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Jacobson Conifer Garden

Conifers, botanically known as gymnosperms, belong to a taxonomic plant class which produces seeds without a protective ovule casing (pine cones), i.e: “naked seed”. Many of us relate the word conifer to the large softwoods with needles that stay green throughout the year, such as pines, cedars, spruces, and firs. Though these gymnosperms make up a large percentage of the taxonomic class, some gymnosperms behave like deciduous trees, dropping their needles in the fall, i.e. are deciduous conifers. Examples are bald cypress, ginkgo, larch, and dawn redwood. Conifers do not bear flowers. Instead, they have cones that are made up of a whorl of scales, displaying the bare seed and allowing for easy seed dispersal.

With its proximity to the Hughes Education Building and year round interest, this is one of the most visited areas at the Iowa Arboretum and Gardens. The collection was established in 1982 as the Dwarf Conifer Collection but many of the specimens fall instead into the intermediate or even large conifer category. Many cultivars were so new to commerce that their ultimate sizes were unknown when planted.  The collection became more prominent when the Jones Memorial Gazebo was added in 1991. In 2005, the collection was renamed for Craig Jacobson of Marshalltown, a Board Member with a specialty conifer nursery. Craig and his wife Deb donated many specimens over several years.

Dwarf, intermediate, and large conifers with cultivar designation are represented in this stunning collection. Particularly fine established specimens include weeping white pine (Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’), dwarf Norway spruce on a standard (Picea abies ‘Little Gem’) flanking the entrance to the Jones Memorial Gazebo, and weeping white spruce (Picea glauca ‘Pendula’). The path to the east of the dwarf conifer collection flows into the Alpine Garden.

In the photos of this collection it is instructive to note the sizes of the ‘Little Gem’ on a standard in 2002 and twenty years later in 2022.

Click here for additional photos.

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