In September of 1996, I visited the Yulong Shan in NE Yunnan Province in China. It was my debut in botanizing within that remarkable country, accompanied by a talented contingent of like-minded plantspeople, and there is hardly a better place to sample its fantastic flora than in the dramatic mountains northwest of Lichiang. It was there that I collected the seed of Picea likiangensis var purpurea, the Lichiang Spruce, after having previously read titillating tributes to its ornamental appeal.
For the past decade plus, before its inaugural fruiting, I have held this Picea in high esteem. Spruces are, as a whole, a hard sell in the Pacific Northwest. Prone to mites and assorted foliar diseases, the truly blue spruces (Picea pungens) are a miserable landscape choice for our cool, maritime climate.
Yet the steely blue, medium textured foliage of this conifer has seemingly not resented our climate in the least. Last week, I happened upon its first ‘flowers,’ nearly 13 years after sowing its seed. To say I was startled by, and enamored with, the intensity of the its jewel-red cones is an understatement.
With the winter of our nightmares behind us, a full season of gardening ahead and the weather of the Pacific Northwest behaving in a most aberrently friendly manner, it has been difficult to spend a minute indoors. In every nook and bend in our garden, I am finding undiluted and unexpected pleasure. If I have learned anything from the winter storms of 08-09, it is to more fully appreciate the garden moment as the garden grows.