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conifer rant


I’ve been sorting out the urls I’ve been saving for years; every now and then I move them to a different folder on an external drive, so that if the main pc goes down I don’t lose them. Thought it was about time I sorted them to see what I really want. Found over 17,000 of them – and nearly 2,000 just in my “gardening” subfolder!

A lot of them were for dwarf and miniature conifers, so I thought I’d check them, copy relevant data to a Word file, then chuck the link; all the data would be in one file where I could sort and compare types etc. (I only plan on maybe ten at the very most, but I want to make sure that there isn’t a mini-conifer that would be ideal for me if only I knew about it!)

So far I’ve spent four fun-packed days just doing that, and I’ve still only managed to wade through a tiny percentage of the links.

The information is so spotty, even very basic information, such as how tall and how wide a plant is. I’ve had to go to four or fives sites for each plant, and only if I’m lucky do I find one of these data, let along both of them.

I’ve spent most of today doing more wading, with very minimal success, and I’m in a mood for a bit of a rant!

I’ll ask my question here, in case you don’t make it to the end! Does anyone know of a site, or sites, that give plants’ mature heights and spreads? I’m particularly interested in conifers (rather, I’m particularly interested in miniature plants, and conifers seem to have cornered the market)

For a start, there’s a confusion of names: I found “Chamaecyparis lawsoniana Aurea” and Goggled for that, but also got:
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana nana ‘Aurea’
Chamaecyparis Obtusa ‘Aurea’

Are all these the same plant with slightly different labels? No point my looking for data for what might very well be a different plant!

So many sites that do manage to give a plant’s height don’t give the plant’s spread, which is of more immediate interest to me – the sky goes all the way up, but my ground space is severely limited, so the plant’s eventual spread will be the deciding factor.

Maybe some plants don’t actually have any width (I’d pay money to see a plant that had height but no width – but as it had zero width there’d be nothing to see!).

And even the heights given can’t be relied on: one plant’s height is given, on four sites, as ranging from 30cm to over 6 feet. Which is the true one? I’ve been trying to find the same measurement twice; then I can assume that that’s the real one.

There are several sites that give this type of very helpful information:
“Size: Height: 0 ft. to 0 ft. Width: 0 ft. to 0 ft.”
0 feet to 0 feet? Wow, that’s an amazing size range!

Some sites go into incredible detail yet still manage not to mention a plant’s size:

Family Cupressaceae
Trees or shrubs evergreen , monoecious or dioecious. Leaves decussate or in whorls of 3, scalelike and then often dimorphic with flattened facial leaves and keeled lateral leaves, or needlelike particularly in juvenile plants , often with an abaxial resin gland . Pollen cones terminal or axillary , solitary, maturing and shed annually; microsporophylls 6-16, decussate or whorled , each bearing (2 or) 3-6(-9) pollen sacs ; pollen wingless. Seed cones usually terminal, solitary, globose , ovoid , or oblong , dehiscent or indehiscent when mature in 1st or 2nd(or 3rd) year; cone scales developing after ovules originate in bract axils; bracts almost completely enveloped by cone scales, free only at apex; ovules 1-numerous per bract axil, erect ; cone scales of mature cones 3-16, flat or peltate, woody, leathery, or succulent, 1-20-seeded. Seeds winged or not; wings derived from seed coat . Cotyledons usually 2, rarely 3-6. Germination epigeal.

There were three pages of this – and still no “plant size” – and that’s the only datum I’m interested in (and this was for a plant that wasn’t even the one that I was Googling for!)

This is another site’s “overview”:

“Chamaecyparis lawsoniana
Overview When to plant Where to buy Growing Map
0 plantings
0 available for swap
0 wanted
0 stashed”

They’ll tell you where to buy it and how to plant it and where it grows around the world, but still don’t tell you how big the thing can grow to. And that’s still not the exact name I put into search that Google fetched up.

Then there’s the endless, pointless lists …

Chamaecyparis formosensis
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana
 ‘Alba Spica’
 ‘Albaspica Nana’
 ‘Albospica’
 ‘Albopicta’
 ‘Albovariegata’
 ‘Albrechii’
 ‘Alumigold’
 ‘Alumii’
 ‘Allumii Magnifica’
 ‘Alumii Nana Compacta’
 ‘Argentea’
 ‘Argentea Compacta’
 ‘Argentea Smith’
 ‘Argentea Waterer’
 ‘Argenteovariegata’
 ‘Argentovariegata Nana’
 ‘Argenteovariegata Nova’
 ‘Armstrongii’
 ‘Ashton Gold’
 ‘Atrovirens’
 ‘Aurea’
 ‘Aurea Densa’
 ‘Aurea Nova’
 ‘Aureospica’
 ‘Aureovariegata’
 ‘Azurea’
 ‘Backhouse Silver’
 ‘Backhousiana’
 ‘Barabit’s Globe’

And so on, and on, and on. A lot of the names on that list are ones I’ve been searching for, but so what? None of them are clickable. It’s just a list that does nothing.

So I’ll repeat my question, now that you can see why!

Does anyone know a site or sites that might have the basic information about plants? RHS doesn’t, Shoot! doesn’t, nor does Dave’s Garden – not enough of them to make it worthwhile,

I feel a bit better now I’ve let off some steam!

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I hope you feel better for the rant!:)

I can't help you find anywhere with the information you want, but would like to mention that of course nobody can tell you what the height and width of any given plant will be in your particular garden with your soil and growing conditions and the care you give it. I've bought 'miniature' conifers that I end up chopping down after a few years because they got too big to manage. Or they're very slow growing, so they may be miniature for 10 years or so be will eventually be giants.

Perhaps you're getting too bogged down in details. Why not just buy some conifers you like the sound of and see how big they grow. If they get too big, take them out and plant something else:)

Alternatively could you phone a conifer nursery and ask for information that way? Just a thought...

10 Apr, 2013


I bet you feel much better now Fran, good to have a good rant occasionally. Sorry I cannot help either. Someone on here grows a lot of conifers and firs though so sure they will help. Hope you are feeling better now you have got it all off your chest. lol :O)

10 Apr, 2013


Hi Fran!

Oooh you do make me chuckle. I can feel your frustration just jumping off the page. I just went outside to check a miniature conifer that I bought at the end of last year. You are right! - Chamaecyparis obtuse nana aurea is the variety. A height is given but not the spread. To quote -
Dwarf evergreen conifer having tight curled foliage with golden tips. Ht after 10yrs 2ft. Any reasonable soil. Any aspect. Its quite a slow grower so should fit with your criteria. If you are worried about the spread, I would definitely avoid junipers. Adrian Bloom used to be the guru on conifers. If you google him you may have better luck.

10 Apr, 2013


there is a chap on GOY called Bluespruce who is knowledgeable. my own experience is that for trees you get the typical growth in say 10yrs. there is no such thing as a dwarf conifer according to Dr Timothy Walker [oxford botanic gardens], just slower growing ones. factors such as temperature, light levels and water availability will also affect the speed they grow at.

After 15 yrs I removed ones that had out grown their space.

as long as you feel better for your rant :o)

10 Apr, 2013


Hi Louisa; of course the size of any plant will vary according to local conditions, but there are “mature sizes”, how big a plant will grow under ideal conditions.

Both the RHS and Shoot! sites give this information – they also say how long it takes for a plant to reach its mature size – sometimes 1-2 years for flowers up to 20-50 years for conifers.

A lot of other sites will give size “after 10 years” which is also very helpful – at least that gives me some idea of how big this particular plant will get.

Sadly, neither RHS nor Shoot! have some of the conifers I’m trying to find data on. Which takes me back to Google-hopping!

There are full-size trees, and there are miniature versions of those trees – I want to make sure I get the miniature ones! Which is where the “30cm–150 feet” problem comes in.

I probably am getting too “locked in” – I should maybe settle for a few that I’ve found that would be the right mature sizes – but it’s sort of fun (in a slightly masochistic way!) to find more information on more plants. And there’s always the nagging
feeling that, though these plants are good, there might be one or two that would be even better, if I did but know it.

I could phone a nursery and ask for a list (once I’ve found a nursery!) but I’m visually impaired and can’t read normal print – one of the main pains about getting information from various sites is that every time I do, I have to reformat the text size, colour, font face, and even the background to get something I can actually read.

11 Apr, 2013


Lol Olive, thanks, I do feel a lot better now! I should back off a bit, not do so much at one time, then I won’t get so wound up.

Thanks, Poppy, that’s very helpful, I’ll copy and paste your description into my files. And I’ll check on Adrian Bloom!

Thanks, Seaburn. It was Bluespruce who first got me into thinking about mini-conifers, I’ve got several of his pics in my faves – I didn’t want to keep nagging him for info that I should [ha!] be able to find out for myself. I’ll check out the Oxford site, thanks very much.

Really, I could also look at plants whose eventual size will be too big for the currently-available space – if it takes 10 or 20 or 50 years to get to its full size, by that time I might be living somewhere where that wouldn’t be a problem – ha, in 50 years’ time it might very well be someone else’s problem!

11 Apr, 2013


When I suggested phoning a nursery specialising in conifers, or even phoning the RHS, I was thinking more of getting verbal information rather than a list. Especially given your visual impairment you might find an expert on the phone giving you information on suitable conifers helpful.

I really hope you find a selection that is suitable and gives you much pleasure.

11 Apr, 2013


Paulsgarden might be able to help Fran......he has purchased a lot of conifers lately.
It must have taken you ages to type up your blog Fran.....phew, bet you feel better now. Lol.

11 Apr, 2013


As Poppy said above, Fran, I can feel your frustration "jumping out of the screen!" LOL! You must feel a little better after your "rant". Nevertheless I can understand your frustration as I've had similar problems at times with other things - you just can't seem to find the right piece of "data" you are looking for!

11 Apr, 2013


lol GM, I copied and pasted the extracts, but I stil had to format font face, size, colour and background. I've got Paulsgarden on my faves list, I'll have to catch up on his blogs

Glad it's not just me, Balcony! sigh, if they're going to rhaposide about some plant or other, they could at least give some very basic info - one site said that Plant A (that i was looking for) was even smaller than Plant X - without giving the sizes of each. sigh

11 Apr, 2013


I bought low growing conifers on the advice of a garden centre helper along the Southend road. 25 years later they are knee high still. The junipers get trimmed like a hedge from the path and skimmed to keep them knee high. The other one is still small but has spread a little. I agree a lot of plants of all types get too big to control and well outgrow what it says on the label.

12 Apr, 2013


I've got almost the complete range of "Expert" books by Dr D. G. Hessayon - prob now is reading them! I'm sure all the information that I could ever need is in there - somewhere!

12 Apr, 2013


They are good books! I used to have the "Rose Expert" years ago but lost it somewhere along life's trail!

14 Apr, 2013


Got most of my mini-rose ideas list from his "rose expert"

The only one I don't have is "lawn expert" as I never plan to have a lawn even if I have room for one (much too labour-intensive, I'll lay down a bit of astroturf!!). I've even got the "veg expert" but only because of the section on herbs - and even got the Flower Arranging expert, though at the beginning I swore I wouldn't.

15 Apr, 2013


I don't have much need for the 'Lawn Expert' either! Having gardened on balconies almost all my life I've never had much need of a lawn! LOL!

I can't operate a lawnmower either! In spite of gardening for the better part of 50 years I've not mown a lawn since I lived at home with my parents & we moved to here from London in the mid 60s. Even then it was push-pull mower & it wasn't used all that much either!

I've become responsible for the church grounds this year. There is a lot of grass surrounding the building which must be cut. I got the petrol mower out of the shed last Saturday but couldn't get it to start up! I checked the oil levels & the petrol levels & they were fine. But no matter how many times I pulled on the starter it wouldn't start up! I gave up after about 10/15mins! I need somebody to show me what to do!

17 Apr, 2013


I've read that lawns take extravagant amounts of time and care, and they don't go allthe way up to tree trunks, so you couldn't even sit on the grass while leaning against a tree.

I've never tried mowing, never needed to, but I don't think I'd be a success at it - i remember the old style moewrs, push-me-pull-you heavyweight monsters; they didn't so much cut the grass as iron it! Eddie Izzard does a bit on that - the grass just lies down then springs up again after.

I like the idea of scything grass, but someone else would have to do it! i'd end up with a limb deficiency if i tried it myself.

Is there no one in the chuch who has a mower, or at least knows someone who has? or has a couple of sheep that can be brought in to graze it down a couple of times a year? :-)

19 Apr, 2013


there is usually a switch to allow the petrol to flow through to the carburretor you may be need to find this Balcony and then it might start, otherwise the plug needs a good cleaning. Hope you get it started.

19 Apr, 2013


Thanks, OliveOil, I was shown how to start it up but at that time there was no petrol in the mower. The Minister happened to come along at that moment to take it to the Manse to cut the grass one last time before he left for other "pastures new"!

I arranged with one of the men from the church to show me how to do it but something cropped up, I don't remember now what it was, & I called him to say I wouldn't be able to meet him after all.

I spoke to him this Sunday before the start of the service & he told me he'd had problems getting it to run the week we were going to do it together as well!

22 Apr, 2013

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