Somewhere Between Cerulean and Arctic

Ice Breakers sugar free peppermint gum is a Hershey’s candy product that has been in their portfolio since 2000. Acquired from Nabisco, this intense minty gum is wrapped in electric blue and every time I see this product, on the shelf at our local convenience store, I can’t help but think of two plant types.

Somewhere between the blue hues of cerulean and arctic is the descriptive I would use for both of these exciting plants. More than a decade ago, I was touring Iseli Nursery in Oregon and was introduced to an electrifying new plant. A Korean Fir, Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’, has upwardly recurved needles on this small pyramidal tree. Silver-white undersides add to its uniqueness and its texture makes you want to go over and “pet it”. Korean Fir is known for their slow growth and small stature. However, they are equally known for their abundantly rich, violet-purple, almost bluish, 2-3” long cones. Many of the great gardening catalogues around the world have, in their own way, captured these cones by way of photograph. “Hardy” to zone 4, there are some 2-dozen cultivars that can hold your attention, offering markings from greenish-blue to intense yellow. Better than most Fir types for warmer climates, Korean Fir still appreciates a cooler one. One thing I have learned with this plant over the years is that it performs much better in well- drained soils than it does in heavy clay types. Hence, I usually recommend this tree as a container plant to adorn your entranceway or patio or pool area. As with any year-round container plant you have at your home, consider protecting the plant and the pot in the winter. Submerging the pot in the ground for the winter or encasing it with bales of straw are both suitable answers to ensure the plants survivability and the pots. Appreciating more sun than shade and feeding your tree in early spring will certainly contribute to Korean Fir’s long-term success.

“True cypress trees (Cupressus) make excellent evergreen hedges or elegant specimens in warm, sunny garden locations. Characterized by graceful, symmetric shapes and colorful, fragrant foliage, true cypress trees also provide showy bark and resinous, aromatic wood. Given good drainage, Cupressus will tolerate poor dry soils” (Iseli Nursery). Perhaps the most outstanding example of this is a blue variety of Arizona Cypress, Cupressus glabra ‘Blue Pyramid’. A broad, upright selection with powder-blue markings, this conifer is certainly bold and beautiful. Years ago I remember seeing a mature specimen at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, NJ and remember being besotted with its aromatic, scale-like leaves. Capable of growing 1-2 feet a year, in no time you will be able to appreciate the powder-blue foliage against its reddish flaking bark. Despite the lacy appearance, reminiscent of a pencil cactus, Arizona cypress is relatively trouble free and shows some deer resistance. Drought tolerant, once established, this tree produces small, spherical female cones that turn a reddish-brown. Plant Arizona cypress in full sun and keep them out of windy locations.

These two tree types offer intense blue color markings different than your average blue spruce. Both have unique texture, something I am drawn to, and just look fun and playful. There are many cultivars on the market and any one of them, I’m sure, could create drama and excitement in your garden.