Simon Bax works in Glazebury at Bents Home and Garden as a horticultural specialist

THIS is the time of year we like to have a fresh start and make all those well intentioned resolutions for the year ahead.

Christmas is over and those of you who opted for a real cut tree will be clearing it away, drawing your attention perhaps to a group of much maligned and underrated plants, the conifers.

I can hear the groans already – but they might be worth trying in your garden or containers for a change.

Often we consider them as useful for a screen and little else – the top choice is often x leylandii because it is so quick and tolerant of most conditions.

But it often grows away and then is hard to control and while fast may be an advantage early on, it soon becomes a burden.

This plant has done a lot to colour people’s view of the whole conifer family.

If you want a good thick evergreen screen one of the thujas is a much better bet – slower but ultimately a lot less work.

It is a huge family of plants and there are conifers suitable for every position – they often look, being structural and largely evergreen, really good in a pot.

In addition they get very little wrong with them and apart from watering and the occasional prune, need little care.

They are available in a myriad of subtle colours from silvery blues and greys through every shade of green to yellow, gold and copper.

They can be had in many intriguing shapes – weeping (which can be staked to give height or left to form ground cover), bun-shaped, conical, pyramidal, totally flat or gloriously asymmetric.

They can also be soft and fluffy or spiky with needles or drop their leaves shaped like ducks feet in shades of gold.

I’ll highlight three favourites:

Pinus mugo ‘Carsten’s Wintergold’

A slow growing pine that makes a broadly bun shaped plant about 2ft tall after 10 years.

Its main claim to fame is the winter colour – the colder the more golden, ending up almost orange in a severe winter.

Tsuga Canadensis ‘Pendula’

Although large eventually this is slow enough to stay in a pot for years with cascading feathery grey green needles and is good in shade.

Picea pungens ‘Kosteri’

Known as ‘blue spruce’, they slowly make tiered ice blue pyramids that double up brilliantly as a Christmas tree.

Happy New Year