|Conifers provide a
wide range of colours, shapes, sizes and textures and can make
your garden visually attractive all year round.
With such a wide selection to choose from you are sure to find
the perfect type for your garden.
The word 'conifer' is Latin for
'cone bearing'. Conifers are woody plants and many are trees.
They can be used in flower arrangements, in borders, rock
gardens and on slopes. Use them as ground cover or hedges, or
simply on their own for a wonderful display.
In our eco system conifers are of
extreme importance as they are a good source of timber. A lot of
timber that we use will have come from conifers. The wood from
conifers is also used for paper and fibres. There are ongoing
invasions of conifer sites and this is causing us to look at
more sustainable and viable options for our everyday uses of the
wood. Our beloved Christmas tree is a conifer and there are many
other species being used for food and medication.
| The size
of a conifer can be between 1 metre to over 100 metres. The
tallest is a Coast Redwood, and the largest is the Giant
Sequoia. The oldest conifer recorded is a Great Basin
Bristlecone Pine at 4,7000 years old.
The leaves of conifers differs
between species with some being thin and long while others are
flat and of different shapes. The seeds of conifers develop in a
protective outer shell. This protective cone varies in size and
the time it takes to reach maturity. In some conifers the seeds
are released when the cone opens, in other species the cone
disintegrates. Birds help out seeds from some conifers and
others need fire to be released.
Dwarf conifers are widely used in small gardens grown in pots,
containers and small beds and they are extremely easy to care
for. Dwarf conifers may be mound forming or erect, they may have
spikes, be pyramid like or look feathery. When buying dwarf
conifers it is absolutely paramount that you pick up the correct
species. They should be clearly labelled dwarf, if you do not
see a label or it does not say dwarf on it it may be a slow
growing variety. If you attempt to plant this in a small space
it will one day get very big and will swamp the area it is in,
so it is always best to ask for advice. Use dwarf conifers in
your garden around existing plants, or as ground cover. They can
be planted in groups or singly. Use in containers or in your
rock gardens for a truly magnificent display. Plant them
appropriately so that their colours reflect the seasons, choose
silvery-blues for winter and red-oranges for summer.
are planted for their great stature and longevity. When planting
a tree bear in mind it will probably be there for decades and
therefore deserves the very best conditions in which to grow.
When planting take into account the type of soil, climate and
how much light and shelter is available. Select a tree suitable
for the rainfall level, average temperature and humidity in
which it will be surrounded. Protect infant trees that are not
hardy from frost until they are established. Ensure levels of
both shade and sunlight so try not to plant next to a wall or
building as this will give permanent shade on one side. Conifer
trees can be bought root-balled or container grown in all
degrees of maturity. Ensure whatever you but has strong top
growth and roots and is healthy with no sign of disease and
pests. Container grown trees should have an established root
ball in order to have better chances of transplanting into your
garden. Do not buy if the roots are protruding from the bottom
of the pot or if the compost does not cling to the root ball as
this means that the roots have not established properly.
Root-balled plants are taken from the ground in which they
started and have their roots wrapped in netting. Buy and plant
in autumn as they will be dormant, following the same buying
tips as when purchasing conifers for containers
are generally used to set boundaries whether its between two
gardens or simply to section of areas in your own garden. Using
plants instead of wooden fencing is ideal for framing planting
that you wish to have sectioned off. There are all manner of
styles of hedging from formal to informal, from solid to clipped
and to provide shade but there is no reason why these practical
uses can not be done with style and elegance. Maintained
correctly, once established, these hedges will give long lasting
colour and texture. Choose which sort of hedge you are
hoping to achieve and choose plants accordingly. Pay attention
to the height they will reach, the spread if any and how quickly
they will grow. Hedges may take a couple of years to grow to the
size that you would like. If you are aiming for a uniformed
height you must choose plants that have dense growth and you
must prune regularly to promote even growth. For informal hedges
choose plants that only need pruning annually. Plant accordingly
too, for informal hedges plant in single rows with spaces of
1-2ft apart. For formal hedges plant 3ft apart in double
winter infant conifers need protection from the elements.
Evergreen plants, trees and shrubs lose their water continuously
which they replenish through their roots. Water throughout any
dry spells and protect them from the wind using a windbreak.
Conifers are prone to wind scorch which is damaging to
them. An open sunny position is usually suitable for most
conifers, however do check when you buy in case they require
certain positioning. Fungal diseases should be kept at bay by
having good ventilation. When growing in pots ensure good
drainage and frequent watering to avoid them from dying back.
Soil depends on the species but generally they prefer slightly
acid soils. Fertiliser is usually not needed, simply use a
controlled release one. Pruning relies entirely on the species
and the purpose you are growing them for.
annuals next to or in between conifers is extremely effective.
The annuals can be changed as the seasons pass and colours can
be chosen to complement the existing conifers. Match up the
heights you would like a try to create a sweeping effect with
the plants. Any gaps that appear because of plant failure can be
easily filled. Use climbing annuals as a backdrop to show off
your conifers, ensure to use colours that will not draw
attention away from them but rather accentuate them. Plant
conifers in containers to create centrepieces that can be
surrounded by annuals for added splashes of colour. Use tall
conifers in pots as replacements for statues in gardens. Choose
attractive varieties that still have an effect when their
flowers have gone. Many varieties have lovely foliage with
degrees of colourings and shapes. Planting certain conifers in
pots may be beneficial to those that may not thrive in the soil
in your garden.
can be effective when planted with alpines in rock gardens,
troughs and containers. Use small conifers and dwarf trees to
frame existing plants. Add miniature shrubs to display altering
heights and colours that last all year. Plant striking conifers
in the centre of pots and containers and surround with alpines
to brighten up any patio or paved area.