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.
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).
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.