Try Tiny Conifers
The landscape is never dull, especially in the fall, at Rich's Foxwillow Pines in Woodstock, Illinois (50 miles northwest of Chicago). Owners Rich and Susie Eyre's collection of dwarf spruces, pines and other conifers include a peacock's range of colors from yellow and orange to green, blue, lavender and purple.
Besides adding color, the shapes of these small-scale trees-weeping, column, pyramid, mounding and vase forms-lend a sculptured look to yards. The dwarf trees are easy to maintain, Rich and Susie say, because they require little pruning, yet seldom outgrow their spaces. They do best in well-drained soil and full sun.
Some dwarf trees grow so slowly, they won't get big in your lifetime. Other varieties simply stay small. The American Conifer Society considers trees 10-15 years old miniatures if they're 2 to 3 feet tall, dwarfs 3 to 6 feet, intermediates 6 to 15 feet and larges 15 feet or taller. The 6-acre nursery sells all four sizes in hundreds of varieties, displayed along curving paths and water gardens.
Rich's super performers for Midwest gardens (heights are for 10-year-old trees):
Elegans, a 3-foot-tall, globe-shaped dwarf Norway spruce
Acrocona, 6 foot Norway spruce, with a compact, irregular shape and purple-red cones on the branch tips in spring
Montgomery, a 6-foot Colorado spruce, with striking silver-blue needles and the shape of a bush
Beauvronensis, a 3-foot Scotch pine, with a dense globe shape and light-blue-green needles
Umbraculifera, a 5-foot Japanese red pine, with an umbrella shape and bark that develops a beautiful orange color with age
Degroot's Spire, a 4-foot arborvitae, with a narrow, columnar shape
Jervis, a compact, upright 2-foot Canadian hemlock that tolerates shade
Glauca Pendula, a 6- to 7-foot false cypress that's a weeper, with pendulous, dark-green branches
Prices at Rich's Foxwillow Pines range from $25 for a small tree in a 1-gallon container to more than $1,000 for an unusual 6-foot-tall variety. You also can buy young trees in 1- or 3-gallon pots by mail (add 25 percent for shipping and handling). Call ahead to see if your selection is available.
The nursery is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays April 1-November 15. To order a catalog ($2), contact: Rich's Foxwillow Pines, 11618 McConnell Rd., Woodstock, IL 60098 (815/338-7442).