Sunday, January 16, 2011

Evergreen Shrubs

Winter can be bleak in the garden.  The boisterous summer and fall colors are long gone and things may be looking forlorn.  That's why the "bones" of a garden are so important.  "Bones" are elements that provide structure even in the winter (See Signature Gardens excellent post on "bones" here).  As I was touring my neighborhood seeking out examples for this post, I saw a house looking decidedly bare, with no shrubs in sight.  While summer may be a different story, there was nothing to cheer in the dead of winter.  On the other hand, the house pictured above looks snug and welcoming with a generous and varied helping of evergreens.

While the winter garden can't compete with the lively summer show, you can have year round interest by including elements with a winter presence.  Evergreen shrubs are an excellent part of the picture and there are many options that go beyond the yews of yesteryear. 

Spreading Yew (Taxus repandens) is low growing with attractive arching branches, and won't grow out of bounds like other yews.  It's unfortunate that their lovely form is sometimes pruned into sheared balls. 

Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo) is a shrub with several dwarf cultivars (including 'Mops', 'Slowmound' and 'Paul's Dwarf') that grow to about 3' tall. 

Gold Mop False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Mops') offers vibrant foliage with a feathery texture.  This dwarf cultivar grows to about 3'.

Dwarf Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis') is a slow growing shrub with a pyramidal form for an upright element.

This large Golden Hinoki Cypress (perhaps Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Aurea' or 'Goldilocks' - 'Confucious' is a shorter variety) is a nice accent to Pieris japonica and Blue Spruce. 

Scotch Broom (Cytisus x praecox) is looking bright and full in December, with a unique texture.  This is a good example of the importance of botanical names - resources indicate that Cytisus x praecox is not invasive, while Cytisus scoparius is extremely invasive - read about it here.

This variegated Euonymus shrub (Euonymus fortunei cultivar) is a nice looking specimen -Euonymus shrubs generally don't have a uniform habit and can look unkempt.

This Cherry Laurel cultivar, perhaps 'Otto Luyken' (Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken'), has a nice scale- UConn Plant Data Base indicates a height of about 4 feet. 
Thanks to Carolyn of Carolyn's Shade Gardens for the correction.

Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata) is a versatile broadleaf evergreen shrub with a nice uniform shape and a fine texture.  There are a number of good cultivars including 'Green Luster' and 'Helleri'.

Inkberry (Ilex glabra) is another medium sized shrub with beautiful lustrous leaves, although it's leggy nature calls for some layering.

Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil' is a fastigiate upright Japanese Holly cultivar.

Evergreen is a misnomer for these azaleas, which bring beautiful color to the winter landscape.

Pieris japonica is another bright spot of color. A number of cultivars, such as 'Mountain Fire,' have red new growth.

Prague Viburnum (Viburnum 'Pragense') seems to be more reliably evergreen in zone 6 than Leatherleaf Viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum). 

This is a beautiful specimen of Rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense) shining in the midwinter.

More evergreen shrubs which are featured in my Fall Fruit post (click here to see it) are:
  • Firethorn (Pyracantha)
  • Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina)
  • Hollies (Ilex x meserveae)
Another classic broadleaf evergreen, Boxwood (Buxus), is pictured in my Christmas Accents post (click here to see it).

To see more foliage in Foliage Follow-up posts from around the world, visit Digging.

Evergreen shrubs will help give your garden structure to brighten those bleak winter months. 


Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this article as I don't tend to focus on evergreens as much as I should. I love dwarf Hinoki cypress with its unique look. Think the laurel is cherry laurel, Prunus laurocerasus, and not mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia.

Alistair said...

Chris, you have a great selection of plants for Winter interest. I have been concentrating on this in recent years,not quite there yet, but are we ever. I had to smile at your comment on the Yew Balls, what's wrong with me I bought a few of these already rounded to perfection. This was to replace Box topiary which had succumbed to blight. Also your Ilex Crenata makes a good alternative to a dwarf box hedge. Oh God there I go again.

p3chandan said...

No idea that these evergreen stay green even in winter! They are lovely too even mostly green. Interesting post!

Toni said...

Hey Chris, thanks so much for the link to my bones post!! Appreciate it. Wow, what a selection of evergreens you can grow in your area. Great colors of foliage, too! Love that maroon Azalea. Talk about bones...did you see the row of evergreen "soldiers" standing at attention in the background in that picture? I just designed some of the spreading yew into a client's garden. It's got such a soft ferny look. I can't imagine it pruned into balls. I always get on my soapbox about that! Don't care much for Euonymous of any kind -- scale insect magnets. Maybe it's just in this part of the country that the scale is so bad on them. Looks like that rhododendron is loaded with buds! Going to be a sight to see this spring :-) And you can't beat hollies!! Absolutely the ilex crenata or ilex vomitoria over boxwood any day!

The Whimsical Gardener said...

The spreading yew is so pretty...I'm not familiar with it...Toni can grow so much more in Dallas than we can here in Austin...I'll have to research a bit. Thanks for the evergreen inspiration!

lifeshighway said...

I very much want the Scotch Broom. I will have to look for it in my area (thanks for the warning).

Chris said...

lifeshighway: The Scotch Broom is a unique one - very different texture and looking so nice in winter. I hope you're able to locate it!

Cat: Spreading Yew is a pretty one! The deep green is so nice in the winter and I love the soft arching habit.

Toni: I'm happy to link to your great bones post! We all have our favorites - it's nice that there's such variety to choose from!

p3chandan: It's fun to see what grows in different parts of the world. That's part of the fun of Garden Blogs!

Alistair: It's hard to get it all working together all year long - takes some thought and planning. I enjoyed seeing your recent post featuring your garden - it's so beautiful!

Carolyn: I appreciate the correction! I get myself in trouble sometimes. I'm not sure why I wasn't familiar with this plant, but have noticed it at several homes near me this winter and like it's looks. I've made the adjustment in the post and given you credit. :)

Pam/Digging said...

Hey, thanks for changing your comment setting, Chris. Wow, what a fabulous selection of evergreens you’ve shown here. I particularly admire the Scotch broom, false cypress, and golden cypress. They are real beauties. Thanks for celebrating foliage with me.

debsgarden said...

My garden would be sparse without my evergreens, many of which are quite colorful. You have highlighted some wonderful 'bones' here. Great post!

Chris said...

Pam: Thanks for visiting and for hosting Foliage Follow-up! I'm fascinated by the style of gardens in your part of the county and the spectacular foliage you feature.

Deb: I appreciate your stopping by. I'd love to see the evergreens in your garden - I'm sure you have great "bones."

fer said...

Great winter garden! That Golden Hinoki Cypress looks beautiful

Ramona said...

Thanks for your post, Chris. Winter is certainly the time for evergreens to "shine!" It is so important to have garden interest for all four seasons. Some people tend to forget or perhaps they just may not be aware of these details when planning their landscape. When they buy their plants, it's usually not in the winter. I love the Dwarf Hinoki Cypress and Golden Hinoki Cypress! I'll be looking for these plants in the nursery.

Chris said...

fer: Yes, with good planning, the winter garden can have its own beauty.

Ramona: Those Cypress are popular and for good reason. I hope you're successful - enjoy them!

Linda Vater said...

And does all of that green look gorgeous against the red of the house or what? I envy your ability to grow so many stunning is simply too hot in my neck of the woods for many of them.

Sunray said...

Yes you definitely need conifers in the garden. It's nice to look out and see them during winter when there isn't much else going on.

Goldenray Yorkies

Frank Ezokas said...

I have an "otto luyken english laurel" bush that turned completely brown. all the leaves are brown and some have fallen off. would you say this bush is dead or will it come to life again! I have had it for 5+ /years and I relly like it.

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