Creative, colourful and convenient – not necessarily the first three words that would spring to mind if asked to describe a conifer. Yet the modern day British conifer is all of those things as will be demonstrated during National Conifer Week 2010 which runs from 2 – 10 October. This is a campaign that originates from the Horticultural Trades Association which represents growers in the UK.
Evergreens and conifers are traditionally planted in spring and autumn, and conifers in particular are a wonderful way of adding colour and shape to your garden. There is a huge range of different shapes and sizes of conifer to make traditional and contemporary displays, conifers that will suit containers as well as borders, and varieties which will make good ground cover, low and medium tall shrubberies as well as stately trees. Conifers represent a fantastic group of plants that can fit into most gardens often as stand-alone features to give height to borders, or create a formal look for a path or around a doorway. They are really striking when covered with snow or frost in winter. In truth their popularity was at its peak in the 70’s but they have achieved something of a well earned revival in recent years. The fact that they do work well with so many other plants is a real advantage especially where space is limited and the choice of plants is critical. Not all conifers are huge, fast-growing types; there are some excellent dwarf growing varieties as well as some that make neat upright or bushy shapes.
And conifers don’t stay the same colour all year round – many of them change colour with the seasons, so you can achieve fabulous splashes of orange, blue or purple in autumn and winter when other plants are dormant, as well as fresh vibrant greens and yellows in spring.
A final positive in their favour; they are mostly easy to care for and as long as they’re planted in the right spot will only need a little pruning and watering, Conifers tolerate a wide range of soil types and conditions, putting up with much that other evergreens would not.
Try to match conifers to your garden situation; for smaller gardens avoid varieties which grow very quickly or get very big. As a rule it is best to buy good sized specimens of slow-growing cultivars for smaller gardens. It gives a mature look straightaway and there is virtually no pruning required.
Feeding is very straight forward – a root feed when planting such as bonemeal, rose fertiliser or Vitax Q4, and then again in spring to support the new seasons growth. Conifers in pots benefit from liquid feeding but only when the plants are actually making growth and not in the dormant season.