Answer: Mature conifers can be difficult to garden beneath for several reasons. It is a large tree with strongly competitive roots taking moisture and nutrients from the soil and then the canopy blocks rain and sun from reaching the ground. And many years of fallen needles can acidify the soil as well. So establishing new plants there can be a challenge. You might try hosta, epimedium, and lamium. These will need careful watering the first year or two while they become established. You could also try shade tolerant annuals such as impatiens in a large container for additional flower color during the summer. Sometimes too it makes more sense to put a comfortable bench beneath the tree and then plant your garden in spot you can see easily from the bench -- and with better growing conditions. Your local professional nursery staff may have additional suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the planting area and your overall design goals.
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