Gardeners may be forgiven for forgetting to notice broadleaf and needle evergreens when flowering trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and bulbs are competing in spring and summer’s beauty pageant.
But come fall and winter, when the brightest colors fade, evergreens move into the spotlight, ready to be recognized for the work they do all year long. Give them a standing ovation for providing a supporting framework for the garden. They define the boundaries between garden rooms and your neighbors’ yards, and provide focal points and punctuation within your own borders.
Bluer-than-blue foliage provides contrast year-round—this is one conifer that might steal your attention from a flowering plant or two—and its growth, 10-to 15-feet tall, and 4-to 6-feet wide to at maturity, is dense and pyramidal, making it an excellent screen planted in multiples as well as a lovely specimen employed as a focal point. Although this juniper won’t require annual pruning to maintain its handsome shape, after becoming established in your garden, it will certainly tolerate some picking for holiday arrangements.
American holly’s glossy green and sharply toothed leaves are iconic emblems of the holidays especially when bright red berries are present. Leave this native shrub’s berried branches for the birds to forage in late winter (they feast on holly berries after most of the others are gone) or use them to embellish your holiday decorations. Established shrubs and trees will respond vigorously even to heavy pruning. Before bringing branches indoors or wiring them to a wreath frame, spray the leaves with an anti-desiccant for extra shine and a longer vase life.
The lobster-claw needles of this arborvitae, which grows at a fast enough rate (5’ per year) to screen your neighbor’s entire house from view within a few years, stay grass-green through the winter rather than darkening to bronze. Its vigorous vertical growth (to 60 feet at maturity) may be restricted by annual shearing after it reaches its desired height. Cut branches release a delicious holiday fragrance and will hold onto their color and delicate woody cones for weeks in outdoor arrangements or in water indoors.