I have a prostrate silver fir which has suddenly grown a vertical shoot right in the middle. Should I cut it out or leave it?
This is a common problem with prostrate, especially varieties of the silver fir (Abies). It is very important to remove the vertical shoot as early as possible. Cut it out with sharp secateurs at the point from which it arises on the horizontal stem. If it is left, more vertical growths will arise, until the plant has lost all its character.
What is the best place infor a bed of dwarf conifers and how should I go about preparing the soil for planting them?
Conifers do best in open situations with sun for at least part of the day. Do not put them under larger trees. Prepare the soil by adding plenty of organic matter and removing all. If you are to grow heathers (Calluna) with your conifers, the soil will need to be acid, so dig in .
I have a Lawson cypress whose branches are beginning to fall sideways, especially after they have been weighed down by snow. What can I do about it?
The first thing to do on winter mornings is to knock any snow off your conifer trees, so that it never has a chance to build up. You can also loop polypropylene twine loosely around the tree every 450-600 mm (18-24 in) to bring the branches closer to the trunk. I have seen plastic pea and bean netting, with a 150 mm (6 in) mesh, tied around a conifer to keep the branches in place. They will eventually grow through the netting and mask it. The problem is especially difficult if more than one main shoot has become established, so it is wise to cut out all but one of the rival leaders on young plants.
I would like to plant a golden conifer as a specimen in the corner of the garden. Can you suggest a variety that will grow fairly quickly but not get too big?
There is no such thing as a conifer that will grow quickly and then stop. However, here are some suggestions. The golden form of the very popular Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii ‘Castlewellan’) is quick-growing -but eventually it will lose its gold; the golden Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’) is slower. But will still become fairly large eventually; the Lawson cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Lanei’) is a stage slower again, eventually reaching about 9 m (30 ft); the variety CI. ‘Stewartii’ is a good alternative, and ‘Winston Churchill’, a striking dense gold, is even slower-growing.
Can you suggest a good prostrate conifer to hide a manhole cover?
The junipers are best: the savin (Juniperus sabina ‘Tamariscifolia’) is especially flat, while dwarf common juniper (/. communis’Homibrookii’) runs along the ground at first. Building up a little later. Two varieties of creeping juniper (/. horizontalis) hug the ground very closely: ‘Emerald Spreader’, and ‘Glauca’ with its sea-green foliage.