In much of the country, much of the landscape goes barren from fall through spring. Evergreens are typically the workhorse plants that carry us through.
But not all evergreens are created equal. A subset called conifers provide not only year-round greenery but ornamental cones that command attention, feed birds (and sometimes humans), and can be used for crafts.
"Conifers are the cornerstone of the landscape and provide great beauty and function," Vincent A. Simeone, horticulturist and public garden director, said. And he should know: Simeone is the author of "Great Landscape Evergreens" (Chicago Review Press), a 2008 guide to more than 80 species of trees and shrubs that can be used in borders, or as hedges, green fences, privacy screens or to hide undesirable views.
Defined as trees or shrubs that bear cones, conifers have "thin, needle-like foliage and typically a dense habit that can be effective as a specimen, screen or tall hedge," he said.
"There are many popular conifers, as well as a few lesser-known species, that present fine-textured foliage ranging from rich green to blue green to gold. Conifers add a unique textural quality that provides four seasons of landscape interest."
And their cones are as varied as the trees themselves. Here are six of Simeone's favorite conifers suited for American gardens. Consider planting one or more for exceptional off-season interest.