Try a Specimen Conifer
CALIFORNIA VARIOUS ZONES
Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Green Wave’)— Tiered branching makes open flat planes of foliage on this very sturdy and durable tree.
Dwarf Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Golden Promise’)—expect a bright yellow garden accent throughout the seasons from its small, awl-like foliage.
Japanese umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata ‘Picola’)—dense, compact, and slow-growing, it maintains a deep green in winter and does well in containers.
Eastern arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis Primo ‘Islprim’)—this one fools even plant experts in its resemblance to a Hinoki cypress, with the advantage of durability in the heat. Although not necessary for California, being a Zone 4 plant, it is suitable for areas too cold for Hinoki cypress. This slow-growing new plant has a naturally sculpted, spirelike form.
HIGH DESERT ZONES 5–8
Colorado spruce (Picea pungens ‘Hermann Naue’)—large pinkish cones on the branch tips in spring complement the older tan cones from the previous year. It forms a dense spreading mound.
Spreading dwarf juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Green Carpet’)—bright green spring growth forms a thick groundcover. Plant adapts to many soil types.
Dwarf Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii ‘Jasper’)—muted blue-green color on a plant that is native to the Colorado Rockies and sports a compact globose form.
Jack pine (Pinus banksiana ‘Uncle Fogy’)— Wild, undulating branches give each plant a unique form. The bizarre look is for the gardener who wants intriguing elements. It offers a very natural look for drier regions.
Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii [leucodermis] ‘Emerald Arrow’)—find the same perfect pine characteristics as ‘Compact Gem’ (mentioned for the Midwest): rich dark green year-round, highly pest- and diseaseresistant, and salt-tolerant. Narrower than ‘Compact Gem’, it’s suitable for tight spaces but still gives the presence of a big tree.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST ZONES 7–9
Smooth cypress (Cupressus arizonica
‘Aurea’)—foliage is pale yellow with white specks, creating an outstanding frosty color. Stroking the plant emits a citrus aroma.
Hinoki false cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gemstone’)—compact and dense, this gem has an irregular, upright growth.
Gnome Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweil’)—its natural narrow upright form has definite sculptural appeal.
Dwarf Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Mushroom’)—feathery foliage on an open and airy form is a soft green in spring and summer, turning a russet brown in winter.
Dwarf mugo pine (Pinus mugo
‘Wintersonne’)—cooler temperatures in fall bring the onset of electric yellow foliage that maintains that color all winter—a bright spot on a dreary Northwest day.
Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora
‘Aoi’)—narrow upright habit with a lush, sculpted form, it sports silver gray bark and many small cones.
NORTHEAST ZONES 2–8
Weeping Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘The Blues’)—graceful weeping habit wears a peaceful blue color.
Dwarf Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Spiralis’)—the narrow, upright tree has a dramatic twisted, sculpted form.
Sunny Swirl Hinoki cypress
(Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Sunny Swirl’)— Twisted threadlike foliage grows on contorted branches that provide unusual shape and bright gold color.
Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Hamlet’s Broom’)—a compact, deciduous conifer sports foliage that emerges a creamy white variegated before changing to green.
Dwarf Norway spruce (Picea abies
‘Pusch’)—beautiful purple cones form in spring at the branch tips, changing to brown and remaining all year long. Cones at a very young age.
Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora
‘Fukuzumi’)—typical parviflora needles and cones form on a wide sweeping habit.
SOUTHEAST ZONES 6–10
Creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis
‘Mother Lode’)—an extremely prostate habit keeps it less than 6 inches high to make an excellent groundcover. Its bright yellow color does not burn when grown in the Southeast.
Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Hedgehog’)—with glossy, long needles and a low-growing form, this spreading yew thrives in partial shade.
Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica
‘Spiralis’)—needles spiral around branches to form delightful ringlets, hence the common name of “granny’s ringlets.”
‘Raywood’s Weeping’ Arizona cypress
(Cupressus arizonica ‘Raywood’s Weeping’)— Arms extend from a staked central leader and weave and curl around to make a unique form.
MIDWEST ZONES 4–7
‘Ice Breaker’ Korean fir (Abies koreana ‘Ice Breaker’)—the undersides of needles are extremely pale and tightly curved up so the overall color is silvery white.
Trautman juniper (Juniperus chinensis
‘Trautman’)—a hardy alternative to the temperate Italian cypress, this narrow upright spire has coarsely textured foliage.
Dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca ‘Big Berta’)—with longer needles and a fast growth rate, Big Berta has foliage that won’t burn in winter on the sun-exposed side in cold, dry, windy areas.
Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’)—new spring growth is a showstopping brilliant yellow.
Bosnian pine (Pinus heldreichii [leucodermis] ‘Compact Gem’)—the perfect pine, this densely branched upright tree is a rich dark green year-round and is highly pestand disease-resistant and salt-tolerant.
Blue dwarf Siberian pine (Pinus pumila
‘Dwarf Blue’)—carmine red cones contrast with bluish-green needles on a spreading habit that is unique to the species.
Blue Macedonian pine (Pinus peuce
‘Pacific Blue’)—lovely long blue needles densely cover the tree. Extremely tough and durable in harsh wind and cold situations, this tree maintains better as it ages than the well-known ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’ limber pine.
‘Green Wave’ atlas cedar
‘Hermann Naue’ Colorado spruce
‘Aurea’ smooth cypress
‘The Blues’ weeping Colorado blue spruce
‘Mother Lode’ creeping juniper
‘Ice Breaker’ Korean fir