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Dwarf Conifers Proving their Worth

This article was first published on 11 Sep 2020.



Photo by the Otago Daily Times

In 1999 opportunity knocked on an undeveloped space in the Dunedin Botanic Garden between the rock garden and the arboretum. A bare grass bank offered a blank canvas for increasing the plant collections.

The clay-based slope faces north west and is exposed to the elements – sunny, windy and dry - most conifers thrive in these conditions.  The perfect solution for the site was a collection of dwarf conifer cultivars.

Already on the site were a few established conifers such as the beautiful weeping blue cedar, Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’, Sequoia ‘Adpressa’ and Sequoia ‘Santa Cruz’. These plants provided the backbone to the new plant collection along with large conifers in the arboretum on the hill above including deodar cedar, Cedrus deodara; California redwood, Sequoia sempervirens and western red cedar, Thuja plicata.

Dwarf conifers were already dotted throughout the nearby rock garden, so this new collection provided a link through to the arboretum, increasing the scope and diversity of the existing conifer collection.

The aim was to display as many different species, forms and colours as possible in the space.

In 2001 the first half closest to the rock garden was developed and planted, then the collection was extended in 2012 along the bank behind the administration house. There are currently around 115 different species and cultivars in the collection.

The collection is now well established and successfully shows off a wide variety of colours, shapes and textures with scattered changes of foliage colour in winter and new growth in spring.