The un­spo­ken glory of the conifer

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - East Kent Property - - OUTDOORLIVING -

Gar­den­ers who love a riot of colour through­out the sea­sons may dis­miss conifers as dull, bor­ing spec­i­mens that add lit­tle to the glory of the gar­den.

In­deed, some of us will only re­ally come into con­tact with a conifer in the form of a minia­ture type that we use to gain height in our sum­mer or win­ter con­tain­ers, sur­rounded by much more colour­ful bed­ding or shrubs to fill the pot.

Yet the conifer has a much wider use than the fill-in spec­i­men in con­tain­ers. It is also in­valu­able in beds and bor­ders, pro­vid­ing struc­ture, tex­ture and colour when every­thing else has died down and looks stun­ning in win­ter when its fo­liage is whitened with frost or dusted with snow.

Conifers can work as a back­drop, stand­alone or in a bor­der with other plants, from mak­ing ef­fec­tive screen­ing to cre­at­ing the per­fect back­ground for flower bor­ders or ac­cents in rock gar­dens. They are ex­tremely ver­sa­tile, com­ing in an amaz­ingly di­verse range of shades, tex­tures, shapes and sizes, says the Hor­ti­cul­tural Trades As­so­ci­a­tion.

They are low-main­te­nance, suit con­tem­po­rary and tra­di­tional set­tings and pro­vide all-year-round in­ter­est.

They come into their own in the win­ter and early spring, when they are un­chal­lenged by the green of de­cid­u­ous shrubs and peren­ni­als, and come in shades of green, gold and brown.

Most conifers look best planted where their in­di­vid­ual shape and colour can be en­joyed with­out com­pe­ti­tion from other show-stop­ping plants.

Good plant part­ners in­clude heathers, grasses, phormi­ums and dwarf hebes.

In for­mal set­tings, they can boast stun­ning ar­chi­tec­tural value. The big­gest prob­lem is that they can grow too large for their site.

If you buy a dwarf conifer, be aware that in many cases it won’t be dwarf but will be slow-grow­ing.

How­ever, in time it will out­grow its space, al­though to some ex­tent you may be able to keep it un­der con­trol by trim­ming.

If you can’t, you may have to dig it out and start again. Now is a good time to prune fruit trees to pre­vent dis­ease, which can be­come worse over the win­ter. With ap­ple and pear trees, cut out any branches that are dead, dis­eased or cross­ing over. How­ever, do not prune trees that bear stoned fruit such as plums, cher­ries or apri­cots as this can cause dis­ease rather than pre­vent­ing it. To prune fruit trees, shorten the cen­tral shoots by a quar­ter and cut the sideshoots back to three buds to boost the chance of them chang­ing into fruit­ing spurs.

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