Winter is fast approaching and every year it gets me thinking about the importance of evergreens in the landscape. Here in the Northwest we are lucky to have a wide palette of hardy evergreen trees and shrubs to choose from. So many, in fact, that I have a hard time keeping some of them straight. This is especially a problem for me when it comes to sorting out the vast array of specialty conifers that are available.
And here’s where the newest addition to my bookshelf comes in: Timber Press Pocket Guide to Conifers. If you don’t know of Timber Press, they publish many fine gardening books and are located right here in the NW. Horticulturist Richard L. Bitner is the author of this lifesaver. Many plant guides do not give nearly enough info on cultivars (cultivated varieties), and when it comes to specialty conifers it’s all about the cultivar. Bitner gives info on a great many cultivars, especially those most widely found & available. That’s important- I am forever frustrated by publications that highlight super cool plants that no one is growing, and are therefore unobtainable.
Sneak a peak at one of the Hinoki Falsecypress pages below. I love Hinokis, I really do. But there are so many it makes my head spin. Bitner has a really good rundown on available cultivars accompanied by some nice pictures that show form & color. While not every cultivar has its own photo, you get lots of good info on those listed. And those without photos can always be Googled.
In closing, here are my reasons for keeping conifers at the top of my design list:
- Our NW garden style is all about evergreens. It's part of our vernacular. Look around at our native forests- full of many wonderful coniferous trees. Celebrate our special place by using conifers, and when you don’t have room for that Western Red Cedar, consider using a dwarf variety instead.
- So many of these conifers do great in our mild climate. Just keep in mind that almost all of them need good drainage, so amend that clay soil!
- Here in the NW we're lucky to have many, many growers nearby so there are a plethora of varieties available.
- They come in so many neat colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. They also combine beautifully with broadleaf plants, perennials, rocks, and boulders.