by High Country Gardens

Unusual species and forms of conifers have been long sought after by collectors and landscapers. These woody, evergreen beauties are indispensable in any well designed landscape or rock garden.  And as far as rock gardeners are concerned, the smaller their mature size the better.

My buddies Scott Skogerboe (head propagator of Ft. Collins Wholesale Nursery) and Kirk Fieseler (Co-owner of rock garden nursery Laporte Avenue Nursery, Ft. Collins) made a fantastic discovery as they were hiking in the foothills west of Ft. Collins, CO this winter. They found a “broom” growing on a Ponderosa Pine.

A broom is a piece of congested growth on a conifer caused by a virus or spontaneous mutation. Brooms are a very sought after source of miniature and dwarf conifers.* These brooms are brought into the garden by grafting a small branch from the broom onto a seedling plant of the same or similar species. These grafted plants retain the characteristics of the mother broom creating a slow, small growing conifer.

Kirk, who is a master grafter, harvested about 20 small branches (called “scion wood”) from this broom and grafted them to seedling Ponderosa pines.  He and Scott have decided to name their new discovery ‘Little Joe.’ Dwarf Ponderosa pines are very sought after as there are very few named selections in cultivation. Some of these plants will be ready for sale in spring of 2013.

*There are four categories of conifers based on their rate of growth and mature size.

Miniature conifers  -  a plant that has 1” or less of growth per year. These plants mature to a very small size, typically less than 2 to 3 feet tall.

Dwarf conifers  - a plant that grows 1 to 6 inches per year and usually reach a height of less than about 8 - 12 ft.

Intermediate conifers  -  grow 6  to 12 inches a year and can reach a height of 20 to 30 ft.

Large conifers  -  are full size trees that grow more than 12” per year and can reach great size at maturity

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