|Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’|
When many people think of conifers they think of the massive leylandii, yet there is a wide range of much more interesting conifers that are not going to become unmanageable. There are varieties that only grow 45cm (18”) in ten years such as Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ with its strong blue needles or the golden ball shaped Thuja aurea ‘Nana’ at 60cm (24”). Other varieties are available to provide ground cover only growing a couple of centimetres tall yet spreading several metres, to the taller varieties suitable for specimens or hedging.
One of my favourites is Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’, a slim slow growing golden variety. This variety is female so as it matures it produces red berries if a male taxus is nearby, unfortunately the berries are toxic but do remain on the plant for a long time over the winter. It is very hardy and will grow in conditions from full sun to shade and almost any soil except very wet. This variety will even tolerate dry or cold exposed positions that other conifers would struggle with. It can easily be pruned with no ill effects although this is seldom required.
Conifers suffer from very few pests and are easy to care for, the main problem is allowing them to dry out which causes the plant to turn brown on the side facing the wind or the sun where the most water is being stripped from the leaves. Most varities shouldn't be planted very windy locations especially if the soil is well drained.
Conifers may not have the fantastic flowers of a hydrangea but they can look good the entire year and contrasting the foliage from one variety with another or adding slate chippings and rockery stones can make a great display 12 months of the year. Use contrasting colours and textures; mix with a few heathers to add some flowers to the bed and you can produce a maintenance-free bed that looks excellent.
lawsoniana ‘Little Spire’
|Abies procera ‘Glauca’||Chamaecyparis