Conifers In The Garden

The first week in October was National conifer week and has just been celebrated in garden centres and nurseries across the country. Conifers had fallen out of fashion in the last few years and many people have come to dislike the ubiquitous ‘leylandii’ hedge, mostly because they have been neglected and become too large. But there are more to conifers than this.

Nicholas Warliker, the well-respected gardening columnist and show judge has been looking over the conifer range at Podington garden centre, near Wellingborough, and thinks we should look at conifers with fresh eyes.

“Conifers rightly have a place in a balanced garden,” says Nicholas,” offering many shapes and sizes combined with a wide range of leaf colours ranging from golden yellows, greys, deep and light green as well as the many shades of glaucous blues.  Frequently the leaf colours change with the seasons too, such as Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’, in spring new green shoots are followed into summer by old gold eventually being superseded by an autumnal coppery hue.”

Pointing out the wide variation in shape and size of leaf he also thinks we should engage our senses more from the difference of feel of a feathery Cryptomeria to the long needle-like leaves of the pines which can exude a familiar fresh scent. And there is a conifer for all sizes of garden as Nicholas explains. “Conifers make ideal specimen plants given the room.  A Cedar such as Cedrus Deodora is a majestic tree with its drooping branches.  By contrast, many of the Junipers such as Juniperus Squamata ‘Blue Carpet’, make fantastic ground cover plants. From large to little, lots of the small conifers make good container plants and are also useful grown in tubs and troughs, although it seems extreme, many even help to make up a good plant mix in a winter hanging basket and work well offering a slightly different dimension to the display.”

Many conifers require little maintenance especially in the early years, but when planting give a lot of thought to the position of that plant fresh from the garden centre, check the label for the growers’ information on its ultimate size. Or talk to a member of staff at the garden centre to give you some guidance as to the best place to plant.

And a couple of final thoughts from Nicholas…..”

Although not often known since most conifers are considered evergreen, there are four species which are deciduous. These are Larix, (the Larches), Taxodium, (swamp Cypress), Metasequoia, (the Dawn Redwood) and Ginkgo (the Maidenhair Tree).  All giving a wonderful autumn colour before their leaves eventually fall.

Finally, an extra plus with conifers, as their name implies, is that many bear regular crops of cones.  Try the Korean Fir, (Abies Koreana), whose cones are violet-purple in colour and appear from an early age.  It’s not a monster either, as its height is likely to be only 1.8m (6ft) in 10 years.

Good local Garden Centres such as Podington carry a wide range of Conifers, in fact there you are spoilt for choice.

Podington Garden Centre can be found in the village of Podington on the Northamptonshire/Bedfordshire border near Wellingborough. Call the information desk on 01933 353656.