Siting Gold and Variegated Gold Conifers Part 3

This is the final edition of our series on golden conifers! As promised at the end of our last blog post, we are featuring our favorite gold and yellow conifers for the main growing regions in the US. While we could certainly recommend 50+ varieties which are gold or yellow for part or most of the year, these are our favorites which have been tried and true and are sure to perform incredibly well for you. That said, make sure that the variety is hardy for you. For instance, there are areas in the Northeast which are a USDA Hardiness Zone 2 – some of our recommendations will not tolerate those cold extremes.

Also, we know a lot about conifers, but you are really the expert! If you have favorite golden conifers selections, please contribute some comments below.

Pacific Northwest:
-Picea abies ‘Gold Drift’
-Picea omorika ‘Peve Tijn’
-Picea orientalis ‘Tom Thumb Gold’
-Pinus parviflora ‘Goldilocks’
-Pinus parviflora ‘Ogon-janome’

-Abies nordmanniana ‘Golden Spreader’
-Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Melody’
-Pinus strobus ‘Louie’
-Sciadopitys verticillata ‘Yellow Dream’
-Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’

-Pinus sylvestris ‘Aurea’ (‘Nisbet’s Gold’, ‘Gold Medal’, and ‘Gold Coin’ are excellent as well)
-Picea mariana ‘Aureovariegata’
-Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’
-Picea pungens ‘Walnut Glen’ (Note: these are extremely difficult to propagate and grow in containers, but if you wait for a specimen to develop, they excel in the Midwest!)
-Picea pungens ‘Wisconsin Cream’

-Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Sands’
-Picea orientalis ‘Early Gold’ (similar to ‘Aureospicata’)
-Pinus sylvestris ‘Gold Coin’
-Sciadopitys verticillata ‘Yellow Dream’
-Thuja occidentalis ‘Amber Glow’

Continuing with the final installment of our series, we are featuring a few golden conifers that need some sun to show their best color. As mentioned in the previous installment, many of these colorful conifers require some shade to prevent burning. Too much shade can cause their trademark color to dull, making them appear predominantly green.

Pinus parviflora 'Goldilocks'
Pinus parviflora ‘Goldilocks’

For instance, a popular pine we supply, Pinus parviflora ‘Goldilocks’ (‘Tenysu kazu’), is primarily green when grown in a significant amount of shade. Spring candles will still be a nice lemon color in the shade, but as the needles mature, the entire tree will appear light green. Considering that Goldilocks will minimally burn in full sun or containers – we strongly recommend growing it in the most sun you have available.

Picea orientalis 'Skylands'
Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’

Similarly, ‘Skylands’ oriental spruce has beautiful golden-yellow foliage that only shows its color when planted with some sun exposure. While it may burn in full sun for quite some time before it is mature, it does eventually outgrow the sunburn with time in our experience.

‘Colonial Gold’ is another spruce that is different from ‘Skylands’ in that the yellow color is primarily on the new growth in early spring. Direct sunlight helps give this tender foliage a bright creamy color but can cause a small degree of burning or defoliation that is barely noticeable by the end of the growing season. For this reason, it is best to plant this variety in a significant amount of sun so that is shows the best coloration.

Picea pungens 'Colonial Gold' & Abies arnoldiana (x) 'Poulsen'
Picea pungens ‘Colonial Gold’ & Abies arnoldiana (x) ‘Poulsen’

Many of our customers are searching for something colorful but narrow, and the perfect selection is Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’. We see no sunburn on this variety when grown in full sun in containers! However, when grown in indirect light or a fair amount of shade, the golden color changes to more of a lime-green. Its slender form, sun tolerance, and remarkable coloration give this tree a spot among our all-time favorites.

Taxus baccata 'Standishii'
Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’

These are just a few of the gold varieties we recommend for full sun planting. In deed we are obsessed with gold – it’s the light of the landscape. In addition to the incredible assortment, we already offer – we are adding so many tremendous gold selections which you should keep an eye out for in the future. These include Larix decidua ’Lucek’, Pinus contorta var. latifolia ‘Golden Stryker’, Pinus strobus ‘Rob’s Halo’, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Filip’s Golden Tears’, Pinus mugo ‘Lemon’ and many more!

-Happy Planting!

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Siting Gold & Variegated Gold Conifers Part 2

As mentioned in our previous blog post, yellow and golden conifers are some of the most popular varieties we offer. So in this edition, we are aiming to help you find the perfect spot in your garden to give them some necessary shade and prevent burning! Because of their “fair complexion,” they are much more susceptible to intense sunlight than most other varieties.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush' - Burned
Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’ – Burned

During the warmer months of summer, varieties with tender foliage such as Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’ have a tendency to scald on areas that receive full sun. As you can see in the photo to the right, the south side of this ‘Gold Rush’ specimen has suffered from moderate sunburn for many years, causing it to grow more slowly than the shaded, north side.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush'
Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’
Picea abies 'Perry's Gold' - Burned
Picea abies ‘Perry’s Gold’ – Burned

While ‘Gold Rush’ has a golden color during spring and summer, varieties like Picea abies ‘Perry’s Gold’ are primarily gold only in the spring. Because the color is so bright on the tender new growth, it is especially prone to scalding. That said, the bright spring new growth greens up by summer, so that even in a full-sun location, there is typically very little burn once the plant is established. By fall, the needles on the upper portions of the branches have defoliated as can be seen in the photo on the right. Although this burning is somewhat unsightly, it does not seem to affect the overall health or growth of the plant.

Picea abies 'Perry's Gold'
Picea abies ‘Perry’s Gold’
Picea abies 'Vermont Gold' - Burned
Picea abies ‘Vermont Gold’ – Burned

Another bright cultivar of Norway spruce with similar burn issues is ‘Vermont Gold’. This low-growing variety has a year-round yellow color that has a tendency to defoliate on the upper branch surfaces. As can be seen in the image below, the slightly shaded portions of the tree show little to no burn, so it does not require much shade to keep this variety looking its best.

Picea abies 'Vermont Gold'
Picea abies ‘Vermont Gold’
Pinus parviflora 'Ogon Janome' - Burned
Pinus parviflora ‘Ogon Janome’ – Burned

Variegated plants (in this case pines with banded needles) are often affected by intense sun as well. For instance, Pinus parviflora ‘Ogon-janome’ tends to suffer from defoliation when exposed to too much direct light during the summer, especially when grown in a container. By summer’s end, the most exposed areas of foliage are rather burned with some of the upper needles falling from the tree as pictured to the left. However, it seems that ‘Ogon-janome’ can withstand full sun when planted out in more temperate climates, and 10+ year-old specimens can handle full sun in just about any climate.

Pinus parviflora 'Ogon Janome'
Pinus parviflora ‘Ogon Janome’

To prevent this type of burning, it is important to observe the amount of sunlight a particular spot in your garden receives to ensure that the tree is given the ideal amount of exposure. Generally, 4-6 hours of sunlight is plenty for most brightly-colored varieties, and 2-4 hours of direct sun is preferable. However, these factors can vary based on your climate as well, so be sure to check with us if you have particular questions regarding specific plant siting. We are always happy to help your conifers find the right spot in your garden!

In addition to sunburn, strong winter winds can exacerbate needle burn. In years with extremely-low temperatures, foliage can burn more than normal. In general smaller sizes are more prone to sunburn and damage. As such, if you are purchasing a BP or #1 size of a golden variety, you might consider planting in a container and placing the container in deep shade, after a few years, you can plant it in the ground in less shade. If windburn has caused damage in the past you could apply an anti-desiccant, such as Wilt Proof™.

While we are making yellow plants out to sound incredibly finicky, they’re worth the extra effort in the garden. One particularly choice variety is Pinus contorta var. latifolia ‘Frisian Gold’ – this variety glows in both summer and winter – but as a young plant it truly looks sick.

Pinus contorta var. latifolia 'Frisian Gold' - Burned
Pinus contorta var. latifolia ‘Frisian Gold’ – Burned

Here’s a photo of a young plant which was grown in full sun, and here is a photo of a properly-grown specimen in one of our friends’ gardens. How can you argue with that color?! In our next post we will feature a list of a few varieties that do well in each of the distinct growing regions throughout the U.S.

Pinus contorta var. latifolia 'Frisian Gold'
Pinus contorta var. latifolia ‘Frisian Gold’

Happy Planting,
-The Conifer Kingdom Team

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Siting Gold & Variegated Gold Conifers Part 1

Sighting Gold and variegated gold conifers

Some of the most highly sought-after conifers are those with bright golden or yellow foliage for a portion of the year or throughout the seasons. While these varieties can literally glow in the garden, they tend to require some special care or have special siting requirements to ensure they look their best.

Since these are such a popular group of conifers, in this three-week series of blog posts we will discuss which varieties perform best under which conditions. But before we mention all the varieties, let’s first determine how climate and sun exposure affect their coloration.

Too much shade keeps Conifers from getting gold color
The effects of too much sun on gold conifers

One of the most important factors to consider is the amount of light these colorful varieties should receive. In many cases, too much sun can burn the foliage and cause the upper, more exposed branches to turn brown. Just as fair-skinned people are more susceptible to sunburn, the same applies to light-colored conifers. However, many varieties require some sun exposure to show the golden color at all.

This conifer was supposed to be gold but got too much shade and never developed it's color
This conifer got too much shade and never developed it’s color

This difficult balance of sun and shade is largely dependent upon the climate. Drier climates with more overhead sun exposure tend to cause golden and variegated varieties to burn much more quickly. By contrast, growing yellow conifers in more humid or more northern locations or those that are further north, will allow them to be sited in full sun with minimal to no sunburn. Sun exposure must be evaluated year-round. Winter sun can burn foliage as well. Care must be taken when planting in an area shaded by deciduous trees as full sun exposure during the winter can cause sunburn and foliage desiccation. Often times this burn is temporary, meaning that the existing foliage will be partially to fully burnt, but the buds (active growing points) are fully viable. This will cause the brown foliage to look poor until the spring buds explode with healthy foliage.

Also, light-colored conifers have a greater tendency to burn when they are grown in containers. After having been established in the ground for a few years, most varieties will outgrow the sun burning and develop the desired coloration as they mature. Sometimes providing shade for a few years while the plant is developing will help it outgrow the scalding more quickly, and in other cases, patience is important to wait for the roots to acclimate to their new home and soil type. Once the trees fully mature, it is common for them to outgrow burning altogether, even in sunnier, drier locations.

In our December blog posts, we will discuss some particular varieties and what conditions they prefer to look their best in each climate.

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