Winter color is essential if we want our gardens to look attractive in that dreariest of seasons. Colorful twigs are one way, and foliage is another. Many plants have gold or silver leaves, especially evergreens, and these add color all year round. A few special evergreens color-up just for winter, and are green during the growing season. Among these unique plants is Carstens’ Wintergold Mugo Pine, which turns from its rich summer greens to glowing gold as the colder weather arrives. In its green color phase this is an attractive dwarf pine, but adding that extra color just as other plants are losing their leaves is a great feature, making this plant a ‘must have’ in any garden. It ‘s easy to grow too, which is another reason why this rarely-available plant deserves a place in your garden.
Carstens’ Wintergold Mugo Pine is a special form of the mugo pine. It is a dwarf, slower-growing form, that will form a low, spreading plant of a rounded shape. After about 10 years it will be 24 inches across, and 12 inches tall. It grows at about 2 inches a year, and it will continue to grow its whole life, becoming larger, and a more significant specimen in your garden. It forms a dense bush of many branches, each topped with a whorl of short needles, carried on pairs all around the stem. The common mugo pine produces one set of new shoots each year, but Carstens’ Wintergold Mugo Pine produces two new shoots a year. The first, in spring, is normal, but the second, in summer, produces a cluster of small shoots around the top of the spring growth, giving the plant a denser look, and producing a very compact form. The needles are a rich, deep green, until fall, when the colder weather causes all the needles to turn golden yellow. They remain this vibrant color all winter, until next spring new, deep green shoots appear, while the older needles return to their normal green tones.
This extraordinary transformation turns this plant into a vibrant winter feature, so plant it where it can be seen and appreciated at that season. Planted with other dwarf evergreens it brings a dramatic change with the seasons and adds variety just as the rest of your plants are going to sleep for the winter. This plant looks terrific growing among boulders and gravel, or artistically placed in an Asian-themed garden. Incorporate it into the foundation planting around your home, for variety and interest. It can also be grown as an unusual container plant or bonsai tree.
Plant Carstens’ Wintergold Mugo Pine in a sunny spot, which will give the best coloring. It is very hardy, thriving even in zone 2, with temperatures falling to minus 50 degrees. It will also grow all the way into zone 7. This easily-grown pine can be planted in almost any kind of soil, just as long as it is well-drained. If you garden is heavy clay, plant it on the upper part of a slope, or in a raised bed, where water will not stay around the roots for long. It is only rarely bothered by pests or diseases, and it needs no trimming to keep its compact shape. Some evergreen fertilizer in early spring will give you the most vigorous and strongest growth, and this is a very low-maintenance plant that anyone can grow.
The mugo pine, Pinus mugo, grows wild in mountainous regions of Europe, especially in Switzerland and Austria. It is always found high up, near the alpine areas, which is why it is so cold-hardy. The natural species is very variable, sometimes growing into a tree up to 18 feet tall, but more often growing as a small or large shrub. Sometimes very small forms occur, and these have been collected and grown in gardens for many years. In the 1980s, in the town of Varel, in northern Germany, Erwin Carstens spotted a single seedling mugo pine in a group of his seedlings, that had turned yellow in winter. He selected this plant, and it was first made available in 1988 to gardeners by Hachmann Nursery, from the nearby town of Barmstedt. This plant is sometimes confused with a different variety of mugo pine, called ‘Winter Gold’, which also has some gold in the needles in winter, but not in any way as noticeable as it is in ‘Carstens’, which is the correct name for the very-much-superior Carstens’ Wintergold Mugo Pine. The quality of this variety was confirmed in 2013 when it was named ‘Collector’s Plant of the Year’ by the American Conifer Society.
Our trees are grown by attaching stem pieces taken from correctly named plants, onto the roots of seedling mugo pines. These vigorous roots keep the plant growing well and create a superior plant. You can be sure this tree is something very special, and only very rarely available to gardeners, so order now, as our supplies will not remain with us for long.