At present it seems there are two extreme attitudes when it comes to conifers: love or hate. Those who love them may grow only conifers and perhaps little else, and those who hate them will not grow them at all. However, at the Bressingham Gardens we feel that if you meet the two attitudes half way, you will see that conifers can benefit almost any garden.
Whilst conifers may have fallen out of fashion in recent times, perhaps the apparent increase in conifers seen in the show gardens at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show means they may be catching on again? Naturalistic pines, the distinctive monkey puzzle and clipped yews all featured, demonstrating the structural impact that conifers can give amongst mixed plantings.
Here at the Bressingham Gardens, and particularly the Foggy Bottom garden, you will see that conifers can lend much more than just a structural component to gardens. We hope to show our visitors, to both our website and gardens, the diversity amongst conifers and the many ways they can enrich a garden.
Some gardeners may be reluctant to plant conifers, associating them with the notoriety of un-pruned and ill-placed Leyland cypress hedges. But if the right conifer is selected, it can offer scale and structure for any garden.
The image on the left shows dwarf conifers in the Winter Garden – Pinus heldreichii ‘Smidtii’ and Picea sitchensis ‘Tenas’. The Pinus ‘Smidtii’ plants are over 25 years old.
The image on the right shows Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood), which may not be a suitable size for many gardens, but it makes an imposing presence in Adrian’s Wood.
Some conifers offer year-round attractive colour. And some, like this Picea glauca ‘JW Daisy’s White’, can offer a spectacular seasonal change in colour. This ‘dwarf’ conifer (shown here at 5 years old and 20 years old) bears creamy-white shoots in late spring, toning down to pale green later in the season.
Whilst most conifers are evergreen, deciduous conifers such as Ginkgo biloba (left) and Taxodium distichum (right) offer wonderful autumn colour before they drop their foliage.
Conifers can, as this image (left) of Picea pungens ‘Glauca Prostrata’ shows, have a dramatic effect in close-up as you see the grey-blue shoots breaking out of their shell-like capsules – spectacular in spring!
The image on the right shows the vibrant red flowers on Abies procera.
Conifers can add wonderful colour and structure to a winter garden. The image on the left shows Thuja occidentalis ‘Degroot’s Spire’ planted to provide vertical accents amongst perennials, sparkling in the frost.
Some also change colour in the winter, such as this Pinus ‘Carsten’ (right), a compact selection of Pinus mugo.
If you feel inspired to learn more about, and perhaps grow, conifers, you can read Adrian Bloom’s comprehensive book Gardening with Conifers.
You can also visit the Bressingham Gardens and see the above conifers, and many more, for yourself. In addition to our main season opening, you can see conifers during our winter opening, from mid-February 2020.
All images by Adrian Bloom and Richard Bloom