The Arboretum at Penn State

Garden Spotlight

Picea orientalis - winter form (young specimen)

Picea orientalis, – winter form (young specimen)

Conifers in the Winter Landscape

The H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens feature a number of evergreen conifers that lend beauty to the winter landscape. Most of these are members of the pine and cypress families (Pinaceae and Cupressaceae, respectively) which retain their needle- or scale-like leaves throughout the cold winter months.

One of the most striking evergreens in the Smith Botanic Gardens is the ‘Skylands’ oriental spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’). Its bright yellow needles draw the eye, and its dense branches are particularly attractive under a blanket of snow. Alaska cedar (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’), though native to the Pacific coast from Alaska to northern California, is well-adapted to life in central Pennsylvania and makes a spectacular specimen evergreen. Our three specimens are recognizable by their elegantly drooping branches and artistic, informal structure. A narrow, upright-growing variety of our native white pine, Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata,’ provides its own winter interest in our gardens, with dense whorls of silvery needles held on upward-facing branches. So bundle up and take a winter walk at the Arboretum – our conifers are waiting for you!

See upcoming events