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Cool Conifers

The backbone of the four-season garden, conifers bring texture, form and color

Conifers are not just for parking-lot medians and screening plantings anymore. From adorable miniature pines to feathery false cypresses and stately spruces, conifers come in all shapes, sizes, textures and colors.They are as at home in the mixed border as they are as specimen trees or indestructible ground covers.Whether you garden in Maine or the Mediterranean, there are dozens of tough and colorful conifers to choose from.To see more than 250 of the best for gardens, including the beautiful plants pictured here, visit the new Benenson Ornamental Conifers collection at The NewYork Botanical Garden. Planted across a landscape of exposed rock, shady nooks and open vistas, this collection showcases the diversity of ornamental conifers and will inspire more of us to use these tough and elegant plants in our own gardens. —todd forrest

Appeal: Conifers are the ultimate four-season plants. Most are evergreen, and many have blue, golden or variegated needles.They range from tiny buns that take 20 years to become softball size to massive trees with a dignified grace that rival the most venerable oak. Zones: Most commonly available conifers will thrive in Zones 3 to 7. While the Deep South can be too humid for some, many conifers do well in California's dry Zones 8 and 9. Most firs, spruces and hemlocks resent heat and humidity and are better in cooler climates.True cedars are best in warmer zones. Exposure: Most conifers prefer full sun, but some, like hemlocks, plum-yews (Cephalotaxus harringtonii) and Russian arborvitae, can take shade.

Soil: Conifers grow best in moist, well-drained, slightly acid soil. Junipers and yews can withstand neutral soils; firs prefer more acid soils. Care: Conifers are easy to grow if you choose the right plant for the right spot and plant it properly. Give sun-loving conifers

Plants Images Cussata

november / december 200 5

The planting of trees is the least self-centered of all that we do — thornton wilder

Potting Sheds

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Conifers That Take Shade Pruning Yew Junipers Potting Shed Lights

such as pines, cypresses and junipers ample light.Amend heavy soils with compost. Plant so that the root flare (where the roots and the trunk meet) is at the finished grade. Top-dress with 2 to 3 inches of mulch but do not allow the mulch to touch the trunk. Soak completely after planting, and thereafter water so your conifer receives 1 inch of water per week from Mother Nature or a hose. Fertilize only if a soil test indicates a need. Conifers can be shaped through regular pruning; new pine shoots can be snapped off in spring after they have extended but before the needles expand in a process known as "candling." Firs and spruces can be gently snipped back. Hemlocks and yews can be sheared, but be careful shearing junipers and arborvitae: These conifers do not produce new growth from old wood, and aggressive pruning can be disastrous.

  • Todd Forrest is Associate Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections at The New York Botanical Garden (www.nybg.org).
  • 1] JUNIPERUS HORIZONTALS 'Lime Glow' (Zones 4-9) This compact juniper is an orderly mound of brilliant green and gold in summer that takes on autumnal tones in winter. Junipers are extremely tough, useful plants.
  • 2] SCIADOPITYS VER-TICILLATA 'Wintergreen' (Zones 5-7) Introduced by the legendary Sidney Waxman,this selection of Japanese umbrella pine becomes a perfect pyramid of thick, leathery needles that remain dark green throughout the year.
  • 3] ABIES ALBA 'Green Spiral' (Zones 4-7) Pendent branches grow from a trunk that corkscrews its way upward to become a uniquely beautiful specimen plant. Firs perform best in cool climates and tend to struggle in the warm Southeast.
  • 4] MICROBIOTA DE-CUSSATA (Zones 3-7) Russian arborvitae is a low, spreading conifer with feathery sprays of light green foliage in summer that take on burgundy tones in winter. Deer resistant and shade tolerant, it is an indispensable plant.
  • 5] CEDRUS ATLANTICA 'Glauca Pendula' (Zones 6-8) Weeping blue Atlas cedar is stunning as a ground cover scrambling over dark rocks. It can also be trained as an espalier or staked to become an upright weeper.

november / december 200 5

The pine tree seems to listen, the fir tree to wait, and both without impatience — friedrich Nietzsche

Vf k m fyi Most gardeners are also ardent bibliophiles and will not be able to do without a few indispensable references. Gardening with Conifers by Adrian Bloom (Firefly Books Ltd., 2005, $24.95, paperback) is beautifully illustrated and includes detailed descriptions of great conifers and tips on planting, pruning and care. If there is even a single tree or shrub in your garden, you should own a copy of Michael Dirr's encyclopedic and entertaining Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (Stipes Publishing L.L.C., 1998, $52.80, paperback) which covers the gamut from hardiness zones to propagation methods.

Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters — saint bernard

GARDEN design

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Design Conifer Bed

designing with conife rs ■ Pick an appropriate conifer for the scale of your garden. A large conifer will quickly overwhelm a small garden; a dwarf conifer will seem forlorn in a wide-open space. ■ Plan for year-round appeal.A specimen conifer will anchor a bed in winter and serve as the perfect backdrop for herbaceous perennials during the growing season. ■ Use boldly textured or colored conifers as focal points in a mixed border. Use narrow, upright conifers as vertical accents. ■ Do not crowd shade-intolerant conifers such as pines or junipers or they will lose their lower foliage and become unsightly.

  • 6] TSUGA CANADENSIS 'Pendula' (Zones 3-7) Mature Sargent's weeping hemlocks like this specimen create living caves with walls of delicate green needles hanging from sinuous trunks.
  • 7] CHAMAECYPARIS NOOTKATENSIS 'Pendula' (Zones 4-8) One of the most elegant large conifers. Used singly, it makes a wonderful specimen tree. In a cluster, it becomes one of the most poetic screening plantings imaginable.
  • 8] PINUS WALLICHI-ANA 'Zebrina' (Zones 6-8) Striking variegation of green and gold on extremely long needles grouped in clusters of five make this fast-growing pine one of my favorites. To create a fuller plant, pinch the new shoots after they extend.
  • 9] PICEA ABIES 'Virga-ta' (Zones 3-7) Awkward when young, snakebranch spruce grows into an unusual specimen tree that reminds me of a skeleton in loose-fitting robes. Give it plenty of space to mature.

november / december 200 5

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world — john m u i r

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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