Published: 02 October 2013
National Conifer Week
The National Conifer Week 2013 will once again raise the profile of these wonderful plants.
This annual event is organised by the British Conifer Group which is made up of specialist commercial growers and supported by the Horticultural Trade Association [HTA] who promote the industry, it’s plants, products and services to consumers.
 
Conifers have had bad press over many years. The public perception is that they are green, get too big and are boring.  Nothing could be further from the reality of this diverse group of plants that have lived on the planet for several hundred thousand years.

During the National Conifer Week many garden centres and retailers will be staging displays of conifers to highlight their rich diversity and show that there really are conifer species that are suitable for every size, shape and style of garden. Many of which can be grown successfully in containers to provide great focal points within formal or informal designs.
 
Diverse shapes, colours and textures can add greatly to any garden design
A leading authority on conifers is Derek Spicer. He is Chair of the British Conifer Society, co author of The Encyclopedia of Conifers and a commercial conifer grower with over two thousand varieties in production.  He commented that “Conifers play an important part in any garden scene; they are still there in the depths of winter while perennials and bulbs are resting. Their evergreen structures, wide range of colours and varied textures look tremendous as the seasons change through the year”

Vibrant Colours

All year round interest really can be achieved not only with the many different foliage colours during the different seasons but also their shape and evergreen forms that can give striking effect when other plants have lost their foliage. Darker foliage conifers act as a good backdrop for deciduous plants that have winter coloured stems or flowers. Many conifers respond well to routine light pruning, this has the effect of preventing them getting too big for their location and also stimulating new young growth that can have the most vibrant colours of any plant group.  Where a garden is prone to cold winter winds some species of conifer will provide good wind break protection by acting as a baffle to slow the wind speed and therefore the chill factor.

Ellwoods Gold growing in containers
 
A visit to your local nursery or garden centre between 28th September and 6th October should give you the opportunity to see many different conifer types, take a close look at them to see just how varied they are.  See the label for instructions on rate of growth or particular planting instructions and if possible ask a member of staff to help you select the best plants for your garden.

Choosing the right variety

Always check to see how fast it grows and how big it will get. Planting fast growing ‘Leylandii’ plants either side of the front door, or in your rockery, will cause problems! Remember, there is a big difference between a slow growing conifer and a dwarf conifer, a slow growing variety will take a long time to get big while a true dwarf variety will stay small.  A fast growing conifer will get huge if not pruned regularly.
 
With so many exciting new varieties being produced by commercial growers, plus the hundreds of old favourites, there are conifers that are suitable for nearly every garden situation.

The majority of conifers grow well in ordinary garden soil provided that it does not get too waterlogged. Many will do well in a slightly acid soil with some species growing in a chalk soil.
When planting, ensure the plant is not planted deeper than the original compost level in the pot and water each plant well to aid new root growth and establishment.

Careful selection and routine pruning will keep conifers looking great
 

Footnotes

For more information about conifers and National Conifer Week see: www.britishconifersociety.org.uk

Readers wishing to increase their knowledge on conifers may wish to read our review on “The Encyclopedia of Conifers” by Derek Spicer and Aris Auders.  
 
The British Conifer Society is holding a conifer day at RHS Wisley on the 27th October 2013. There will be displays of new varieties and plenty of advice available. The societies AGM will also be held during the event. More details will follow soon.
Reported by Chris Allen  
   
 

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