Gardening Mistake - "Conifers Should Come First" - October 2023

Gardening advice is literally a cottage industry.  YouTube creators.  Bloggers.  Botanical Gardens.  Everybody has advice and recommendations.  And, I take A LOT of them - as I'm a total novice and learn a little bit more everyday in the garden.  I've covered some of this advice, but I came across something recently that stopped me in my tracks.  

From Fine Gardening - Lisa O'Donnell in a piece titled "Conifers Should Come First" - says this:  Instead of adding them as an afterthought...let evergreens drive the design.  

I *totally* feel seen.

I started on the wrong foot. Did I start with conifers? Nope. I've added some over the years.   I planted a number of conifers that didn't survive - from a Japanese White Pine, Weeping Cedar, dwarf Alberta Spruce and a small Fraser Fir.  All planted.  All dead. 

One early bright (conifer) spot is the Canadian Hemlocks.  They're still (some of them) around.  Same with the three Gold Cone Junipers.  And, have a Weeping White Spruce columnar tree that isn't doing any growing at all.  But, I think it may have established itself enough after many years. 

I've also tried to make up for it with some Green Giant Thujas - where four of the six have made it.  And have a good-sized (the largest conifer we have) Weeping Nootka Falsecypress tree in the back.    We also have some dwarf conifers - Mugo Pine and a Bird's Nest Spruce.  

But, none of it has been coordinated and planned.  And, none of the conifers are/were in the front yard - where I get the most sunlight.

That doesn't mean that I haven't been thinking about conifers.  And adding them.  Just look at my 2023 to-do list - where number 1, 2 and 21 all come to bear:  Evergreens, IB2DWs and adding trees.  

But, if I'm being honest...that's not because I've been thoughtful. It is because I recognize that I've been deficient in respect to conifers and evergreens.

Back to advice. I mentioned that it is everywhere and it reinforces that what I dislike about my garden the most is likely the result of the lack of conifers.  Take...for instance advice like here - from Teo Spengler:
"You may not put a lot of emphasis on conifers when you plan your garden design, but you definitely should. Designing with conifers lets you consider the look your backyard and garden will present in all seasons, not just summer."
Eek.  Again...I feel seen.  Did I put emphasis on conifers in the design?  No.  Should I have?  Yes.

And, the torture of being asleep at the wheel when it comes to conifers in my garden keeps on going.  Alexandra Campbell from the Middle-Sized Garden says this:
Conifers have been overlooked in gardens over the past few decades.  But they have wonderful foliage colours and texture, all year round. And now many are compact and suitable for smaller gardens.

Why were they so unpopular?  Vicky thinks that people didn’t know how to look after the rows of overgrown and neglected Leylandii cypress hedges, planted in the 1970s. ...The trees got too big, took up too much space and light, with dying branches.’

And it was hard to find the smaller and more unusual conifers that are now proving so versatile in gardens.

Why does all of this matter?  Because I'm thinking of using the end-of-the-season nursery sales to correct this mistake.  Where can I start with a clean slate - and live up to the idea that 'Conifers should come first"?  
In the IB2DWs extended bed.  I talked about massing evergreens in that spot.  And, I think I should finally pull it off.   What does good look like?  I've sourced a few inspiration images from the Web over the past few weeks.  This series in Garden Gate Magazine - 7 ways to use conifers in the garden - is full of visual gold.  Like these:




On a recent trip out looking for conifers, I saw a few interesting ones - Baby Blue Spruce trees (dwarf), weeping Norway Spruce, pencil point junipers, and other pines.  Fall 2023 is going to be the year where I got the conifer advice right.


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