Friday, January 11, 2013

The beauty of conifers

I never was one to get too excited about conifers -- I grew up with dense forests of Douglas fir in British Columbia -- and it wasn't until an unplanned trip to Oregon that I began to appreciate the diversity and unique charms of this group of trees and shrubs. More to the point, it was a visit to Oregon Botanical Garden and a curious bed of dwarf conifers.that really piqued my interest. Its collection numbered rare conifers from Japan and China and the combination of unusual textures and shades of green, blue, even gold, and the extreme small stature was an eye opener.
It took me more than five years before I brought to fruition my own planting of dwarf conifers, featuring mostly Chamaecyparis and Cryptomaria varieties. I added a dwarf, spreading blue juniper to add its unique bristly texture.It just so happens I'd inherited a mature fir tree and so that seemed a good place beside which to create this mini (in both senses of the word) garden.
That's not to say there aren't a great number of full-sized conifers that should tempt most gardeners. Be that any number of fir trees, lovely iconic blue spruce or our singular redwoods (if you have the room), there's a conifer for almost any look or purpose. Conifers are also great trees or shrubs for birds, both as a food source and for the privacy needed to build nests. Add in the heady aroma that many conifers exude and it's easy to understand why gardeners will find the room for one of these long lived trees or shrubs.

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