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(Species: Various - Family: Taxaceae; cupressaceae; pinaceae)
Conifers and their origins
Conifers encompass a wide variety of mostly evergreens that grow wild throughout the world and are widely cultivated in gardens. They are trees or shrubs that bear their seed in cones, which are made from woody scales or fleshy fruits, and they usually have narrow leaves like scales or needles.
They are universally valued as low-maintenance shrubs, hedging and trees that provide screens, garden dividers and windbreaks as well as conical, columnar or pyramidal shrubs and trees and mat-forming groundcover.
Selected and grown creatively, conifers can add much structure and presence to a garden, but planted indiscriminately, they can equally make a garden appear lifeless, as there is little change throughout the seasons.
There are a huge amount of garden-worthy conifers available through garden centres and nurseries, and new varieties continue to appear. Take your pick from a colour range that varies from greens, golds and bronzes to green-greys and metallic blues as well as variegated, and shapes that vary from a miniature thuja mound to a parasol pine, from a weeping cedar to a soaring pencil cypress.
How to plant: Conifers
Conifers are a low-maintenance group of plants that are reliably hardy. Many types will thrive in poor soil and drought situations.
They live a long time and are important structural plants so benefit froma little care at planting time. Add organic matter to the planting hole, mixing in well with the soil, and irrigate well before mulching, which will help keep moisture in and weeds out.
Choose a conifer that suits the location and the job you want it to do. Some such as Leylandii cypress are notorious for outgrowing their spaces because they grow at least 100cm a year, and are often not trimmed frequently enough, while a dwarf conifer may only grow a centimetre or two.
Propagation of Conifers
All but the slowest-growing variety of conifers will grow readily from cuttings. Take semi-ripe cuttings with a heel attached. Conifers can take up to a year to root.
Did you know?
The gingko biloba or maidenhair tree is classed as a conifer, although exceptionally, it has fan-shaped leaves and no cones, but fruits that resemble small plums.