July’s plant of the month is Conifers
Few gardens rely solely on flowers for year-round interest, they also need a structure of different plant shapes, colours and textures to provide a background and maintain year-round appeal. Conifers are ideal because they are available in so many forms, are hardy, easy to care for and long-living.
In a variety of growth rates and colour give privacy, provide habitats for wildlife, absorb traffic noise and pollution, screen unsightly objects and create a backdrop for the garden (see our leaflet Making Gardens Beneficial to Wildlife for advice on planting a hedge).
Can be provided by fast- or slow-growing prostrate conifers used to edge ponds, paths or borders; cover unsightly areas; and suppress weeds. They can act as a foil for bulbs, flowers and grasses.
Planted in the centre of a lawn, in a corner, in a tub or in a border or rockery can add structural interest to a garden.
Miniature and dwarf conifers suit container planting and will last five years or more in the same pot with a minimum of attention. Just water in summer, give an occasional trim and an annual feed of slow-release fertiliser. Low troughs can be underplanted with miniature bulbs and bedding plants. Plant a single conifer in patio planters to give height or a combination of different shapes, textures and colours for an all-round display. Use prostrate junipers in place of trailing plants.
Can benefit from the graceful, arching foliage of pendulous conifers or upright-growing specimens. Plant with other shrubs, phormiums, heathers or grasses for a long-lasting border.
Conifers are excellent planted beside water as their strong shapes make wonderful reflections. They also hide the edges of pond liners and break up fixed lines of vision.
Conifers can be used with other plants to give year-round interest and colour: dwarf conifers live happily alongside other plants in containers, or by themselves as specimens. Try them with winter bedding and early spring bulbs and flowers, which can then be swapped for summer bedding. Heather’s and hardy cyclamen also make a great combination.
Conifers will tolerate most soils, but avoid planting in areas that waterlog regularly. A very chalky soil will suit Taxus (yew), some junipers and pines. Local climate, such as areas of high or low rainfall, can affect height and spread. To help you choose the right conifer for your garden ask our nursery staff.