Conifers are very popular in the garden, usually as a utility hedging feature or for a simple topiary feature like above.
They can provide a great natural screening effect – giving the garden more privacy, shelter and it’s own micro climate. However, unchecked, conifers can be a really pain, rapidly growing in size overshadowing a garden throwing shade and drying up neighbouring gardens.
A real potential villain is Leylandii Cypress. It can grow 4 foot a year and is one of the fastest growing trees. It has many advantages if properly pruned – it is hardy, responds well to drastic pruning and soon provides a shelter. But, if left unpruned it can soon get out of control. (see: Dealing with problems of Leylandii)
Often we tend to lump conifers together. However, there is great variety and diversity within this species. There are different types which can offer a useful balance of evergreen colour in the garden.
Try varieties such as Thuja or Taxus (Yew) or Junipers. These provide a variety of shapes, sizes and speed of growing. Tall thin varieties can be great for the small garden.
The real secret of conifers is to be strict in an annual pruning schedule to keep them at the height and shape that you want. This will save you a big job of cutting them right down.
Compared to more native trees they support less wildlife, if you want to encourage birds into the garden, you would be better off with trees such as prunus, and Majus, but, if you want a quick windshield or a bit of evergreen colour they can be very good.