Pests and Diseases Affecting Conifer Trees
A short space should be devoted here to mention that like most other groups of plants, conifers have their enemies. Pests can be troublesome on certain conifers and our old friend Picea glauca ‘Albertiana Conica’ is one of these. Spider-mites can attack this and other conifers during late spring and early summer.
Usually a close check from time to time will be all that is necessary, but it is nonetheless worth doing. These insects can suck at the fresh shoots of the plant and cause the needles to drop. Spider-mites are usually reddish in colour and visible to the naked eye.
A spray over the affected plants with meta-systox or some other systemic insecticide should clear these up. Spraying should be carried out preferably in the evening or on a dull day, otherwise scorching of young shoots can occur. It is also advisable to follow up this first spraying (before any damage is evident by the insects) with another two weeks later. This will ensure that any eggs which have since hatched out will be given the same treatment.
There are several biting and sucking insects, many too small to be seen without a magnifying glass, which if given metasystox as described can be rendered harmless. This particular chemical is systemic, which means after being sprayed on the plant it becomes absorbed into the plant system and remains for at least a week to be sucked in by the offending insect, thereby destroying itself.
Making the best use of Conifers I have covered the basic uses of conifers in this preliminary text, but I feel it is necessary to stress as I do throughout this site that it is the combination of shapes, colours and forms of conifers together with other selected garden plants that can do so much to add beauty and interest to the garden. It will I hope become evident as you look through thid site that conifers have a hundred uses in a garden.
The artificial dwarfing and pruning of trees, much better known as the art of Bonsai has not been referred to and will not be included in this section on conifers, but Bonsai culture does add yet a further dimension to the widespread uses of conifers.
The greens, blues, yellows and golds are so varied among the conifers that if carefully placed can highlight the garden scene both in summer and winter. In my opinion the combination of groupings of conifers and heathers is hard to beat. One can achieve a patchwork of form and colour, attractive the year round, giving a relaxing yet sophisticated garden scene. Although some considerable work may be necessary to establish this garden and some thought put to it, once planted, very little aftercare is needed.
There is not space in this section on conifers to go into any detail on heathers, but I would like to ask the reader to carefully look at the garden scenes in the colour section where conifers and heathers are planted together. Being generally low growing in habit and covering a flowering period often to eleven months, they can make a perfect setting for conifers.
Heathers are good ground coverers and relatively trouble free although a careful study of specialist catalogues is worth the trouble before buying and planting. Ideas for planting plans can also be explored, but generally it is most effective to have large groupings of heathers interspaced with various single specimens of conifers. Peat should be added for the “Heaths”— Calluna vulgaris varieties and some other summer flowering varieties, and a peat mulch is always an advantage when first planting to keep down, retain moisture and to enable the heathers to establish themselves. With a close study of eventual height and rate of growth an attractive island border can be created using only conifers.
It will generally be advisable however to plant only the dwarf and slow growing varieties, particularly in an island border, as otherwise they will soon look out of proportion to each other and the rest of the garden. An effective planting can be made using more than one of a kind. A grouping of 3 to 5 of one variety adds interest particularly when the plants are small. Enough space must be allowed between the plants to give growing room, and a careful choice to vary the upright and semi-prostrate types with the bushy and prostrate.
Using these forms together with variations of colour and you should be able to create a border of continual interest for many years to come.