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Conifers are needle- or scale-leafed, mostly cone-bearing and usually evergreen members of the gymnosperm plant family. Only two evergreens, yew and juniper, bear fruit and a few, like cypress and larch, shed their leaves in the fall. There are 630 species of conifers and they are found in almost every part of the world.
Easy to maintain and generally long-lived, evergreen trees are often used for reforestation, and for privacy and ornamental purposes in gardens and landscapes. They come in a variety of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes. Before selecting conifers for planting, it is advisable to research the different species and understand their different growing requirements.
Factors that need to be considered include climate, soil type, area, water requirements, amount of required sunlight or shade, growth rate, mature tree size, tree shape, tree colors and textures, and price. Some conifers require cool or moist climates, while others can thrive in dry or temperate conditions. Most conifers require a loamy, well-drained soil, but a few can do well in clay soils as well.
Knowing the height and spread of a mature conifer can help determine a suitable planting location and the required planting distance between two trees. Tall trees like the Thuja, for instance, are used as privacy screens and are generally planted 15 to 20 feet (4.572 to 6.096 meters) apart. Smaller conifers like the Irish Juniper can be planted closer together to form borders and hedges. To plant a grove, evergreen trees can be planted in straight rows or in a random manner.
It is also important to consider the growth rate of the conifers and the maintenance they might require. Conifers are generally low-maintenance, are resistant to pests, and do well with annual fertilizing and mulching. Some varieties are fast-growing, while others can take years to mature. The growth rate and overall size is influenced to some extent by climate, region and cultivation.
The fast-growing varieties, depending on their shape, type and use, may require frequent trimming, pruning or training. Unless one is prepared to do this on a regular basis, it might be better to plant slow-growing evergreens or ones that have natural columnar, globular, pendulous or umbrella-like shapes. The evergreen tree shapes and colors also have to be considered in terms of their fit with the overall garden or landscape design.
It will help to visit local nurseries and inquire about evergreen trees that are suitable for planting in a particular area or for a particular purpose. It is also possible to check nursery catalogs on the Internet and place an online order for the evergreens. Some nurseries also offer garden and landscaping services if required.