Better Selections Now!
A guide to choosing superior garden plants
Blue Sterling's Newsletter

F or Collectors Only (part 2)

This installment of For Collectors Only includes some neat stories on 4 cool selections. Pinus parviflora 'Tani Mano Uki', Cedrus deodara 'Blue Ball', Pinus bungeana 'Temple Gem' and Picea abies 'Frohburg'.

Sometimes we become so wrapped up in our world of grafting and growing that we don't explain some of the challenges unusual conifers present. The 'snow on the mountain' Japanese white pine is a perfect example. We were talking with a friend about this pines' popularity, kvetching a little that we never had enough of them available. "Well," he offered, "why don't you just grow more of them?" We wish it were that easy! Pinus parviflora 'Tani Mano Uki' is beautiful and carefree It is also almost impossible to graft!

Pinus parviflora 'Tani Mano Uki'

This dwarf pine has short blue-green needles tipped with pure snow white. It grows slowly and has an artistic, irregular habit. A twelve-year-old tree is only two feet tall. No matter how carefully we graft 'Tani Mano Uki', we still experience a high mortality rate. If you have a chance to buy this pine, do it! It is slow enough to thrive in a container for years before you find the perfect spot for it in your garden.

Okay we admit it. We're biased. We think Cedrus deodara 'Blue Ball' is the most exciting cedar cultivar to come along in a decades. 'Blue Ball' is a miniature cedar with steel blue foliage. It is densely branched and shaped like a tennis ball.

While 'Blue Ball' is a new commercial introduction, it grew in our Idea Garden at the Nursery for a dozen years. We studied this cedar before deciding it was stable (did not revert to the size and growth rate of it's' parent) and unique. 'Blue Ball' arrived at our Nursery courtesy of our friend Denny Blew. He came across a diminutive, globose, deodara cedar in a bed of seedlings in the late 1970's. The unique habit and cobalt color leaves struck him. Denny set the plant aside and observed it over seven years! When he was convinced that the plant was stable and unique, he gave it to Jim. After another 12 years in the Blue Sterling Idea Garden, we decided to introduce 'Blue Ball' to the gardening public. The original 'Blue Ball' is 23 years old and only 36" x 36".

Cedrus deodara 'Blue Ball'

You can enjoy 'Blue Ball' as a companion plant for perennials or as a container plant in a sunny apartment window. We stepped up production of this little gem when our new propagation house, the Propicana came online. We will have a tough time meeting demand for 'Blue Ball' because it is so small and slow growing.

Pinus bungeana 'Temple Gem'. Pinus bungeana, the lacebark pine, is celebrated for its' beautiful peeling bark. Once you see this tree, you will always remember the shiny patches of olive, red, tan, and white (see below). Like most seedling-grown trees, Pinus bungeana has a variable habit. It is often open and sparsely branched, which presents design challenges to home gardeners.

Pinus bungeana bark

Jim has always kept an eye open for a superior cultivar and he sure found a great one. It's called 'Temple Gem', and you'll want to plant this gem in your garden. This tree features the beautiful exfoliating bark of Pinus bungeana, but has a denser, more compact habit. 'Temple Gem' grows slower and has more regular branching than the species. It reaches about 3' tall in a decade. This small tree is a worthy specimen, but can also be tucked into the back of a pocket sized perennial bed. 'Temple Gem' brings yearlong appeal to gardens. The green needles complement just about any flowering plant you can think of. The sycamore-like bark is a treat in any season.

Blue Sterling constantly searches for better conifer cultivars. After a long search, we have found the best weeping Norway spruce you will see anywhere! Picea abies 'Frohburg' is a significant improvement over Picea abies 'Pendula'. As much as we enjoy the traditional weeping Norway spruce, it can be an unruly plant. Terminal branches grow up, out and down, the way our hair looks first thing in the morning. 'Frohburg' has a consistent slim and upright habit. Once you plant 'Frohburg', you will never have to do anything except enjoy it!

'Frohburg's side branches weep strongly and hang down close to the main trunk. The needles of 'Frohburg' are shorter and thinner than typical, and they are packed tightly along the stems. As this wonderful selection matures, the lower branches spread out to form an elegant skirt that surrounds the tree. It has a consistent habit, so you do not have to deal with aberrant branches that so often occur on Picea abies 'Pendula'. 'Frohburg' is a superb choice to plant as a specimen where space is limited. It was selected in Switzerland from seedlings of the larger weeping cultivar Picea abies 'Inversa'. Picea abies 'Frohburg' is becoming popular in Europe but is still hard to find in our country.

Rare plant collecting is a healthy habit, and one that all of us at the nursery have developed. These collector's plants are only a small sample of the spectacular cultivars Blue Sterling Nursery grows. Please check more of our web site for more new cutting edge plants.