The weather forecast has several days with morning lows in the 50s, which is a cause for celebration. We can look for those long-lost fleece vests and, even better, it gives horticulturists like The Garden Guy the ticket to forget flowers for a week and write about a new golden conifer called Fluffy.
There is nothing that adds a thrill to the winter landscape quite like conifers, and I’ll be the first to admit I have been doing a conifer happy dance all summer even through staggering heat. You see The Garden Guy added nine Fluffy arborvitaes to the landscape, months ago, and I love them.
Fluffy is a great new variety of Thuja plicata known as western red cedar or western arborvitae. Those of you in the South may be thinking “Danger Will Robinson” from the standpoint of our sweltering heat.
When I was director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden in Savannah, Georgia, I fell in love with all sorts of conifers, Chamaecyapris, Cedrus, Cephalotaxus, Cryptomeria and Cupressus to name just a few. It ignited an unquenchable passion for conifers.
So Fluffy, which offers drop-dead gorgeous golden needlelike foliage, was simply more than I could pass up. When I told my wife that I had nine conifers coming by truck, the look I got was not one of glee. She grew up in East Texas, and the only conifers she appreciates are tall pines.
If you look at Fluffy on Proven Winners website you will immediately want one — or in my case I that number was nine. It is hard to imagine a prettier small conifer than Fluffy. With nine, I knew I had the opportunity to give it the full sun in Oregon treatment and work my way down to the various shades of sunlight. First, know that everywhere I have planted it has thrived.
In the full sun, the foliage is gold. The more shade, the foliage is more chartreuse with gold tips. These light up this filtered sunlit garden, where it is partnered with blue hydrangeas, azaleas and loropetalums. Nearby there are also spreading plum yew which are indeed conifers, too, but I am not telling.
In my almost full-sun area, I combined Fluffy with a patch of Blue Rug juniper. This partnership should mature into a real picture and opens the door for more dwarf conifer acquisitions. In the meantime, however I used the new ColorBlaze Wicked Hot coleus as a backdrop. This coleus always looks as though it is a glowing ember of fire which contrasts wonderfully with Fluffy’s golden needles.
In my last treatment I am using Fluffy as the backdrop to a dry creek that does indeed flow during monsoonal rains. In between the creek, which is a work in progress, I have 15 daylilies. This area gets full morning sun until about 1pm. These Fluffy plants have colored up with a lot more gold than the filtered azalea area.
Fluffy is recommended for zones 5a-8b, reaching 5 to 10 feet in height with a spread of 5 feet. It naturally develops that conical or Christmas tree shape. If your soil is tight, heavy clay and not well drained, then plan on amending it with 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and work the bed to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. The best idea might be to copy what the commercial landscapers do, planting on raised beds accomplished by bringing in a prepared soil mix.
Even though good drainage is paramount, water will be necessary to allow the conifers to maintain their health and appearance and to get roots acclimated and expanded in your bed. Be sure and add a good layer of mulch to keep soil temperatures moderate, conserve moisture and deter weed growth.
Fluffy has the ability to create excitement in the garden, or in large containers on the porch, patio and deck. Warning, you may just find it ignites a passion for confers in you too!
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)
©2020 Norman Winter