While the garden slumbers under a blanket of snow (and you mostly hide out inside), conifers are working hard in winter to keep it interesting in the garden. Shapely shapes decorated with snow and alive with birds and other wildlife seeking shelter and food, you can count on evergreen conifers to bring color, warmth, and life to the winter landscape. From just inches tall to clocking in at 50′ or more, there’s a conifer for every landscape need and garden space. Here’s where to begin!
Along driveways, down slopes and berms, creeping between stone and paver stepping paths, and softening rock gardens, low growing, spreading evergreen conifers solve so many problems that we often forget to remark on how elegant and refined they look in the landscape. When you need something tough and hardy, but also graceful and colorful, check these out.
Crisp, bright-green foliage on a dense, mounding form. Excellent winter structural plant for mixed borders. Full sun. Up to 12 in. tall, spreading to 6′ wide.
Use: Erosion control on slopes and banks. Cascading over walls.
SMALL (UP TO 6' TALL)
Whether naturally dwarf or just really slow growing, evergreen conifers that top out at no tall than 6′ provide the sort of structure and form that makes all of that leafy goodness of surrounding shrubs really shine. Use them in groups in borders, dot the ends of beds or line along walkways as an tough, evergreen solution for year-round good looks.
Dense yellow spring foliage matures to golden-orange with hints of lime holding color throughout winter. Partial to full sun. Up to 3′ tall and wide.
Use: Adds fine texture to beds, borders, and containers.
MEDIUM (UP TO 12' TALL)
Conifers in the “just right” mid-range size are especially useful in larger borders, but also to add height to the landscape and soften the corners of a house, flank a front door, or frame a feature such as a gate or arbor. This is where you must be vigilant about the eventual mature size. Don’t the ones who have to prune your conifers into submission, thereby ruining their inherent graceful shape!
Eye-catching, thread-like needles that weep and drape over entire shrub. Golden-yellow new foliage. Full sun. Up to 6′ tall, 8′ wide.
Use: Landscape specimen, quirky accent, small hedge.
TALL (12' AND UP)
When it comes to some conifers, the skies the limit! While they tend to be slower growing than most deciduous shade trees, please read and believe the eventual height and plant accordingly. As a general rule, trees up to 70 feet tall should be planted at least 15 feet from your home’s foundation. Check with your local garden center for the best regional advice. Where you have the space to appreciate the magnificence of a mature conifer from all sides, here are a few to consider.
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If you need specific advice for a tricky spot, please leave a comment below. For even more choices, please consult with your local garden center (find one here).