Evergreens, Conifers Command the Winter Landscape

by Ken Lain, The Mountain Gardener, Watters Garden Center

Our house is a classic mountain home with large windows enabling us to enjoy both the natural and cultivated beauty. The design showcases each of the four seasons, but evergreens are the central focus. Their easy-care hardiness guarantees they look beautiful no matter the season.   

Because evergreens and conifers come in all shapes and sizes, they are useful for privacy screens, foundation plantings, backdrops for flowerbeds, and accents in rock gardens.

Choosing the best plant combinations can be tricky. 

Conifers come in four basic shapes: round, cylindrical, weeping, and flat ground huggers. For simplicity’s sake, I think of both a ball-shaped false cypress and a mound like Blue Star juniper as being round. It’s helpful to think of them as silhouettes. 

When first landscaping with evergreens, begin with small groupings making sure each conifer is different from its neighbors. One of my favorite compositions begins with a Bird Nest globe spruce. Place a broadly conical shaped Hinoki cypress next to it. Maximize the contrast with an under planting of a flat, ground hugging Japanese juniper. 

In small planting beds, I use mainly miniatures and dwarfs. Intermediate-sized ground huggers like cotoneaster, juniper, and Mahonia rarely overtake their allotted spaces. Slim cylinders like Skyrocket juniper and Tiny Tower cypress serve well as accents.

Evergreens truly are in all their glory as we head into winter.  

It is important to water established conifers with one deep soak per month.  

Newly planted winter evergreens should be watered by hand if necessary at 10 to 14 day intervals through winter to maximize their spring growth.  

If you feel a little down after during the holidays come visit Watters’ company mascot, Vincent Price. He roams freely through the garden center most days. We even had the wording on his service vest changed to read: “Service Dog, Please Pet Me.”

Photo: Watters Garden Center