Our own love of conifers has come about because we love plants with interesting colours, textures and forms. To celebrate the conifer we have compiled our top 10 list of must-visit conifer gardens.
Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent
The National Pinetum at Bedgebury was established as the National Conifer Collection in 1925. It is now recognised as the most complete collection of conifers on one site anywhere in the world and is a Historic Arboretum Grade II. The collection has over 10,000 trees specimens growing across 320 acres; including rare, endangered and historically important specimens. The Pinetum is home to some 91 vulnerable or critically endangered species and five NCCPG National Collections (Yew, Juniper, Thuja, Lawson Cypress and Leyland Cypress) and contains some of the oldest and largest examples of conifers in Britain.
Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, Sussex
The Pinetum at Wakehurst was first developed by Gerald Loder, who owned the Wakehurst estate from 1903 to 1936. He originally planted conifers on the southern side of the estate but, realising this land was too small, extended the collection by planting it in its present location in the 1920s. After Loder died, the Pinetum was neglected until a programme of clearing and thinning revealed some particularly rare specimens of conifers that seemed to thrive in Wakehurst’s environmental conditions.
The bridge over the Long Ponds and the Rock Garden
RHS Wisley, Surrey
The Royal Horticultural Society was given Wisley in 1903, although at that time only a small part of the 24 ha (60 acre) estate was actually cultivated as a garden, the remainder being wooded farmland. The original garden was the creation of George Fergusson Wilson – businessman, scientist, inventor and keen gardener and a former Treasurer of the Society.
Westonbirt – The National Arboretum, Gloucestershire
The historic, Victorian picturesque landscape and internationally important tree and shrub collection is managed by the Forestry Commission and supported by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum. The 15,000 labelled trees (around 2,500 different types) come from Britain, China, North America, Japan, Chile and other temperate climates. Planting started in the 1850s by Robert Holford; the rich Victorian landowner to whom the Westonbirt estate belonged.
Blarney Castle and Gardens, Ireland
Blarney Castle’s arboretums and pinetum contain a collection of specimen trees that is one of the finest in the country. Many of the trees in the collection are rare and unusual, such as the Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis, Foxglove TreePaulownia tomentosa, Formosan Redwood Taiwanea cryptomerioides and Water Pine Glyptostrobus pencilis. They were mostly planted in the late 1970’s and 80’s, with many coming from the famous Hilliers Nursery in the UK. Some already existing mature trees such as Yews, Limes, Spanish Chestnuts and various conifers are much older, maybe up to 600 years old. The arboretums are currently being renovated and new specimens are being added every year to further enhance the collection.
Oregon Garden, Silverton, USA
The Conifer Garden, a great example of year-round interest, boasts one of the largest collections of dwarf and miniature conifers in the United States. Some are one-of-a-kinds and have been collected from around the world. The garden also includes a variety of companion plants such as Japanese maples, Daphnes, heathers and heaths.
The National Arboretum, Washington, USA
The centrepiece of the National Arboretum Conifer Collection is the Gotelli Collection of Dwarf and Slow Growing Conifers. Although many of the plants are more than 50 years old, they grow extremely slowly; the smallest plant of those that date back to the start of the collection is a Hinoki false cypress that is about 10 inches in height with a spread of 16 inches. This fascinating collection contains a range of colours, forms and textures that is sure to leave you in awe of the diversity of conifers.
Whistling Gardens, Canada
The conifer collection now surpasses 2,500 different species, hybrids and cultivars. This collection is the largest in the world on display for the public. Many specimens in the collection are the only ones in the country. The Conifer Garden has approximately 1,100 specimens but conifers are found in nearly every garden. The collection contains an extremely rare Chinese Silver Leafed Cathaya (Cathaya argophylla), one of the 2 known plants in Canada. It also features one of the rarest plants in the world – Baishan Fir (Abies beshanzuensis). Only 3 wild specimens remain!
The Botanical Garden, Germany
The Botanical Garden was planted as early as 1927 as a teaching and experimental garden for scientific purposes. The aim was and is to arrange plants, shrubs and trees systematically and to classify them according to their characteristics. The botanical attractions include the Conifer Collection, amongst others. A completely individual, calm atmosphere is exuded by this dry, fragrant forest where, alongside native conifers, araucaria from Chile, the European thuja, ginkos and Japanese nutmeg-yews grow. In addition, there are also exotics such as the sequoia from the West coast of America, the maritime pine and the oldest cryptomeria group in North Rhine Westphalia.
And not forgetting, of course, Lime Cross Nursery Pinetum!