Growing conifers masterclass: best expert content

Growing conifers masterclass: best expert content


Different types of pruned yew conifers

Train yew plants to make fantastic topiary
Image: Taxus baccata from Thompson & Morgan

Conifer plants have so much to offer. Think evergreen foliage, bright berries and excellent drought-resistance for starters. If you want to add all year round structure and interest to your outside space, take a look at these helpful tips from garden bloggers, designers and landscapers. Their excellent advice will help you design the gorgeous garden you’ve always wanted. 

Browse our full range of conifer plants for more inspiration.

Plant conifers for evergreen structure

Closeup of blue green conifer

Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’ has lovely blue green foliage
Image: Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’ from Thompson & Morgan

Sue Sanderson from Thompson & Morgan shares ten top reasons to plant conifers, but number one has to be their evergreen structure. “Evergreens are the backbone of any garden and conifers are the masters of evergreen,” she explains. They punctuate the landscape with an air of formality and lend an architectural presence to any space. Got a small garden? Sue recommends planting the slim, pencil-shaped Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’ to highlight focal points and entrances.

Choose dwarf conifers for small spaces

Dwarf conifer growing in rockery

Dwarf conifers make terrific evergreen shrubs for a rockery or low maintenance display
Image: Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ from Thompson & Morgan

You don’t need a huge garden to plant these verdant heroes. John from Pyracantha says that slow-growing dwarf conifers are ideal for small gardens, rockeries and containers. “They can also make a great choice for using as a groundcover,” he explains. The low-growing Juniperus ‘Green Carpet’ has bright green foliage in the spring that darkens as it matures. Once it gets established, John says, “it’s very low maintenance with no pruning necessary and it becomes quite drought-tolerant.” Read his article for a full list of conifers suitable for pots and small gardens.

Also Read:   Winter shrubs masterclass: best expert content

Use conifers in dry, windy gardens

Low-growing conifers in garden

Low-growing conifers are resilient to windy conditions
Image: Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ from Thompson & Morgan

Do you have a dry, windy garden? Conifers cope with these tricky alpine conditions very well. Mandy, the voice behind popular gardening blog MandyCanUDigIt, gardens in Gateshead where her garden sees little rain in spring and plenty of wind from the Pennines. Use dwarf conifers as shrubs in this context, she says. Check out her list to find plenty more tough characters for dry, windy conditions.

Add conifers to gravel gardens

Pine tree surrounded by gravel

Use conifers in gravel gardens or rockeries
Image: Pinus mugo ‘Benjamin’ from Thompson & Morgan

Edinburgh based landscape designer Tracy Macque’s gravel garden design hinges on the pine trees. They anchor the lovely mix of shrubs, grasses and flowering perennials planted carefully around them and thrive in the gravel. If you have a dry space, have a go at making a gravel garden like Tracy’s. Take a look at her Instagram photos and short video reel over at @tracymcque to see how her conifers have transformed this space in just two short years.

Create fabulous winter containers with dwarf conifers

Group of dwarf conifers

Dwarf conifers are easy, low maintenance winter container plants
Image: The Middlesized Garden

Wanting to freshen up your winter pot displays? Add some bright, fresh dwarf conifers. Alexandra Campbell of The Middlesized Garden and ‘Bake Off’ star Jane Beedle placed low-growing dwarf conifers at the top of their list of evergreen shrubs for pots. And, after a few winters of reusing your potted conifers, simply recycle them into the garden where they can grow on to their full height. Super efficient!

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Stay in the green when you cut back overgrown conifers

Man standing next to bushy conifer with caption 'Overgrown conifer - common complaint'

Conifers really bush out in summer after warm weather
Image: @dave_the_plantman

With overgrown conifers, the last thing you should ever do is cut into the brown,” instructs Instagrammer @dave_the_plantman in his bitesize reel. Just cut back as much as you need to tidy it up. If you only cut back into green material, your tree or shrub should regenerate happily. Check out Dave’s Instagram for more fun snippets of gardening wisdom.

Prune conifers in winter to keep them to size

Man pruning overgrown conifer

Tony undertakes a major pruning of an overgrown Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Ellwoodii’ in winter
Image: Four Seasons Garden

Aim to prune your conifers every winter, say Tony and Marie at their award-winning Four Seasons Garden. At this time of year the sap has dropped enough to prevent any unsightly bleeding from the trunk. Then in July or August, Tony also uses a hedge trimmer to lightly clip certain conifers like Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Golden Wonder’. Within a month of the clipping, extra new growth appears and there is a nice, generalised, golden-green ‘glow’ which lasts until the surge of bright feathery new spring growth in the next year. Tony and Marie’s fantastic garden features some fabulous conifers, all beautifully shaped. Check out the individual pruning guides for each of the main varieties.

Yew trees make excellent topiary shapes and hedges

Closeup of red yew berries

Yew produces attractive red berries in September
Image: Taxus baccata from Thompson & Morgan

Shape yew topiary or hedging in September, says YouTuber Adam in his pruning video over at Gardeners Tale. And always use very sharp cutting tools, he adds. If you’re shaping a young yew into a cone, Adam recommends making a teepee frame from bamboo to help guide your cuts. “Just give it a go, it’s such a forgiving plant,” he says. To pick up more practical tips, watch how Adam trims a stately 150-year old specimen in his fun video.

Also Read:   Country Modern Living

Check conifers for birds before pruning and shaping

Woman standing in front of two pruned yew trees

Two shaped yew trees flank Annette’s steps
Image: Cottoverdi

YouTuber Annette at Cottoverdi always checks her young yew trees for nesting birds before she prunes. You don’t need a big heavy, loud trimmer to shape yew, she says. Her electric handheld trimmer does the job perfectly, and her handheld shears are super. “Keep walking around and stepping back to make sure you’re getting the shape that you want,” she advises. Looking good Annette!

Hire a professional to keep mature leylandii hedges in check

Leyland cypress hedging

Leyland cypress makes a thick hedge
Image: Leyland Cypress from Thompson & Morgan

When tackling a mature leylandii hedge, it’s best to start at the top, says seasoned professional Jason at his YouTube channel Jason Gardener. He always wears safety goggles and spreads decorators’ sheets to catch the trimmings and keep them out of the gravel. Jason uses a short and light hedge trimmer to save his arms when working from the ground, and a longer-handled set for the bits he can’t reach. Watch his video to see how he avoids getting ‘sweep marks’ in his handiwork.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these top tips. For even more information and advice on growing conifers, head over to our hub page. If you want to be sure that you don’t miss our latest updates and advice, follow us on Instagram and Twitter.



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