Love them or hate them, there’s no doubt that conifers provide year-round architectural and sculptural interest in the garden. When placed correctly, they are a joy and an asset.
Especially for those in the Northern Hemisphere, conifers in winter are often the only real sign of green in an otherwise grey, brown and white landscape.
Conifer planting is ubiquitous in my area, as it is synonymous – almost to the point of being clichéd – with cool climate gardens in Australia.
Unlike broadleaf trees (including the native Eucalyptus) which respond to the mostly poor soils here with stunted growth, the conifers, (typically Pinus radiata, Cedrus deodara, Cupressus torulosa and Picea sp. ) dominate the skyline with their upright habit, regardless of the rocky soils.
In my own garden, I am fortunate that a number of trees were planted at the time the house was built, and now 30-40 years later are starting to become mature and graceful. But it’s also a throw-back to garden styles of the 1970s- 1980s: every single conifer in my yard is a yellow cultivar!!!!
My favourite of these golden trees is the Golden Himalayan Cedar, Cedrus deodara ‘Aurea’:
It’s not an ‘in-your-face’ type of gold, more a lime-green, but it is a welcome, sunny tree that dominates the yard. Only the growing tips are gold tinged and for most of the year it is just slightly greener than its typical glaucous Deodar relatives.
Similarly, a golden Monterrey Cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa was planted in another part of the yard. This is likely to be the ‘Donard Gold’ cultivar, but I can’t be sure.
The tree is partly shaded by a very ancient Eucalypt for about 70% of the day, so it has more of a chartreuse than gold about it:
I love its simple, oval shape.
This will change in my lifetime as the Macrocarpa develops its distinctive broad spread, like this one below, in my neighbours’ yard, which is about 110 years old.
The really nifty thing about the Macrocarpas is that they reach the ultimate height fairly early, and then just like us humans, at middle age, grow outwards rather than upwards 🙂
Then there is the Golden Pencil Pine near the front of the house:
This is an Australian raised cultivar of the classic Italian Cypress found in the hills of Tuscany. This one certainly adds the equivalent of a horticultural punctuation mark. Best of all, absolutely no maintenance is required in ensuring it maintains its shape.
Lastly, right on the property line is a Hinoki Cypress, Chamaecyparis Obtusa, rounding out the golden conifers on the property.
This one, along with the tree Rhododendron, was planted way too close to the garage and the lower part of the tree is completely misshapen, as it has only 10″ of space to grow in.
But the canopy with tightly ruffled needles, is still quite dramatic, even on a foggy summers’ morning. This one goes a brownish gold once the first frosts hit.
And, once the sun comes out:
I probably would never have picked these myself as I tend to choose the bluer varieties. But as the present custodian of these trees, I am certainly pleased that they were planted…but lastly, to show you just how common these were 30 years ago, here is random house in my town with an almost identical conifer planting scheme….
Happy Gardening 🙂