Captivating Conifers by Protek

Captivating Conifers by Protek

Conifers are mostly evergreen trees or shrubs with linear, needle-like or scale like leaves.  Amongst conifers are some of the smallest, largest, and oldest living woody plants on earth. Conifers make up about 45 % of the world’s annual wood production and as much as 85 % of the trees used in the making of paper products are coniferous.

Conifers are a common site in South African gardens.  They provide the garden with a sense of stability and structure and are regarded as a real asset, contributing towards the value of your property.  As they are long-lived, they become part of the framework of the garden.  They are extremely versatile and come in a variety of forms, colours, and textures. 

Conifer 2
conifer 3

Conifers are frost tolerant, and once established – are water wise.  They can be planted in a variety of climates right through the year, but early autumn planting is advantageous so they may establish their roots in winter.  They will be ready to start sprouting new shoots in spring.

Conifers can be planted next to walls and swimming pools due to their non-invasive root system and will not lift paving stones. Most require full sun, but the greys and greens will also grow in semi-shade.  Make sure there is sufficient space around your conifer, this will avoid them being cramped and lose shape if other plants overgrow them.

They need well-drained, slightly acidic soil which is rich in organic matter.  Enrich the soil when planting by adding compost, mulch and NutriGreen Gwano Pellets. Conifers are sensitive to chemical fertilisers, therefore feed them only with organic products.  Feed your trees monthly in the growing season with NutriGreen Gro Green.

Although conifers are relatively drought tolerant, regular watering is important, especially in dry areas and while establishing themselves. Water well until the roots become fully established and can seek out their own water.

They are valued for their sculptural qualities and can be clipped into hedging, trained into topiaries and provide height in the garden. They can be planted in containers and make excellent groundcovers.  Shapes vary from broad upright or oval, narrow upright, columnar with a gradually tapering column, conical, cushion or bun-shaped, round, weeping branches, ground hugging without upright growth, spreading, symmetrical with neat branching and foliage or irregular with an erratic growth pattern.

Conifers are low-maintenance plants which tend to keep their form. Any pruning should be done when the plant is dormant but dead and diseased branches should be removed immediately, regardless the time of year. To keep them neat and compact, they can be lightly clipped by gently cutting off the outermost branch tips.  If you prune too drastically by cutting too far in and clip the brown foliage, there is no going back and the plant may never fully recover.   

Mulching conifers is essential as it maintains the relatively cool soil temperatures that most of them prefer. Mulching also helps to conserve water and reduces weed competition.

Conifers only grow green on the outside as these are the youngest needles, the inner foliage of conifers which do not see light, ie. older needles, lose their colour and turn brown.

The other reason conifers turn brown is due to different diseases.  When they start to get brown patches it could be due to diseases caused by insects, fungi, bacteria or viruses.

One of the most common causes of brown patches is the cypress aphid.  The first sign you will notice is brown patches beginning to appear.  Unfortunately the damage done by these insects is only visible in October.  The best advice is to treat your plants preventatively with Protek Imidor as a soil drench at the roots of the conifer.  Also be on the lookout for ants around the conifers as their appearance is a tell-tale sign that the Italian Cypress Aphid is present.  The ants “milk” the aphids for honeydew, which is a food source to them.  The honeydew can also cause a secondary fungus infection, ie. suity mould.  Treat preventatively with, Protek Tenazole, a systemic fungicide. 

Garden conifers come in an array of year-round colours.  The colours range from dark green to lime yellow, blue, lavender, gold and silver.  Others are bi-color and have variegated foliage with patterns of stripes, spots and patches. 

Conifers will add an exciting and exotic feature to your garden, they are both elegant and majestic – plant one, or a couple – and enjoy their presence!

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