21 Dec Dwarf Conifers: Adding Oomph to Your Winter Garden
I’ve packed my smallish urban plot chock-full, creating a dense, layered tapestry of plantings. As a result, I find that I have little or no bare ground left, yet my plant lust has not abated.
The solution? Buy plants that stay small. Conifers, for example, have been some of the most worthwhile additions I’ve made to my garden in recent years. But not any ol’ conifer will do – they can get quite large. Dwarf conifers, on the other hand, add structure and oomph to my garden during the winter months and if carefully selected, will not outgrow their allotted space for many years. Here’s a couple that I’ve been especially happy with:
Cedrus deodara ‘Silver Mist’ This conifer’s exact size when mature is a bit of a mystery. One reference lists 4′ in 20 years; however, I’ve seen evidence in multiple gardens that leads me to believe that it will likely outpace this estimate. In any case, it will definitely be a manageable size for a long, long time and it is so handsome that I will happily push aside other, lesser plants over time to give it more elbow room if need be. In the accompanying photo it’s backed by Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’; a well-behaved, white variegated ornamental grass which complements the light, bright tone of the conifer.
Picea sitchensis ‘Papoose’ This very slow growing Sitka spruce forms a tidy blue bun, only adding about ½” to 1″ per year and topping out at about 3′ or possibly 4′ with advanced age . While I’m very thankful for its contribution to the structure of my winter garden, this plant really shines in spring; its new growth is a vibrant, fresh blue and creates quite a stir.
You might want to soften its prickly look by pairing it with a softer bed fellow. To accentuate the blue color story, try Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’ and then add a contrasting color accent in burgundy; a Phormium ‘Platts Black’ or perhaps Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond’s Pillar’. Either of these choices would provide strong contrast in texture, form and color. The columnar Helmond’s Pillar barberry is a deciduous, but wholly hardy choice reaching 4′ to 6′ tall and about 2′ wide over time. The phormium, although a good choice for its evergreen nature and strappy bold foliage, is not quite as hardy and is best used in a more protected location. Easy-going Geranium ‘Rozanne’ contributes a seemingly endless display of blue blooms spring to late summer and will round out this scene nicely.