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I hate conifers

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Kevin Smith Kevin Smith | 09:15 UK time, Sunday, 28 November 2010

picture showing 'National Conifer Week' banner

How odd that my last blog was all about extreme November temperatures and here we are battling against severe snow, frost and ice. I must have known, and am certainly glad all my tender plants are safely in the greenhouse. Anyway, I digress before I’ve even started, onto the main topic of the day… 

I visited a small garden centre last weekend and spotted something that stopped me in my tracks and filled me with horror. Among all the lovely plants, sundries and other garden paraphernalia was a HUGE pink sign promoting National Conifer Week. Why did it stop me in my tracks? Well I had absolutely no idea such a ludicrous week occurred (after a bit of online searching I’ve found out that this year’s event was 2-10 October, so admittedly the sign is a little out of date). And why did the sign fill me with horror? Because I absolutely hate conifers with all my being. It’s a deep-rooted loathing that started 15 years ago when I worked at a plant nursery and was told to weed row after row of potted conifer. It took me three days to weed all of the pots, I developed a hugely irritating and painful rash up my arms and, unfortunately, conifers have never been in favour with me since. I’m sure there are plenty of gardeners who will defend them, and I reckon I’m likely to get a bit of grief from The HTA British Conifer Group, but is there any point in growing them? There are plenty of other evergreen trees and shrubs to provide structure and winter interest – why not plant a lovely viburnum that also has scented flowers?

Great dane statue

My reaction to the pink sign, and my general hatred for conifers, got me thinking and I realised there’s actually quite a lot of things I intensely dislike about some British plants and gardens. Take statues of animals for example, I don’t see how they enhance a garden one bit. I specifically mention these because I pass a huge stone Great Dane in a neighbour’s front garden every time I leave my house and, while it raises a smile and my young daughter loves it, it makes a complete joke of the garden and detracts away from the roses that are actually very pretty in the summer. Not to mention it comes up to my armpits and looks quite menacing after a night at the pub and a few shandies. Perhaps that’s the point.

It’s not just conifers and animal statues that get my back up and, to make myself a few enemies, here is my top-ten list of everything I loathe about British gardens.

  1. Conifers. They’re all hideous and bring nothing to a garden.
  2. Statues of animals. Your garden is doomed if you buy one of these. Anyway what’s with this recent obsession with meercats? They’re the worst of the lot.
  3. Peach. I’m not talking about the fruit but the colour. Any plant that produces a flower that is peach (or salmon, call it what you like) should be banned.
  4. Ceramic outdoor clocks. Haven’t you got a watch?
  5. Gas patio heaters. They look ugly and are doing the environment no good at all.
  6. Topiary animals. Why have a squirrel when a classic ball, pyramid, lollipop or column would look much better?
  7. Coloured glazed pots. Only plain terracotta will do for me.
  8. Multi-coloured paving. Why can’t some people stick to one colour of paving slab?
  9. Heather. Perhaps it's because you so often see it with conifers.
  10. Pink daffodils. They’re just wrong. Daffodils should be yellow and only yellow.

Of course, it’s all about personal taste and preference, and I’m entitled to my opinion just as you are yours (waiting for comments in fear).

Until next time…

Kevin Smith is a garden writer, blogger and former Commissioning Editor of BBC Gardeners' World Magazine.


  • Comment number 1.

    Conifers were superseded by flowering plants, so are survivors from an earlier stage of evolution. Your clearly a modern man too by the text, yet though, a grove of ancient yew trees playing host to tiny birds like goldcrests and wrens; looking up through scots pines into a clear blue sky? They are plants for the landscape rather than the suburban garden, but I am glad they did survive and anyway what is the essential ingredient to a good bottle of gin - juniper berries!

    There is a new reference book out dedicated to conifers,

  • Comment number 2.

    Hereisabee, I'm loving your point about juniper and gin. For that I am eternally grateful for conifers.

  • Comment number 3.

    I do get your hatred of conifers, I'm similar, I have four columns down my drive and clipping them brings me out in a rash - that said, once clipped, they do look good, so a squared up conifer is about my limit too.

    Was it not refreshing to see a a garden centre promoting something plant related though rather than filling the aisles with scented candles, over priced olive oil and 'country' clothing?!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Yep, I'm with you heppic - promoting plants (and not all the other things on my 'i hate' list) is definitely the way forward.

  • Comment number 5.

    It would be interesting to see if you could make a cool garden that included all theses things? 'Could be possible you know - although the ceramic clocks might be tricky. And the heathers... no I'm sure it could be done. But then, I have to admit that as a child, I did pester my parents for a pond with a 'false duck'...

  • Comment number 6.

    we have conifers to block nosey neighbours! Although I was told by the garden centre that I would have to trim it regularly because it will get 'massive'...I wanted's still as spindly as the day I bought it AND I have been cutting the top which is meant to make it bushier...hmmmmm!!

  • Comment number 7.

    I have been trimming conifers for a client today and oh yes big rash down both arms, the're lovely if the law says they could not grow more than six feet tall, then we'd all be happy, sorry that's the hippie in me, i wouldn't also have the shakes from my hedge trimmer.


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