American Conifer Society Fall Conifer Rendezvous is Oct. 18-19 and features exceptional gardens

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Have you ever visited a nursery or toured a botanical garden with a collection of unusual conifers and thought to yourself, “I’d love that shrub or tree, but I have no idea how to use it in my landscape”? Or maybe you’ve lost a shade tree in one of the horrific storms that ravaged Michigan this year and your yard, suddenly bathed in sun, is in need of interesting replacements. Arbs or yews just won’t do.

You have the rare opportunity to go on an American Conifer Society garden tour of six exceptional private gardens located in Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties, owned by passionate collectors who created fabulous gardens and vistas using a grand array of ornamental plants, trees and conifers in their designs.

One garden, located in the common area between a golf green and a condo, features a creative collection of specimen conifers, Japanese maples, trough plantings and other specimen trees designed to provide winter interest when the colorful flower gardens disappear and the greens turn drab and gray.

The combined gardens of my next-door neighbors make up 2 acres of diverse plant material with distinctly different personalities. One, featuring island plantings overflowing with ornamental trees and shrubs, sun and shade perennials, ground covers and bulbs, was featured in Adrian Bloom’s 2002 book, “Gardening With Conifers.” His neighbor caught the “conifer collecting bug” and amassed so large a collection that he donates extras to a golf course where he plays and works part time.

Also on the tour is a “standard city-sized” garden featuring more than a hundred conifers and specialty ornamentals, such as Japanese maples and beeches.

Not to be missed is a spectacular world-class garden filled with an incredible collection of conifers, hostas, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns, flowers and grasses woven into a tapestry of Mother Nature’s marvels. Tucked into the greenery is a treasure trove of art collected from the art fairs of Ann Arbor, Franklin and Birmingham, and antique and collectable markets across the United States and Europe.

The American Conifer Society Fall Conifer Rendezvous of private gardens is open only to ACS members who have preregistered by Oct. 10 and one guest. The gardens are open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Oct. 18-19. The good news is that for $38 you can easily become an ACS member and preregister for the garden tour, which is free to all members, using the ACS website (conifersociety.org) or by calling the National Headquarters (763-657-7251). Membership in the ACS also includes other benefits, including four issues of the Conifer Quarterly magazine.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. Email her at Szerlag @earthlink.net. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.

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