
Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera 'Aurea Nana'
409 Semple Ave Aptos
Picea abies 'Pendula'
206 El Camino Del Mar Aptos
Picea glauca conica
111 Thunderbird Aptos
Picea pungens 'Globosa'
206 El Camino Del Mar Aptos
Picea omorika 'Pendula Burns' and Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'
49 Pebble Beach Dr Aptos
Pinus densi-thunbergii 'Jean Kluis'
1080 Via Malibu Aptos
Pinus densiflorus 'Umbraculifera' and Pinus mugo cultivars
451 St Andrews Dr. Aptos
Pinus nigra 'Thunderhead'
430 Seaview Drive Aptos
Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'
587 St. Andrews Dr. Aptos
Thuja orientalis 'Aurea Nana'
141 Wingfoot Way Aptos
Lots of conifers
1025 Sumner Aptos
Pinus mugo, Picea glauca conica, Chamaecypris obtusa Crisppi, Picea pungens glauca, thuja orientalis.
Conifer garden in Capitola
826 Monterey Blvd.
Websites to look at:
Stanley and Son Nursery