Conifers and Hedging

Conifers provide a fast and easy answer to many of the problems of cutting down on maintenance work. Their great variety of form, size and habit makes them suitable for gardens of any size, from the pocket-handkerchief plot upwards.

The best choices for the smaller garden are found among the cypresses, junipers, pines and thuyas. If you have a good deal of space, however, you may well be able to find room for larch, cedar, fir or spruce, which will grow into tall, stately trees. Choose your planting site carefully: when they are mature, these trees will cast a lot of shade.

In addition to serving as valuable specimen plants in lawns or borders, where they will give trouble-free ser-vice for a lifetime, numerous species and varieties of conifer make ideal hedging material.

Most conifers are tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and many will thrive in partial shade. Few of them, however, will tolerate drastic cutting back, so it pays to choose carefully, particularly if they are to be used in important focal positions when it is better to let them develop their own typical shapes and outlines.

Once planted, specimen conifers need only minimal attention which consists mainly of keeping the soil at their base free from weeds for the first few seasons. After this, the dense carpet of needles and the shade which they cast will suppress all weed growth.

One of the best garden conifers is the popular Lawson’s Cypress, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana. As well as making a handsome specimen tree, it is also useful for hedging, as it can be clipped neatly up to a height of 3 m (10 ft) or more. Of the many fine cultivars, ‘Allumii’ makes a sturdy blue-green column; ‘Columnaris’ is slimmer in outline, with closely packed, bright green foliage. There are several attractive forms with golden foliage, including ‘Golden King’, with drooping branches, ‘Golden Wonder’, of more upright habit, and ‘Lanei’ which makes a neat golden-yellow pyramid.

The junipers, with their many and varied shapes and habits, are almost as popular as the cypresses. They are the best choice of conifer if you garden on chalk, although they do just as well on most other types of soil. The Irish Juniper, Juniperus communis ‘Hibernica’, is the kind most widely planted. Its pencil-slim column makes it an ideal choice to use as a specimen tree for a formal garden or patio. The Irish Juniper is particularly useful in the smaller garden since it will seldom grow more than 3 m (10 ft) tall.

J. pfitzeriana, the ‘Pfitzer Juniper’, is also noteworthy for its moderate size and slow rate of growth. Its habit is wide and spreading and it is adaptable to most soils and situations, thriving even under the shade of deciduous trees. There are several interesting forms, including ‘Aurea’, whose foliage is tipped with gold when the new growth appears in summer, ‘Plumosa’ with green feathery foliage, and ‘Plumosa Aurea’ 38 with striking golden leaves.

J. sabina is another good choice for gardens of small to medium size. There are various cultivars, including ‘Hicksii’, with grey-blue leaves, tamariscifolia, which makes a flat-topped bush of feathery foliage, and ‘Cupressifolia’, with long horizontal branches seldom more than 6 cm (2-½ in) above ground level. The low spreading branches make ‘Cupressi-folia’ ideal for a patio, because they relieve the monotony of stretches of paving without obscuring the view.

We do not normally think of yews as specimen conifers but usually as hedging plants. There are, however, several attractive forms that make good garden specimens. Taxus baccata fastigiata, the Irish Yew, is one of these. It makes a dense, dark green column, which may be rather sepulchral for some tastes. The golden form ‘Aureomarginata’ has a more cheerful appearance, similar in habit but with leaves that are tipped with gold. There are also dwarf and prostrate yews that are useful in the rock or heath garden or for clothing shady banks. ‘Nana’ and ‘Cavendishii’, both less than 1 m (3 ft) in height, are good examples of these.

27. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Gardening Ideas, Time Saving | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Conifers and Hedging

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