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Favorite Conifer

My interest in conifers is growing to the point where I thinking about changing my landscape to replace flowers with conifers. I'd be curious what everybody considers to be their one must own conifer. I'm hoping that this will give me some ideas.

Comments (41)

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

    my fave.. might not grow in your area ....

    would you mind if i cross examined you ... to narrow down suggestions??? ... i will presume you agree .. lol .....

    how big is your lot ... will you be trying huge species or intermediates???.. or are you thinking more in terms of dwarf and mini conifers ....

    before i forget .... find every arboretum within a few hours.. and visit them ... they are great to visit in winter .. being evergreen and all ... by doing this.. i narrowed down what actually grows within a few hours of my house.. rather than relying on zone info alone ... also.. if you can ID any good growers in the same travel time .. VISIT THEM ....

    since they are trees.. and grow in tree time.. its rather important to understand annual growth rates ... and how long it will take for a small plant.. to grow and fill a space.. and then keep growing until its twice as big ... they simply never stop growing .. so you have to plan ahead ... see annual growth rates here: http://conifersociety.org/conifers/conifer-sizes/

    it can look very bizarre ... to plant a babe ... and leave it 8 or 10 feet of non tree space.. for it to grow in.. as such .... dont go ripping out all the flowers immediately ....but do plan ahead ...

    perhaps.. if we could see a few pix of your garden.. it might give us a better flavor for recommendations ...

    sooo.. as usual.... we need to define your goals.. to make proper recommendations.. toward your goals ....


    ps: you might want to start individual posts.. for topics ... to make them searchable.. as well as keeping them shorter .. e.g. ... arboretums within a few hours of CT ..... etc

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
  • coniferbros

    Replacing flowers with conifers, sounds like what happened to my garden. Very few flowers left these days.

    Ken is right, visit some arboretums, gardens, and nursery displays. You will find mature specimens to give you a better idea of what to expect with age.

    My favorite? Wayyyy too difficult to pick just one, lol. In my mind, one must include Picea omorika 'Pendula Bruns' (or several, 'De Ruyter is a good one also), perhaps a Picea omorika 'Skylands', Cupressus nootkatensis 'Green Arrow'. These are all easy to find cultivars. Pinus mugo 'Jakobsen' or 'Sherwood Compact' are great if you're looking for nice deep green sphere-ish plants.

    Look for growth rates to determine size potential.

    Best of luck with your conifer transformation,


    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked coniferbros
  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)

    Agreed that picking just one is not practical.

    Some of my favorites include Picea Pungens 'The Blues', Filips Golden Tears, Engelmannii Bush's Lace, Picea Orientalis Skylands, Picea Abies 'Coba', Picea Abies Pendula, Larix Decidua 'Puli', Angel Falls Pine, Cedrus Atlantica 'Aurea', Cedrus Atlantica 'Glauca Pendula', Picea Abies 'Gold Drift', Abies nordmanniana 'Golden Spreader', Abies Pinsapo ' Aurea, Picea Pungens ' Procombens' Picea omorika 'Pendula Bruns

    I could easily add many many more favorites but I'll stop. Search online at people gardens and see what conifers catch your eye.

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
  • mazerolm

    Mine is without a doubt Picea glauca ‘Pendula’! Happy shopping! :)

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked mazerolm
  • whaas_5a

    The first few years are like a kid in the candy store or chasing the shiny object. You will want to try them all and love them all. You'll find some will disappoint and others you'll quickly file under run of the mill that are good for fitting a specific need. For example a low growing green spreader. Don't abandon herbaceous and deciduous woody plants altogether. They will help maintain balance.

    I too can't chose as there are man special cultivars out there.

    For example Lime Glow Juniper gives you plumes of golden wings in the spring and turns a deep rusty orange in the winter. Wingles Weeper bobs and weaves amongst its counterparts.

    You can keep going with some of the cultivars listed here. The bold chunky needles of de Ruyter or one of the best cultivars ever selected, Gold Drift, featuring its multi personality disorder

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked whaas_5a
  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    One note of caution: be aware that many of the evergreens that are native to dry environments such as those from the non-coastal western US won’t thrive in New England and mid-Atlantic states because our humidity makes them prone to a range of diseases that make them short-lived. Picea pungens are one of those

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked NHBabs z4b-5a NH
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Like others, I could not nail it down to a single selection. But I do have a favorite genus and species........Chamaecyparis obtusa. I have never met a Hinoki cypress I didn't like :-) There is enough variety in size, shape, form and color to keep me happy and entertained for a long time!! And they all thrive in this climate.

    Aside from Hinokis, I am also drawn to conifers with somewhat unique forms; Pinus parviflora 'Fukuzumi', Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Wissel's Saguarro' and the bizzare Dr. Seuss shapes of weeping giant Sequoias.

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6)

    Ok. I should have asked for some of your favorites instead of just one conifer. Looking for ideas.

    ken - I have 2 acres but not all of that is open for new palnts due to existing trees etc. I hear you about long term size. I have a Charmaecyparis obtusa 'Crispsii" that has grown to be very large. Probably more interested in dwarf to intermediate keeping in mind long term size although something is columnar would be ok.I have visited the Bartlett Arboretum. It's not an arboretum but O'Brien's Nursery in Granby has quite a few beautiful conifers.

    NHBabs - good to keep in mind. I've had a few conifers die on me after a couple of years. Never sure why it happened.

    Thanks for the ideas so far.


  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    If you are interested in dwarf or intermediate sized plants, then continue to investigate Chamacyparis obtusa. This species has arguably the widest selection of dwarf or compact forms available from any conifer species, with over 200 registered cultivars. There is a Hinoki sized to fit any garden, even a tiny little apartment balcony :-)

    The only thing that separates a dwarf conifer from a full sized one is rate of growth. If healthy and in the ground long enough, even dwarfs can get to be big trees. But probably not fast enough for you to see in your lifetime :-)

  • sc77 (6b MA)

    Your favorites will evolve over time as you learn what grows well in your location. Here are a few that stand out from the crowd for me:

    Abies koreana ‘Ice Breaker’ (Been a challenge to grow, but by far the most unique, must have conifer)

    Abies numidica 'Glauca' (Surprised me, seems bullet proof here, and very unique)

    Abies concolor 'Blue Cloak'

    Abies nordmanniana 'Golden Spreader'

    Picea abies 'Gold Drift' (Not very gold in NE, but the spring flush is impressive)

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked sc77 (6b MA)
  • ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6)

    Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker' died after 2 years in my garden.

  • sc77 (6b MA)

    Same here. I have killed 2 of them, 3rd one is doing well. I think the cultivar is extra sensitive to placement because Abies koreana generally does really well here. I saw a very old 'Horstmann's Silberlocke' locally that looked incredible. Full to the ground, no issues typically seen in genus/species that struggle in this area.

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked sc77 (6b MA)
  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)

    I lost 2 Ice Breakers also. I don't think they like too much water or don't like wet feet. My first Ice Breaker was planted in sandy soil in the spring in full sun and did well until the summer. I watered it once and right after that the whole tree browned and died. My other Ice Breaker was planted in a container in the 5 1 1 mix with only morning sun. It did well until the middle of the summer when we were getting a lot of rainfall and it died. I never watered it once. It browned right after it rained.

    By the way my Silberlocke is doing very well so I don't know why Ice Breaker is so finicky.

    I don't know if I'm going to try another Ice Breaker unless it's on Firma Root Stock.

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
  • plantkiller_il_5

    ctguy , already have peeps loving to make suggestions,,,2 acres , awsome

    long term , you will be looking to see which trees to cut down to make room for conifers

    welcome to the addiction


    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked plantkiller_il_5
  • Sara Malone Zone 9b

    Join the American Conifer Society (http://conifersociety.org/organization/membership/). There are incredible member gardens in Connecticut, you get a 10% discount at participating nurseries and you get to attend auctions of rare conifers. Full disclosure: I'm the website editor!

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked Sara Malone Zone 9b
  • ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6)

    Full disclosure: I'm already a member.

  • Sara Malone Zone 9b

    That's great! Look in the directory for gardens that are open to members. There are some incredible ones.

  • maackia

    Every garden (especially those in Connecticut) should have at least one of Dr. Waxman’s introductions.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)

    ctgardenguy, check out "Broken Arrow Nursery" in the spring. They have a really nice selection of conifers you may like.

  • ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6)

    I am unfamiliar with Dr. Waxman. I’ll do some research.

    I know Broken Arrow Nursery. So does my wallet. Lol

  • Heruga (6b/7a NJ)

    My 9 favorite conifers: Pinus thunbergii, chamaecyparis obtusa, cryptomeria japonica 'radicans', larix kaempferi, sciadopitys verticillata, juniperus chinensis var. sargentii, picea jezoensis, tsuga diversifolia, cephalotaxus harringtonii, and thujopsis dolabrata var. hondae. I grow most of these guys in pots. Although I've never propagated any of them but would really like to one day. All of these listed will grow in your area.

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked Heruga (6b/7a NJ)
  • DeanW45

    Who is my favorite child? Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker', Abies koreana 'Silberlocke', Abies koreana 'Aurea', Abies pinsapo 'Aurea', Abies pinsapo 'Fastigiata', numerous Chamaecyparis obtusae (but especially 'Chirimen'), Picea orientalis 'Skylands' (although I have three of the plain species that I also love), Picea omorika 'Pendula Bruns', Cryptomeria japonica 'Rasen', Cryptomeria japonica 'Araucarioides', Cryptomeria japonica whatever, Taiwania cryptomerioides, uhhh… I think I'm in danger of just listing all of my conifers. Funnily enough (for a Pinaceae guy), I'm not a huge fan of pine trees, although I make an exception for Pinus parviflora. I am certainly forgetting something, but I love whatever I'm forgetting, too.

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)

    Dean, do you have success growing Abies koreana 'Ice Breaker'?

  • DeanW45

    Like many others here, I'm on my third one. I purchased my first in my newbie days, when I didn't know anything about rootstocks. It died in year one. My second was on koreana rootstock, and it made it 1.5 years. My third is on firma rootstock, and it's going strong in year 3. It's in partial sun, and I keep it well watered. Here's a spring picture from this year:

  • whaas_5a

    Mine was on a east slope. I tried not to water is except for a sip here and there.

  • whaas_5a

    Here are a few I really enjoyed

    Picea abies Pusch - loaded with nice little cones and pleasing green needles

    Picea pungens Straw - look at the color, enough said

    Picea abies Dandylion - Bob Fincham = Genius

    Pseudotsuga menziesii Hillside Gold - Its gold in the winter and then its spring flush is agua blue green....no joke

    Picea pungens Walnut Glen - again look at the color enough said

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked whaas_5a
  • Garen Rees

    That Pseudotsuga menziesii 'Hillside Gold' is pretty cool.

    Here is Picea pungens 'Straw' at Rowe Arboretum. I won't plant anymore blue spruce (well, this one's not so blue) in my yard due to the needle cast.

  • Mens Tortuosa(5b Omaha, NE)

    Based on the criteria of compact size, ease of culture, disease resistance, wide climate range, availability, color, shape, and texture, my pick for the one conifer that should look great in almost any garden is juniperus horizontalis 'Limeglow'. The Good Vibrations juniper from Proven Winners seems to be virtually identical to it. For a real one-two punch knockout, pair Limeglow or Good Vibrations with an upright or globose blue conifer.

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked Mens Tortuosa(5b Omaha, NE)
  • Mens Tortuosa(5b Omaha, NE)

    Since I may have misinterpreted the question, the one conifer that I personally could not do without in my own garden would be juniperus chinensis 'Kaizuka' AKA 'Torulosa'. It is a tree with the natural form of a blazing inferno that I just think is wondrous.

  • ademink

    Chamaecyparis/Cupressus (where did we land on this finally? lol) nootkatensis 'Van den Akker'....or really any of the nootkatensis. They are so graceful and stunning!

  • plantkiller_il_5

    Glauca Pendula

  • ademink

    Gorgeous. Everything that is right about a conifer. ;)

  • ademink

    When first planted at the top of my pond...

    Van den Akker

    Same tree as in first photo

  • stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)

    Green Arrow

    'Pendula'. I wish my 'Pendula' was in a bigger spot because it will eventually outgrow it. I guess I'll prune it eventually. Anyone prune their Weeping Alaskan Cedars?

    Strict Weeper

    Van den Akker

    ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6) thanked stuartlawrence (7b L.I. NY)
  • whaas_5a

    Ademink, you’ve been holding out on us!

  • maackia

    Yes, that garden looks amazing!

  • ademink

    Thanks everyone! :D My gardens have been in a big of a state of disrepair and I just took this past summer to start taking them back. Life took over for several years but it was wonderful to plant, move and shape things again! I forgot how much I love it.

    Stuart, you have some stunning specimens! I've not had to prune any of mine.....YET......but I think it will be in my future with one that I planted near a fence. They're so soft and pliable, I'm hoping it'll just kind of bend itself to where I don't have to cut anything. Yours looks like it has a lot of room still to stretch out and maybe you can just forget about walking around it. LOL

    I have that same situation with a Fagus sylvatica 'Purple Fountain' that's planted near my driveway. It's a good 30' or so tall now and it's arms are hanging over the driveway and sidewalk. I'm already trying to figure out how to build some sort of support to let it continue to grow without impeding the paths. I'll likely just start parking in the street instead. LOL!

  • PRO
    K&D Landscape Management

    Pinus densiflora aka Japanese Red Pine. Love this conifer the most! Though these pics are from the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL., I have had one in my back yard for fifteen years. It gets more interesting each year as bark character develops. Saw fly larvae are a bit of an issue, but other than that it has been a great performer.

  • plantkiller_il_5

    tanyosho compacta

    dead center in photo

    8 mi. north of morton arboretum

  • Jeff Singleton

    Sorry for the lack of scientific names (I live in Maine if that helps) but I love.....red pine (love the bark, long green needles, and conical/neat growing habit compared to white pines), blue spruce (a struggle to grow healthy ones here but mine are doing pretty good), hemlock (unfortunately porcupines love them too) and balsam fir. (the smell, the soft needles, grow quickly....the ultimate Christmas tree).

    I'll try to take some winter pics soon.

  • bengz6westmd

    Nice Japanese red pine, but in many US areas they're vulnerable to the deadly Pine Wilt Nematode.

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