Friends and companions

One of the joys of any type of gardening is making new friends. Anytime I encounter someone with an interest in gardening, whether it be conifers, flowers, herbs, vegetables or all of the above, I usually discover I’ve found a new friend. Those who love gardening often exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: We enjoy the smell of garden soil, become excited at the mention of compost, are thrilled by a visit to the local garden center, and run our hands over any pleasantly aromatic plant to drink in its soothing aroma. Certainly there are other symptoms, but these were the first to come to my mind.

Just recently I’ve made a new friend in a  fellow garden blogger. True, she hasn’t completely converted to Coniferism (yet), but she does have some interest in my favorite plants, so there is hope. She actually suggested that perhaps I may be a little biased in my gardening focus – but hey, I am expanding my plant interest just a little this year.

I’ve been thinking about companion plants for my conifers. One of the first questions I ask myself when considering companion plants is, will they be complementary or draw attention away from my conifers. Other considerations are whether or not they will be pleasing to my wife and if they will provide anything for the critters in the garden or surrounding area. I do believe I have found a genera of plant that will meet those needs which include a number of species and many hybrids satisfying my current specifications.

Conifers and Lavender
The lavender colored flowers of French Lavender look great near the conifers in this display garden at Iseli Nursery.

My wife and I have both enjoyed the few assorted Lavender plants we have included in our garden and containers over the years. In our climate, Lavender seems plenty hardy and at least semi-evergreen. It offers a delicious scent all year-round, an assortment of greens and grays, and silvery color tones in its foliage and when in bloom from late spring and into autumn, it supplies its wonderful lavender colored flowers which is the perfect complement for all the shades of green, blue, yellow, orange and red provided by my conifers and (my other favorite companion) Japanese maples.

I am excited to begin my exploration into the world of Lavender as I envision mounds of beautifully scented color around and amongst my conifers. I am convinced that the lively scent of both my conifers and lavender will fill my garden with a cocktail of calming aroma that will make my garden even more therapeutic than it is right now.

This year, when I visit my favorite garden center, I will surprise them all as I approach the check-out counter with a cart full of new conifers and a generous assortment of Lavender!

Conifer Lover

8 thoughts on “Friends and companions

  1. Ed, Thanks for the link to my blog. I am slowly making the leap to full-fledged ‘Conferism’. Last spring, I was at a garden center with a bunch of garden designers and I was oohing & aahing over the dwarf conifers (I bought my ‘Gold Cone’ junpier that day) and I told a friend I have a conifer fetish and she looked at me like I was crazy. I asked her if she used many in her designs and she admitted she just used large ones for screening. How sad!

    Ed, I could use your expert advice, if you wouldn’t mind helping out a newbie conifer lover. I’m looking for deer-resistant conifers that will take partial shade. Mature size should be less than 20′. Ideally I’d like to use sveral different one of varying height. Any suggestions you have would be welcome.


    1. Hi Debbie – I have no personal experience with deer in the garden, so I can only offer hearsay.

      I would think the first thing to do would be talk with folks around the local area where you are creating your design – see if they have any experience. It seems that deer will favor different plants in different areas – even different species of deer will have their own preferences. Also keep in mind that when food supplies become scarce, the deer will eat just about anything to survive.

      What I’ve heard is that deer will avoid certain scents, like mint or lemon. If that is true, there is one cultivar of Cupressus that comes to mind. C. macrocarpa ‘Donard Gold’ has a distinct lemony, citris-like scent. I’ve also heard that they avoid Cryptomeria japonica and cultivars though I wouldn’t consider them to be minty or lemony.

      I’ve also heard deer will avoid sticky plants, so the fact that they stay away from Pinus sylvestris and Pinus nigra may be a combination of the sticky resin and their pungent odor. The same may also explain why deer tend to stay away from Picea polita and Picea pungens.

      Although deer seem to enjoy Thuja occidentalis, they avoid Thuja plicata, so that could be an option.

      A great non-conifer evergreen that has become very popular due to its deer resistance is, Osmanthus heterophylla ‘Goshiki’.

      I’ll make contact with some of my friends in the mid-west/east coast and see if they can off any other suggestions.


      1. Debbie, I just remembered another one. Cephalotaxus. Apparently where the deer will completely strip Taxus to nothing, they don’t touch Cephalotaxus at all. C. harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’ would make a good screen.


      2. Ed, I did not know that some conifers have a lemony scent. I’ll have to look into the ones you mentioned and see if they’ll grow here (zone 6). I planted a little Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’ this fall. It’s covered by snow right now so hopefully it’s safe from browsing deer. And I do have a Cephalotaxus fortunei that the deer nibble on in the winter. This year I tried to protect it but the snow seems to have crushed my netting:( Thanks for the advice.


  2. Ed,
    I love your blog. I am a coniferite for sure.
    I love companion plants for seasonal color and design.
    A fav is haconochloa macra aureola, I have planted as a swoosh in my garden and it’s great with osmanthus goshiki.Hosta is nice in a shady corner with Nootkatensis pendula.Also the new dwarf buddleia as a ground cover( does bloom nice in part shade too! but not as many butterfies ). Hope to pass pictures on in the future.



    1. Thanks April! I love Hostas and I’ll have to investigate some of the others you mention. Post some pics over at the Facebook Page.


  3. Hi Ed,

    I am looking at building a 3 or 4 season room between my house and garage and I would love to turn it into a conservatory with several small (6′ max) conifers along with other plants. I would love to hear some suggestions for container sized conifers, the more aromatic the better!


    1. Hey, DC, that sounds like a great project. I’ll need to give this one some thought – might be worthy of a future post to be sure. One conifer that immediately springs to mind in the aromatic department is Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Wilma’. Beautiful lemon-yellow to bright green foliage (depending on exposure to sunlight) and a delightfully calming, lemon/citrus scent. Of course the scent is released best when the foliage is crushed or sheared, so even though this one would want to outgrow your space, you’ll be inclined to shear it regularly to release its wonderful perfume, which will in turn, control its size.


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