“In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
It’s hard to imagine a winter without beautiful evergreen conifer trees providing us with constant protection, beauty and gifts to see us through the cold months ahead.
Conifers are evergreen trees that produce pinecones and remain alive and full bodied in all seasons. Most are part of the pine tree family and all have needles on their branches. Familiar species of New England evergreen conifers are hemlock, spruce, blue spruce, fir, and white pine. It is not surprising that many gardeners choose to incorporate these beautiful and beneficial trees into their landscapes.
Not only are these evergreen conifer trees beautiful in the bleak winter months—they also serve as a wind, sound and air pollution barrier for our homes. They provide much needed shelter for many species of wildlife—from the grey squirrels who build their nests deep within the top limbs to the white tailed deer that bed down together under the wide branches at the base of ancient evergreens in stormy weather. And, of course, the trees are homes to dozens of species of native non-migrating birds that take cover in their branches. In fact, it’s quite common for several species of birds to co-exist peacefully in the same tree.
The pinecones that drop from conifers in the fall and throughout the winter are yet another gift of the magnificent conifer evergreen trees. The cones can be found in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the species of tree they originate from. There are tiny cones that are no more than an inch long and ½ inch wide to the 4-6 inch curved, sap saturated, sticky ones and the desirable 2-3 inch round and wide medium sized cones that are perfect for displaying in baskets and making crafts and wreaths. One walk in the woods can yield numerous pinecones—and when dried out—the cones make excellent fire starters for wood stoves and fire places as well as bringing a woodsy feeling to the inside.
The New England woods are full of formidable native evergreen trees, allowing those of us who call this region home a constant reminder of all that is alive throughout the year—even when we are in a deep freeze in the dead of winter.