Coniferous trees can make real statements in yards, with their stately size, interesting shapes, and deep green colour year-round. They are relatively easy to care for, provide plenty of shelter and food for Calgary’s birds, and are extremely hardy.
These are all good things, but as we work with our commercial and residential landscaping clients, we have been noticing that some are choosing to move away from choices like the intrepid pine when picking their greenery for their gardens. We can understand this, as pine trees do come with their pluses and minuses. A little more understanding about the pine and other coniferous choices can help you make the right decision for your property.
What is a coniferous tree, anyway?
“Pine” is actually quite often used as a catch-all phrase to encompass all varieties of coniferous trees. Coniferous trees are those that do not lose their foliage in the winter and that stay green throughout the winter. They also produce cones, which is where the name “coniferous” comes from.
The four main varieties of coniferous trees that you will see in Alberta are:
- Pines. Pine have longer needles than other coniferous trees that are often clustered in bundles of from one to seven. Both the needles and branches grow in a spiral pattern.
- Spruce. The spruce can come in a number of different hues (think the blue spruce), and have stiff and pointy needles that are sharp to touch. Needles grow completely around the branch and cones point downwards.
- Junipers. The fragrant juniper comes in all shapes and sizes and are perfect for placement close to foundations and windows to help keep people away. Their needles are actually more correctly called “scales”, and they produce berries that are useful for health reasons.
- Cedars. Cedars can be hard to grow in Calgary as they don’t handle the extreme cold weather as well as other conifers, but are gorgeous when healthy and thriving. They have a great smell to them, and their foliage is less needle-like and more like a (very) pointed leaf.
- Fir. The fir differs from other coniferous trees in that their needles actually attach directly to branches. The needles also tend to point upwards, as do the cones, which can make them easily identifiable. Fir trees are among the most popular Christmas trees. Interestingly, the Douglas fir, a very common variety in Alberta, is not a true fir, but its own genus altogether.
Pros of coniferous trees
Coniferous trees are actually fast-growing as compared to other species of trees. It will only take about five years for a spruce to go from a mere seedlings to several metres tall. That means if you are looking to provide some privacy for your yard, a spruce or pine tree is a great bet.
- Pines and spruces are stunning in the winter when wrapped with lights.
- The cones coniferous trees produce can be used for all kinds of fun projects, from building a wreath to creating ornaments to building a bird feeder and more.
- The smell of coniferous trees adds a wonderful atmosphere to your yard.
- Coniferous trees are low maintenance, requiring little care to stay healthy.
Cons of coniferous trees
- In order to grow strong pine and spruce trees, the soil needs to be well-drained and rich in nutrients. Professional landscape developers such as us at Mirage can help you determine if you have the right conditions and work to improve your soil and drainage if needed.
- Some coniferous trees are susceptible to certain diseases, such as pine wilt and needlecast. We can help keep an eye out for signs of these issues and stop the problem before it becomes too serious.
- Cones being dropped all over your yard can create a bit of a mess. With professional landscaping services you don’t have to worry about stepping on cones all the time.
- Pine needles can be difficult to rake up and get rid of, but we have a lot of experience in this field. We can help keep your yard clear of needles. This is important, as needles are quite acidic and can make it difficult to grow anything underneath.
- Some insects such as beetles and weevils are attracted to the sticky sap created by coniferous trees.
Residential and commercial professional landscaping services from Mirage
Auburn Bay, Chaparral, Chaparral Valley, Copperfield, Cranston, Douglasdale, Heritage Pointe, Lake Bonavista, Mahogany, McKenzie Lake, Mackenzie Towne, Maple Ridge, New Brighton, Odgen/Lynwood/Millican, Parkland, Riverbend, Sundance, Walden, and Willow Park.
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