Dwarf. Dwarf conifers are defined by the ACS as those that grow from 1 to 6 inches per year and have a 10-year size of 1 foot to 6 feet in any direction. This Vermont Gold Norway spruce (P. abies ‘Vermont Gold’, zones 3 to 7) has an expected growth rate of 2 to 4 inches per year, with a 10-year size of less than 3 feet tall or wide
Jay Sifford Garden Design SaveEmail Add elegance with chartreuse. Chartreuse is cheerful and elegant, is easy to work with and lacks the brassiness that yellow can have. Plants such as this Skylands Oriental spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’, zones 4 to 7) prefer partial shade and are a welcome respite from the dark green foliage that often seems to rule the shade garden.
(left)Featured conifer: Goldcrest Monterey cypress (also called Wilma Goldcrest Monterey cypress) Botanical name: Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Wilma Goldcrest’ Approximate size of conifer shown: 1-gallon pot Origin: This was developed in Holland from a genetic mutation discovered in 1987. Where it will grow: Hardy to zero degrees Fahrenheit (zones 7 to 10) Water requirement: Average Light requirement: Full sun Mature size: Typically to 8 feet tall and 2 feet wide in a container When to plant: Year-round
Golden or chartreuse foliage is so easy to work with in container gardens, and with Forever Goldie arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’) as the key plant Featured conifer: Forever Goldie arborvitae (also called ‘4Ever Goldy’ arborvitae) Botanical name: Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’ Approximate size of conifer shown: 2-gallon pot Origin: This cultivar was discovered in the Netherlands in 2002 as a seedling. Where it will grow: Hardy to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (zones 3 to 7) Water requirement: Average. Light requirement: Full sun Mature size: 15 to 20 feet tall and 3 feet wide When to plant: Year-round
Featured conifer: Hick’s yew Botanical name: Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’ Approximate size of conifer shown: 3-gallon pot Origin: Hick’s yew is a garden hybrid. Where it will grow: Hardy to -30 degrees Fahrenheit (zones 4 to 7) Water requirement: Average to low Light requirement: Full sun to shade Mature size: 10 to 12 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide in the landscape; smaller in containers When to plant: Year-round
Conifers are versatile. They are available in a range of gold, green, blue and variegated shades, and several also change color during the winter. That means you’ll easily find something to work with your chosen color scheme. You can find tall, skinny ones; low, mounding ones; and even a few that drape over the edge of a container — they don’t always have to be the centerpiece. Perhaps the greatest argument for considering conifers as part of your mixed container design is that they help to stretch the budget. Thrifty gardeners know that buying a young conifer (in a 4-inch quart or gallon-size pot) is a great investment.
Botanical name: Picea glauca Common name: White spruce Origin: Native across North America from the boreal forests of the Yukon to Canada’s Maritime provinces, south to the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota Where it will grow: Hardy to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 40 degrees Celsius (USDA zones 2 to 6; find your zone) Water requirement: One of the most drought-tolerant spruces, white spruce tolerates some summer drought once established; needs winter snow cover or monthly watering if the winter is dry Light requirement: Full sun to partial shade
Evergreen shrubs. Coniferous evergreen shrubs and broadleaf evergreens provide privacy for sightlines that are lower to the ground. Use shrubs to create a low screen around your patio or other sitting areas. How to plant. As with evergreen trees, space your planting of evergreen shrubs so that their branches slightly touch. This will give them room to grow in and will allow their branches to overlap some over time. Example Species ‘Sungold’ sawara cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Sungold’, zones 3 to 7), native to Japan. Caution: All parts are poisonous if ingested. Japanese holly (Ilex crenata, zones 5 to 8), native to Japan and eastern China. Caution: The fruit is slightly poisonous. Dahoon holly (Ilex cassine, zones 6 to 9), native to the U.S. Southeast. Caution: The fruit is poisonous. Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens, zones 8 to 11), native to the U.S. Southeast.
Choose you conifer palette. Now that you have decided on the mood and focal points your garden should have, we can go shopping. Good garden centers offer an appetizing buffet of conifers in spring and fall. Be forewarned that such a variety frequently elicits emotional rather than thoughtful buying
Globe spruce, Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Bobozam’, zones 3 to 8), dwarf Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Globosa Nana’, zones 5 to 8), bird’s nest spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’, zones 2 to 8), mugo pine (Pinus mugo, zones 2 to 8) and blue star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’, zones 4 to 8).
Van Den Akker Alaskan cedars (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Van Den Akker’, zones 5 to 8) are a good choice for a small urban courtyard. This tree can be expected to grow to a 10-year height of 15 to 20 feet, putting on 6 to 10 inches of growth per year. Additionally, this conifer stays less than 2 feet wide.