Several conifers will turn a brilliant purple in winter after the temperatures drop. Purple foliage on conifers can appear as either a cool or warm color.
In the Garden
There are a number of conifers that turn a spectacular purple when temperatures drop in winter. Purple foliage has the unique characteristic of appearing as either a cool or warm color, depending on the colors of nearby plants. Surrounded by plants with blue foliage, purple appears as a cool color with a calming influence. On the other hand, paired with red, yellow or orange, purple appears as a lively warm color.
Many of the conifers that turn purple in winter are selected forms of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica). Plume cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans’) is an upright grower topping out at more than 30 feet. In summer it has feathery blue-green foliage, but it turns a gorgeous shade of deep purple in the cold of winter.
Very similar, but on a smaller scale, the dwarf form Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans compacta’ boasts equally attractive purple winter plumage, while maturing at only 10 feet tall.
Holiday in the Park, sponsored by Volunteer Park Trust:
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8. Hundreds of luminarias line the main concourse. Music, hot cocoa and cookies. The Conservatory will be open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Cost: Free. Address: 1400 E. Galer St., Seattle.
Green Lake Pathway of Lights:
4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. Rain or shine, join others in a “Walk of Lights” for 2.8 miles around the lake. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lights and candles. Local musicians will play at three sites along the route. Cost: Free, but walkers are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items for local food banks. Address: Green Lake, Seattle.
2016 Solstice Stroll at Dunn Gardens:
4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. Celebrate the season with hot chocolate, mulled wine, cookies and a walk around the Celtic Spiral. Cost: Free, donations accepted, register online. Address: 13533 Northshire Road N.W., Seattle. dunngardens.org/upcoming-events
Two real cuties are even lower-growing. Cryptomeria japonica ‘Mushroom’ forms a 3-foot lime-green mound that takes on shades of bronze-purple in winter. Pint-size Cryptomeria japonica ‘Pygmaea’ grows to only about 10 inches tall, but puts on a big show in winter when its foliage turns purple, tinged with glowing ember orange.
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As spectacular as the Japanese cedars are, the real champ when it comes to winter purple is Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Red Star’. The soft, starlike blue-green leaves turn enchanting shades of rich purple-red in winter.
Make sure you have room for this one before you plant it. Although ‘Red Star’ begins as a columnar tree growing only to about 5 feet in 10 years, it keeps right on growing and matures at around 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Don’t make the mistake I made by trying to prune it back to control for size. Heading it back only makes it grow wider, and mine ended up resembling an attractive, but very well-fed sumo wrestler. I had to remove it to keep it from taking over the entire front garden.
Keep an eye out for lawn rust
The warm, rainy fall weather we experienced has apparently caused an increase in lawn rust. This fungus disease usually occurs in fall, and most homeowners find out they have it when they notice dust-like spores on their shoes after walking on the grass. A closer look will reveal darkish spots on the leaves, along with a coating of yellowish-orange spores.
Lawn rust rarely does severe harm to a lawn, but heavy infestations can cause patches to thin out, leaving them unsightly and more susceptible to moss and weed problems.
Fortunately, fungicides are rarely needed to control this disease. Rust is associated with low fertility, so begin by feeding with a slow-release fall and winter lawn fertilizer. Mow the grass to 2 inches tall as soon as it reaches 3 inches in height, and leave the clippings on the lawn to break down naturally.
Remember that your shoes and the mower can spread the spores. When mowing, wear rubber shoes and wash them and the mower off before moving from a severely infected patch to mow other areas.
Top dressing the lawn with a half-inch thick layer of compost will bring in large populations of beneficial microorganisms that should help keep the rust in check.
Finally, next spring aerate and overseed your lawn. Choose a seed blend that offers a variety of chewing and fine fescue and perennial rye varieties in the mix. Some of the varieties in the blend should have increased resistance, making the lawn better able to withstand the disease.