You're the one fer me; Gardening; Top conifers with style and substance.
Byline: with Adrienne Wild
CONIFERS are the bones of a garden, giving solid structure but also contributing to its looks - and some are dazzling.
They make great focal features, trimmed into topiary shapes or used as fantastic screens and boundaries. They even keep down weeds.
Some are dwarfs that fit neatly with miniature alpine landscape in a rockery or stone trough. Or go smaller, with bonsai in shallow pots.
The ideal time to plant conifers is October through March. Most prefer full sun and slightly acid soil and need moisture at the roots. Needles will turn brown on the inside of branches if it is not getting enough water or air.
It is important to let them establish for at least a couple of years before trimming and training.
Perfect for an Oriental garden is the Japanese cedar, Cryptomeria japonica Elegans. Featherlike juvenile foliage is bluish-green and turns to mahogany plum in winter - a superb contrast to golden-leaved conifers.
The weeping blue atlas cedar can become huge. Shape it with selective pruning and training. Start when the plant is young and the shoots are still pliable. Curtain off sitting areas or frame views within the garden.
Juniperus squamata will make a weed-suppressing carpet. Its prickly blue-grey leaves prevent visitors from taking shortcuts through borders so plant wisely to protect precious plants.
For patios use slow-growing Pinus mugo Ophir in a pot and watch its leaves turn gold in winter. Put a layer of turf upside-down in the bottom of the pot for a water-holding sponge.
Picea glauca Conica is another dwarf conifer. This trouble-free spruce keeps its dense conical shape without effort and the bright spring growth looks good with contrasting conifers and evergreen shrubs.
Conifers are fussy about location.
Most need good drainage and in prolonged spells of dry weather they can to shut down and come back to life when the rain comes.
Yellow conifers are brightest in full sun and you get better blues in partial shade. Korean fir, grown for its blue cones, performs best in stony soil rather than being pampered.
SPIKY TOP: Conifer mix with, left, Mugo pine, above, and Korean fir