Each year the Fulton and Mason County Master Gardeners hold a greenery workshop during their last meeting of the year. Attendees bring greenery and other decorations to use in their arrangements. I brought boughs of pine, cedar, and bayberry and pinecones, ribbon, and lights for decorations. This year I was fortunate to have my sister Lynn Miller and Mom Doris Simmons join me. They brought hemlock branches full of cones. It's fun to see all the different types of cones.
Cones are the seeds of conifer plants that keep their needles all year. All conifers have seed-bearing cones. Although many people call all cones "pinecones," pine cones are only on pine trees. Other types include hemlock cones, spruce cones, fir cones, and cypress cones.
The hemlock branches that my mom brought were full of cute little cones. These were a big hit at this year's workshop. The hemlock tree has some of the smallest cones of the evergreens. Hemlock cones are ½ inch around and come in chestnut brown to a dark brown/grayish color. Hemlock cones are beautiful, sturdy little cones that some people say look like a little rose.
The most commonly used cone is a pine cone. Mature cones on an eastern white pine are six to eight inches long by 2 inches wide. They are light brown with white tips on each cone scale. In the east, these cones sometimes grow much larger and are sold as giant eastern white pine cones.
The true giant cones typically come from Florida. Some of these mammoth beauties are up to 11 inches long and 16 inches around the base. They come in random colors of brown, gray or red and some have green tips.
For a small round pine cone, use those from the Scots pine (also called scotch pine). These are one to two inches tall by one inch in diameter. Pine cones' colors vary from blonde to brown with red or gray tints. Scots cones have a small pyramid prickle and a rounded bottom. Even smaller are the cones from a mugo pine that are only one inch by one inch when mature.
For a longer, cigar-shaped cone find a Spruce tree. The Norway spruce produces the largest spruce cone at three to six inches long. The Colorado blue spruce cone is two to four inches long and has a softer, lighter appearance.
If you prefer a fancy cone, try the Douglas fir cone. The Douglas fir is not a true fir but is a relative of the hemlock family. The Douglas fir cones are 2-4 inches long and are very lightweight, with delicate, papery scales that also have distinctive 3-pointed bracts resembling the tail and hind feet of a mouse. The color of Douglas fir cones ranges from a gray-brown to rust.