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16 October 2014
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Autumn 2001

A Conifer is not just for Christmas
by Brendan Little

Brendan LittleI once asked a group of four year olds to give me the name of one tree, expecting to hear shouts of oak and ash I smiled when one girl raised her hand and shouted out ‘Christmas tree’!

Unfortunatly Christmas is only time when many gardeners consider using conifers, and if this includes you, then read on.
We all know that the most successful gardens are those that provide interest throughout the year. Since no individual flowering plant is at its peak for all twelve months it is important that there are a sufficient number of plants for winter interest in the garden. It is during these winter months that the bold shapes and colour provided by evergreens, such as conifers, come into their own. Within the group of plants we know as conifers there are varieties that provide texture, colour, fragrance, shape and form.

If you like plants with a weeping growth habit, and I do, there are some conifers, which fit this bill admirably. For the larger garden look no further than the old favourite Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Intertexta’, this elegant conifer has aromatic, grey-green foliage which is carried in lax pendulus sprays. My personal favorite of the weepers is Picea breweriana, the ‘Brewers Spruce’, this upright plant reaches 15m, carries level branches with completely pendulous branchlets and oblong purplish cones. Another fine specimen conifer, with a weeping habit, to grace any garden is Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Pendula’.

Some cultivars of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana valued for their upright form include, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Columnaris’ and Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Lutea’ which has leaves of golden yellow. On a smaller scale the Irish Juniper, Juniperus communis ‘Hibernica’ can be used to provide a vertical element to a container or the rock garden. For that classical Italian feel the Italian cypress, Cupressus sempervirens ‘Stricta’, may be for you.

For sheer leaf colour the firs win branches down. Abies koreana, the Korean Fir, has leaves of glossy green with a purplish bloom and winter buds of chestnut-red. This plant is a real show stopper especially in winter when the cones stand proud of the foliage. From a distance the tree seems to be festooned with glowing candles, an ideal Christmas tree indeed.


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