Conifers — plants with seed-bearing cones — are versatile and attractive additions to the landscape. Many popular selections are cold-hardy to USDA zone 4, providing evergreen color and structure long after seasonal flowers fade and deciduous plants lose their leaves.
Most conifers need minimal maintenance. An occasional trim to shape the plant and remove dead or storm-damaged branches, done with hand pruners or a bypass lopper, will be all that is necessary. Conifers can have sharp needles, so wear leather gloves, even the kind with gauntlets to protect your forearms, when you work with these kinds of plants. Sticky sap can accumulate on tools and your skin when you cut conifers. Use alcohol, baby wipes, or a special hand cleaner to remove it easily.
Harrison Tuttle started collecting conifers when he moved into his home on a half-acre property in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2005. Today he has a collection of more than 500 conifers (from 16 genuses), including cedars, cypresses, firs, junipers, larches, hemlock, pines, redwoods, spruces and yews.
Designing with conifers
You may not be ready to take the plunge with conifers, but you'll be amazed at how just a few scattered throughout your garden can boost its year-round appeal. Take a private tour of Harrison’s conifer garden in North Carolina, and discover 7 great ways to use conifers in any garden.