Miniature Conifers

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When it comes to conifers, most are evergreen (the Dawn Redwood is an exception), but they vary in size and shape from miniature trees with a tall "forested" look to miniature shrubs that work well along town streets and look great when planted in pairs flanking entrances and doorways houses. Far from being a monotonous dark forest green in colour, many names varieties come in bright shades of lime and chartreuse, and some are vaiegated.


Photo by Becky Herzog.

Miniature coniferous trees form the "backbone" of a new planting -- herbacous ground cover plants will added next, to stabilize the soil and complete the scene.

The coastal region known as the North Bay Area is an area of mixed Oak lands, pasture lands, and dense coniferous forests, characterised by our most spectacular tree, the Coast Redwood. For those of us who live in the "Redwood Empire," nothing says "home" like a forest of evergreen conifers. They love our climate and adapt well to the garden railway environment.

Included on many REGRS layouts are various species of mannerly and slow-growing conifers that, with only light and regular pruning, will retain their shape and size for a decades. Some people call these selected miniatures "natural bonzai trees," but unlike a true bonzai, they live right in the ground, year round. Most of them need thorough and frequent watering to thrive, and a sprinkler or drip irrigation system is an essential part of the planning that goes into extablishing your own miniature evergreen forest.


Coniferous trees that may be adaptable to your area are:

  • Alpine Fir
  • Mountain Hemlock
  • Juniper communis compressa
  • Arborvitae
  • Dwarf Mugho Pines such as 'Mitsch Mini'
  • Pinus banksia varieties with 1/2 inch needles such as Pinus banksia 'Manomet' are very slow growing. Mine is 2 feet tall in 20 years, and absolutely beautiful.
  • Several Pinus flexilis varieties only grow 1/2 to 11/2 inches a year.
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides or Dwarf Eastern White Cedars such as 'Little Jamie', 'Meth Dwarf', 'Top Point', 'Andelensis Conica' and 'Ericoides' do well in warm, dry areas if given afternoon shade.
  • There are over a hundred varieties of Chamaecyparis obtusa or Hinoki Cypress that take many years to reach a foot or two; named varieties include 'Bess', 'Densa', 'Laxa', 'Intermedia', 'JR', 'Hage', 'Juniperioides', 'Nana', and 'Green Cushion.'
  • Another Cypress, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Green Globe', does well in the shade in hot areas.
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera plumosa compressa or Club Moss Cypress seems to do well in Southern California, even in the smog.
  • The Thuja occidentalis varieites Tiny Tim and Hetz Midget are worth looking for.
  • Picea glauca 'Conica' or Dwarf Alberta Spruce looks like a peprfect evergreen when you purchase it, but if not pruned, it may reach 4 to 6 feet in height, so plan ahead. </UL You can join the American Conifer Society to receive regular information about the many varieties of dwarf conifers.