When considering a shrub to give your garden a new look, small conifers are a great answer. There are many beautiful selections offering unusual form, texture and color that provide an interesting contrast with more common shrubs and perennials.
These are a few of my favorites that have thrived in the garden.
‘Little Diamond’ Japanese Cedar/by Iseli Nursery, Randall C. Smith photographer
‘Little Diamond’ Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) is a beautiful small rounded conifer with bright green tiny rope-like foliage. Maturing at 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide, the interesting texture contrasts nicely with other plants in most garden settings. As an accent in the perennial border or as a low foundation shrub, ‘Little Diamond’ grows equally well in sun or part sun.
‘Tsatsumi Gold’ Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) offers a fascinating and unusual texture with slightly contorted yellow fan-like foliage. It is a slow grower reaching 4 feet tall that performs great in full or part sun. The loose pyramidal form makes a perfect garden specimen or a special addition to the shrub border.
‘Feelin’ Blue’ Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara) is a striking powder blue shrub that is much smaller than the typical species. The many cascading branches combine to create a sculpture in the garden. Reaching 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide it provides structure and a great accent in any sunny location. The beautiful blue needles contrast well with all shades of green and any bright colors.
‘All Gold’ Shore Juniper/by Iseli Nursery, Randall C. Smith photographer
‘All Gold’ Shore Juniper (Juniperus conferta) is a fabulous low spreading conifer with beautiful yellow gold foliage that glows in all seasons. Reaching 1 foot tall and 5 feet wide this tough groundcover performs equally well in sun and part sun. As a bright accent in the garden it is hard to beat.
‘Silberlocke’ Korean Fir/by Iseli Nursery, Randall C. Smith photographer
‘Silberlocke’ Korean Fir (Abies koreana-grafted on Abies firma) is a must-have conifer for the collector. To be successful one needs to grow a plant that has been grafted on to Momi Fir (Abies firma), the best heat tolerant fir for the Southeast. ‘Siberlocke’ has unusual small curved needles with a silver back that appear to spiral on the branches. As a slow grower, this distinctive conifer can be in that special spot for years. It does best in part sun in our region with supplemental water during dry periods.
‘Fritz Huber’ Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia) brings an elegant dark green texture to the shade garden. In spring and fall light green new growth provides a bright and beautiful contrast in the garden. Plum yews are deer resistant and very drought tolerant once established. Reaching 2 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide, ‘Fritz Huber’ is elegant in mass plantings or as a low border accent.
Joann Currier gardens near Chapel Hill and is the owner of The Unique Plant, a specialty nursery. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.