Amid all the lush tropicality of the plants we grow in the Southeast, sometimes I crave something a bit more conservative. Think Scandinavian: efficient, solidly built, and designed to stand strong through the spare times of winter—in other words, something coniferous. Dwarf conifers may be unadorned with flowers, but they have gorgeous profiles, elegant textures, steadfast shades of green and blue, and even touches of gold.
There’s no substitute for a dwarf conifer when that is what your gardening heart desires. However, many a Southern heart has been broken by the traditional dwarf selections of spruces (Picea spp. and cvs., Zones 2–8), firs (Abies spp. and cvs., Zones 3–8), and yews (Taxus spp. and cvs., Zones 5–8). Zone 8 in Portland, Oregon, is not the same as Zone 8 in Portland, Alabama, come July. Northern species of conifers melt faster here than Frosty on a sunny day. But all…
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