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Evergreens in the Winter Landscape

evergreen in landscape

(When the flowers of summer have faded to memory, and the autumn leaves have fallen to compost, it’s nice to have evergreen trees and shrubs to brighten the wintertime landscape. Whether your yard is snowy bright or dreary bleak, seems like evergreens can make a dramatic improvement.

Evergreen trees usually are the dominant structural elements in the home landscape. They frame the house and other structures; are the background for shrubs and flowers; add interest in all seasons. Use an evergreen tree as an accent to draw attention to a particular area of the landscape. Use evergreens as backdrops for flower beds or flowering shrubs. Evergreen trees and shrubs make the best hedges, foundation plantings, privacy screens, windbreaks and entryway sentinels.

Here at Perfect Plants, we offer a variety of evergreen trees and shrubs for different uses in the landscape. Tall, columnar evergreens, (standing as focal points, positioned in corners, or paired along pathways) make appealing architectural statements all year, and are especially attractive in the winter.

Green giant evergreensThuja (standishii x plicata) ‘Green Giant’ is a selection from a cross between western red cedar (Thuja plicata) and Japanese thuja (Thuja standishii) that was first introduced by The U.S. National Arboretum in the 1960s. Thuja ‘Green Giant’ is a tall evergreen sentinel with rich green color that tolerates a wide range of soils and hardiness zones and is little troubled by pests or diseases. However, this Green Giant is very sensitive to salt and does not do well in poorly drained or wet sites.

Leyland cypressLeyland Cypress evergreens (Cupressus × leylandii) is another evergreen that grows to show off its tall conical form. The Leyland is a selection from accidentally crossbreeding a Monterey cypress with an Alaska-cedar at England’s Leighton Hall in 1888. Often grown for Christmas trees, the handsome Leyland cypress is a very fast grower and tolerates a wide variety of soil and climate conditions, finding its popularity due to its legendary salt tolerance – thriving where many other trees would not grow.

Japanese Cedar evergreensJapanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), with its extensively dense foliage, is an incredibly fast growing evergreen whose shape is a little wider than the tall boys mentioned above. We offer the popular cultivar ‘Radicans’ which is great for hedges and privacy screens as well as for stand alone specimen trees.  With its dark green and feathery foliage, it offers good contrast to blue-leafed evergreens – like a blue spruce; adding color to your winter landscape. Since ‘Radicans’ do not suffer from tip blight like most other Japanese cedars, they always look their best!

Not all evergreens are needle-bearing conifers

Many broadleaf trees and shrubs also stay green in winter. Some of the hollies, magnolias, yewsoaks, boxwoods, azaleas and rhododendrons are evergreen. You can find cultivars of many of these that have colorful foliage with splashes of yellow, blue-gray, or white. Some broadleaf trees can be pruned as hedges to hide the house foundation, create a privacy screen, or line a pathway.

Oak Leaf holly evergreensPerfect Plants offers the hybrid, Oak Leaf™ holly (a selection of Ilex x ‘Conaf’), characterized by its mature upright pyramidal form, oak-shaped leaves, and attractive orange-red berries that are produced even without a pollinizer. New growth is bronze, aging to emerald green. Small, creamy light yellow, slightly aromatic flowers bloom in clusters from March through May. Oak Leaf™ holly makes a beautiful specimen tree or part of a tall hedge as it grows in organically rich, slightly acidic, wide variety of soils ranging from moist to dry, from sand to clay, and is tolerant of heat and drought.

If you need a big evergreen tree as a centerpiece in your landscape, it’s hard to beat the iconic live oak. Not as slow growing as you might think, a centrally located live oak will quickly become the king of the garden. It might be hard to beat the live oak, but not impossible – therefore, consider the southern magnolia. Perfect Plants offers three different sized cultivars of magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora): 

D.D. Blanchard evergreens‘D.D. Blanchard’ is a fast growing big tree, up to 50 feet tall. With its attractive, glossy, dark green, leathery leaves on the top side and gray-brown, fuzzy underside, the ‘DD Blanchard’ grows best in moist, organically rich, well-drained soil and is intolerant to many urban pollutants. Its large (8-12″ diameter) fragrant white flowers make it a magnificent cultivar with the ability to maintain a straight central trunk – allowing it to be grown full to the ground or be pruned into tree form with a visible trunk. The ‘DD Blanchard’ has no serious insect or disease problems.

‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’Bracken Brown Beauty Magnolia evergreens, a moderate growing mid-sized tree (30-50′ feet), is the equivalent to the baby bear from the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. So, when comparing flowers to the D.D. Blanchard’s, the Bracken’s Brown Beauty’s exotically fragrant flowers are creamy, saucer-shaped, white, and medium-sized, about 5-6″ in diameter. Many horticulturists consider the ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty‘ as the best southern magnolia cultivar with its lustrous, leathery foliage. Most noteworthy, it’s a hardier, more cold tolerant magnolia that’s more accepting of a wider variety of soils. The ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty‘ has a uniform, dense pyramidal growth habit with flowers that bloom from late spring into late summer.

Little Gem evergreens‘Little Gem’ is a slow grower that stays under 30 feet in height. Sharing similarities to the magnolias mentioned above, its leaves and flowers are simply smaller. Like the larger ‘D.D. Blanchard‘, the ‘Little Gem’ prefers the same soil types and is intolerant to urban pollutants. The ‘Little Gem’ will make a great compact, upright, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree accent in your landscape – perfuming the area with its beautiful blooms.

So, when planning your dream landscape, take into account the various characteristics of your palette (not just the characteristics of the plants that will adorn it):

  • Take into account the path of the sun across the landscape;
  • The variation in soil characteristics;
  • The good and bad views from the windows of the house;
  • The location of other features in the landscape.

In conclusion, when choosing the evergreens that will beautify your landscape, it’s important to consider their texture, color, shape, growth rate, also ultimate size.

And have fun decorating with evergreens!

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