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27 November 2014
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Bronze Medal

White spruce
Picea glauca var. albertiana 'Conica'
White spruce

A charming dwarf conifer with heaps of character, this forms a dense, upright cone of close-packed stiff, short, deep green needles. In late spring, the new growth at the tips of the shoots is bright, almost lime green. Although this is not a suitable plant for dry soil, as the needles turn brown and drop off in this situation, it is often grown on a rock garden because of its size and shape. However, to be successful it is essential to make a pocket of moist but well-drained, acid to neutral soil for it.

Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata

Yew is a native British evergreen, whose wood was once used for making longbows. Young plants are bushy and, if left unclipped, they eventually grow into large trees almost as wide as they are tall. However they are rarely allowed to grow naturally, being a firm favourite for classic style hedges and topiary. The plants withstand quite hard clipping and, if overgrown, can be rejuvenated by cutting them back to the stumps. The are also quite amenable to growing conditions and will grow in any well-drained soil. To propagate, take cuttings in late summer and early autumn. The Royal Horticultural Society have given it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Platycladus orientalis 'Franky Boy'
Platycladus orientalis 'Franky Boy'

A showy, upright conifer with drooping, dangling yellow foliage which really stands out in winter. It's slow growing, taking 10 years to reach 90cm high. Grow it amongst other conifers for a variety of shapes, like the tall green Juniperus communis 'Sentinel', the shaggy Larix kaempferi 'Pendula', and small oval mounds of Thuja occidentalis 'Danica' which won't exceed 120cm high and 300cm wide. Make sure it has full sun to bring out the best of the leaf colour.

Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold'
Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold'
White cedar

A neat small conifer, this makes a compact, squat-conical shape with rather stringy textured foliage which, in summer, is brassy-gold. In late spring, the new growth adds pinkish-bronze highlights, especially towards the top of the plant and, in winter, the foliage becomes strongly orange-toned. Its good colour, shape and size make it useful in smaller gardens as a feature plant. It combines well with shrubs that are at their most colourful from autumn to early spring, including witch hazel and winter-flowering heathers. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Juniper x pfitzeriana 'Carbery Gold'
Juniperus x pfizeriana 'Carbery Gold'

A low-spreading, creamy yellow conifer, it creates a flash of evergreen making excellent groundcover in a wild garden. It also makes a big impact in a large rock garden. Highlight the bright colour (best on the new spring growth) by using a dark green yew in the background. 'Golden Saucer' is a good alternative, and both can be pruned for shape and to make sure they don't spread too far. Specialist conifer nurseries should carry a wide range of cultivars.

Take a look at the winner of the BBC RHS People's Award 2007.

Design inspiration

Roger Griffin"With having a great love and passion for conifers with all the different colours and textures, being asked to design a contemporary garden around them was like Christmas and my birthday rolled into one. To fit in with a contemporary garden and to show what can be achieved by trimming conifers, I have used cloud trees, spirals, ball and cube shapes intermingled with untrimmed ones.

"The different levels constructed from sleepers show the conifers in their full glory and prove you don't have to keep that flat rear garden. Next to the patio and with environmental issues in mind, recycled rubber chippings were an alternative to hard aggregate and kinder to children's knees."

Designer, Roger Griffin

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