conifer suggestions for my front yard

soundJune 17, 2012

Hi, I'm really at a loss as to what kinds of conifers I should plant in one of the beds in my front yard. I'm looking for year-round interest, hence why I'll be planting mainly conifers...not all, but mainly.

I've attached four photos to show the current state of my front yard; the mainly empty bed to the far right is the one I'm wanting to fill. I'm doing this now so that once the fall comes, it'll just be a matter of buying and planting the plants.

So you know, the area gets "full sun" and is a USDA zone 5. The soil has a bit of clay but generally speaking, I think all with be fine as there are other conifers growing there with ease.

I'm not really sure if as-a-whole, the yard looks too busy already, so I find it difficult to decide if I should plant groups of same plants or if I'm still safe with a mixture and plants? Shape is also a concern I have. I seem to have plenty of pointy cone shaped plants so would any more be okay or would it overdo it?

From the Emerald Green Arborvitaes to the sidewalk I was was thinking of some kind of staggered screen reducing in height as it approaches the sidewalk. I'm wanting to fill-in the rest of the mulched area too but with lower growing plants, but I'm unsure about what might be the better choice to put there. Colours, shapes, and textures are all concerns.

I have access to several large nurseries so the potential is there to plant something really interesting.

Another thing I question is if I should replace the large Alberta Spruce with something more to scale and with a different shape. With such a mature tree, I would feel kind of bad cutting it down, or maybe not. Sometimes I think something better should be there.

Oh, when looking at the photos, don't pay attention to the rocks under the Alberta Spruce and in front of the Arborvitaes. They haven't found their permanent place yet.

Any suggestions are welcome.

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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)


Referring to the first photo one thing comes into mind here.

Whatever you plant I would stay with dwarfs and miniatures. You don't want to overwhelm that small ares with conifers that will block the view of your house in 8-10 years.

I would landscape that area with boulders, you have a start, and tuck small uprights and ground hugging conifers in and around them.

You will need one focal point dwarf upright. Something on the order of Picea pungens 'Sester Dwarf' would be a consideration. 1-2 small dwarf trees. Metasequoia glypt. 'Schirrmann's Nordlicht' aka 'North Light' and Ginkgo biloba 'Troll' as examples. Go to Iseli and down load their new on line catalog. Also Buchholz has 100's of dwarf varieties for your consideration. Remember color and balance are a must and don't clutter the area up with to many plants. There are also many examples of Sedum and Thyme ground covers that will add the final touch to this small area.

The area up by the steps I would sweep that circle down the side walk. If you want to get adventurous you could even tie it into the front island.

As far as the big Alberta I can't tell by that photo how it fits into the big picture. Judging by the size I would think a little overwhelming but maybe a good screen for an undesirable area. A decision you will have to make.


I would remove the upright...Alberta???. To generic to a 100 other forms that look like that.

Also the Picea spreader looks like it could become to large in time. Move it to another location in the fall.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 7:36AM
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i would keep the alberta incorporate it in the master plan.. at 1-2" growth per year, you know it won't infringe on your other choices...and it looks like a nice specimen! is this 'beat up dwarf alberta spruce week' ?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 12:02PM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)


And just what is your master plan that you would recommend this conifer stay?

Nobody's beating up on anything...just advising.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 1:14PM
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Thank you guys very much for responses! I am currently at work but will follow-up tonight with more information.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 1:56PM
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hey dave whassup... initially i thought we were talkin bout the alberta out front... didn't see the big one side of entry. as far as a plan, i believe the best time to plant a conifer is five years ago, so to have a smallish yet mature specimen like that is a very good thing. imho. they are expensive at that size. i wouldn't hesitate to move it as they transplant well and are drought tolerant. plan? conifers; blues, golds, greens, add a tamukeyama japanese maple for deep red, out front, shapes, textures... on the far side i might replace those purple leaf sandcherry's with eventual 15' conifer like moonglow juniper or baby blue eyes for winter screening as well. maybe a korean fir would fit there... bigger stuff in backround and taper height to the front of yard with a 'feature' specimen...Picea abies 'Reflexa' might look great there ;)

Here is a link that might be useful: 'Reflexa'

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 11:07AM
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Here's a better view of the empty bed that I want to plant something in this Fall (between the Emerald Greens and the Yellow Ribbon and also to the left of the Yellow Ribbon.

Secondarily, this is what I see when I walk out my front door and then from the sitting area on my veranda; right on a corner so very exposed. Since unfortunately there's a huge utility pole RIGHT in front of my house, I have to make the best out of a poor situation. I was thinking of having somewhat of a screen eventually with the Ginkgo biloba, Alberta spruce, and Bloodgood Japanese maple; then taper downward toward the walkway with the (please excuse any spelling errors) Picea pungens 'Globosa', Chamaecyparis obtusa, and Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Gold Mop'. Also in that front bed there's Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound', Sagina subulata 'Aurea', and Sedum acre 'Aureum'.

Here's what I have at the other end; a few of which will be getting moved this Fall. This bed consists of Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star', 3 Euonymus (that were salvaged from previous homeowner's beds), Purpleleaf Sandcherry (was also there from previous homeowner but I never moved it due to its size). I replaced the grass around the Sandcherry with what you see here. In this bed there's also Juniperus sabina 'Calgary Carpet', some Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue', Picea abies 'Nidiformis', Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Vintage Gold' (definitely getting moved this Fall; notice right side of plant that's not thriving due to lack of direct sun it would need to get moved anyway due to proximity to Sandcherry and Euonymus).

This is directly in front of my veranda that all I've done is get rid everything that was there except one shrub (planted too close too), and put down some mulch to help suppress weeds until I can redo the walkway into something wider and more flowing, and then figure out what to do.

This was from Spring 2011 when I was figuring out the new main walkway. Notice a few less plants.

Thank you very much. Looks I'll be doing a lot of reading about the suggestions made :)

Regarding the large Alberta spruce beside the entrance; it's unfortunate that it's so close to the house and not in more of an open space. It looks very bulbous in relation to the scale of everything else, but it'll probably stay for a while until the yard is more complete and then I can reassess.

Sorry for the large low-end photos.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 10:28PM
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it's coming along nicely... the walkway was a nice improvement... you might consider a betula utilis var. jacquemontii to hide the pole ;)

Here is a link that might be useful: j birch

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 11:31AM
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Dave, Iseli is amazing! Thank you. I haven't had a chance to check out Buchholz yet but I will.

I absolutely love colour but I have a fear of my front yard looking like circus. Do you have any tips to avoid making any colour mistakes?

I also have a few more fairly large rocks sitting in my backyard that I would ideally like to put to good use. All the rocks on my property were here when I bought this place so all the labour of getting them has been done. It�s just a matter of using them to their best potential. I�ve sorted them all and put all similar same types together and plan on using them that way. I think having mixed rock types in a planting bed isn't necessarily a reflection of what you would see in nature (i.e. it's fake looking). What do you think about that logic? What I�m trying to say is that ideally I would want all the same or very similar rock type in my front yard but I don�t have that luxury so the best I can do is at least keep the ones that are the same together to best represent nature. Hope you understand what I�m trying to say as I know it sounds hypocritical, seeing as how you would never find the plants in my front yard growing beside each other in nature anwyay.

I have one sedum and plan on getting more as they're interesting year-round and are good for ground cover. I'll definitely consider Thyme too.

I think once everything starts coming together more, the bed shapes will change slightly but for now I'm concerned with the 3 beds at each corner of my lot, and mainly the one that's basically empty; the one with the Thuja occidentalis 'Yellow Ribbon'.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 1:15PM
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