Conifers are grouped botanically into six tribes: Araucaria, cypress, fir, podocarpus, taxodium and yew.
While some of these names may not to known to the home gardener, many are recognised by sight owing to the obvious fact that most bear cones, a guide to their identity. This feature prompted the title (as a compound Latin word derived from Cornus, a cone and fero bearing).
Not all conifers have these cones, and the seeds of junipers are found within a berry-like structure composed of tightly closed fleshy scales. Those of the yew contain a hard nut-like seed in a fleshy capsule.
Conifers will grow in Tamworth and although most reach tree-size, there are many smaller varieties ranging from 1 metre to 5 metres in height. A nursery I once worked at in Sydney had 156 different species of conifers, most of which were grown from cuttings while others were grafted especially the genus called Chamaecyparis, which is a dwarf conifer frequently grown by home gardeners in rockeries.
There is an infinite variety of conifers in size, colouring and habit of growth. Some, such as the Compressus sempervirens (the Italian cypress), are narrow and columinar in habit.
The Pinus radiata, or Monterey pine, is massive both in size and breadth. The symmetry of growth in some has special appeal and the colours vary from many shades of blue to green or golden which can be used to create an effect in the garden.
The golden cypress, for instance, can be used as a focal point or as a hedge. The Atlas cedar Cedrus atlantica glauca also can be used as a point of focus in the garden.
The bookleaf pine is a popular evergreen conifer which can grow to two metres, and can be planted facing the western sun.
In the Tamworth area, a trip to Hanging Rock to the Ponderosa State Forest is well worth a visit. A grove of conifers, some of which were planted in the early 1950s, are all named.
Conifers do not need to have a special type of soil as they are tolerant of poor soil conditions and will grow in places where evergreen trees do not.
There are a few confiers native to Australia, one being the huon pine, Dacrydium franklinii, which grows in the Franklin River area in Tasmania. It has been known to reach 100 feet in height.
In Tamworth, there are several bunya bunya pines, Araucaria Bidwillii. In East Tamworth are some hoop pines, Araucaria cunninghamii.
Both these pines grow from one small seed and will grow to 80 feet in height.
One of the most beautiful conifers is the Cupresus conybeare aurea, which has hanging golden needles.