Lower, slower growers offer great variety

Phyllocladus alpinus ‘Cockayne’s Blue’
Phyllocladus alpinus ‘Cockayne’s Blue’
The conifer collection at Dunedin Botanic Garden contains a large number of dwarf conifers of various shapes, sizes and colours.

It is perhaps somewhat misleading, but in horticulture the use of term "dwarf" refers to the annual rate of growth and estimated size after 10 years, not their eventual size.

The following is a selection of dwarf native cultivars growing in the collection. The original specimens of these were propagated from plants found in the wild or from sports or unusual growth variations found on garden specimens.

Phyllocladus alpinus ‘Cockayne’s Blue’ is a beautiful blue-leaved form of mountain toatoa. Growing into low mounds, it is very dwarf in comparison to the 6m-tall parental tree.

Dacrydium cupressinum ‘Charisma’ has gorgeous weeping yellow foliage and is very slow growing, reaching 3m after 10 years. This golden rimu was discovered growing in the wild by Taranaki nursery man Vance Hooper.

Podocarpus totara ‘Aurea’ will reach only half the height of the species. Imagine the delight of the person who came across this in the wild — perhaps seeing the stunning yellow from afar before investigating further. It responds well to pruning and requires full sun for the best colour.

Podocarpus nivalis ‘Bronze’ is an almost prostrate selection of snow totara. The bronzy green growth deepens in colour in winter.

Lepidothamnus ‘Green Cascade’ is a naturally occurring hybrid of L. laxifolius and L. intermedius, found growing wild at Arthur’s Pass by plantsman Walter Brockie. It is flat growing and more vigorous than L. laxifolius, but tiny in comparison with L. intermedius, which grows into a small tree. As the name suggests, it looks great tumbling down a bank.

The conifer cultivar collection can be explored at the Opoho Rd end of the rock garden.

Garden Life is produced by Dunedin Botanic Garden. For further information contact Robyn Abernethy.