Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Dwarf Conifers

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When the snow begins to fall like it is today, I have a new appreciation for the conifer trees and shrubs in our landscape.  The variety of color, texture and size can add so much interest to our winter landscape!

One of the projects I have been working on over the past few weeks is building files for each of our gardens.  Eventually, each garden file will include plant lists, descriptions, construction details, photos and whatever else I can collect.  As I was putting a file together for the Children’s Garden, I added the text found on each of the green signs found in the garden.  I have to be honest that after three summers at the Arboretum I have read only a few of the interpretive signs found in the gardens – my eyes always seem to be on the weeds instead!

Now back to conifers – one of the signs in the Children’s Garden describes how dwarf conifers come about.  It really is fascinating!  Read for yourself:

Dwarf conifers are discovered as horticulturists and hobbyists look for mutated growths growing high in natural species trees.  These growths known as “brooms” are removed from upper reaches of the host tree.  Cuttings taken by the hundreds from these “brooms” are planted and nurtured for many years.

The goal is to see if the rooted cuttings repeat the growth characteristics of their host species, or if they develop into an entirely new plant form.  The real trick comes as the matured “broom” cuttings start producing seed over the years.  If the characteristics of the adult plants started from the seeds of bare rooted “brooms” are the same as the “broom” and not the original host plant, a true dwarf has been discovered.

The Latin word ‘nana’ or dwarf is placed at the end of the species name.  For example: Procumbens Junipers’ dwarf becomes Juniperus procumbens nana.

The reason the plants are so expensive is because as slow growing dwarfs it takes years to get one large enough to sell and to make sure it’s a true dwarf anyway.

Dwarf conifers prefer:

  • to be planted bareroot at times best for species.
  • a sunny but protected location.
  • a slightly acidic soil that is well-drained.
  • a surface application of organic matter, such as shredded bark or leaf mold, to provide an adequate source of nutrients.

It gives you a whole new appreciation for how dwarf conifers come to be, doesn’t it?

Hope you are enjoying the season.  Stay warm.

See you in the gardens.


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

December 15, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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