Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2012, 11:10 am

Glow on: Naturally colorful evergreens keep the lawn festive

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Photo: Associated Press
This Nov. 24 photo shows a yellow-tipped arborvitae in Stone Ridge, N.Y. Some varieties of arborvitae, yew and juniper sport yellow foliage and have relatively dense, small needles, so the trees look full even when viewed up close, propped by the fireplace.
If plain old green evergreens are too ho-hum for you--or if you're sad at the thought of putting your holiday tree away--there's a world of "self-igniting" evergreens for the garden awaiting.

For example, consider growing a variety of yellow-leafed conifer, many of which make good cut trees. The Aurea, Lutea and Rheingold varieties of arborvitae; the Aurescens variety of Japanese yew; the Gold Cone variety of common juniper; and the Gold Coast or Old Gold varieties of Chinese juniper all sport yellow foliage.

Any of these conifers also have relatively dense, small needles, so the trees look full even when viewed up close, propped by the fireplace.

Some evergreens even provide their own version of tinsel: silvery leaves. Try something like the Glauca variety of Japanese white pine or the Argentea variety of Colorado blue spruce. The blue of evergreen needles results from a waxy coating, and that waxy blue is not far from silver, making the Angelica Blue, Blue Cloud and Blue Vase varieties of Chinese juniper also self-decorating, sort of.

There's also, Dragon's Eye pine, a variety of Japanese red pine, has two yellow bands decorating each of its otherwise green needles. And the green needles of the Aureovariegata variety of arborvitae are randomly splotched with yellow.

Another variety of Japanese red pine, Alboterminata, glows pale yellow only at the tips of the leaves. A couple of Hinoki falsecypress varieties ignite similarly. Mariesii glows white, and a tree of Crispii is a pyramid of green suffused with a glowing yellow surface.

One more conifer worth mentioning is the Aurea variety of Scotch pine. It actually fades in and out of color like those artificial trees — though not nearly as quickly. Young leaves emerge yellowish in spring, turn pure green in summer, then become yellowish again in cold weather.

For anyone who wants their living tree to actually glow with light from within, British genetic engineers have been working on techniques to use genes from luminescent jellyfish and fireflies to produce real holiday trees that glow without added lights.

All of these real trees — whether all yellow or silver, just so at their tips, or changing color — have a place in the garden and perhaps even cut as branches or whole trees indoors.