Evergreen Bushes: The Most Beautiful Species For The Garden

Evergreen bushes are a must for any garden that wants to avoid appearing bare and empty in the winter. With these beautiful evergreens you can’t go far wrong.

Jun 02, 2021 06:58 am
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Fortune’s spindle (Euonymus fortunei)

Evergreens such as Fortune’s spindle (Euonymus fortunei) defy the winter

A few evergreen bushes are essential in a richly varied garden design. Because when the fall wind has swept the deciduous trees and the final flowers are gone, evergreens always bring a fresh note to a drab, wintry world with their beautiful foliage.

Evergreen bushes give the garden structure at any time of year. They are not as the evergreen trees such as spruces or pines and they create less shade. The big advantage of evergreen bushes is of course their year-round leafy apparel, that provides wind and visual protection for the garden and a habitat for numerous insects, birds, and small animals. An evergreen hedge provides a visual screen all year round. Whether large or small leaves - many evergreens are suitable for topiary and also show their elegant appearance in the winter.

Frost damage on a box hedge
Frost damage can occur easily on evergreens, however the plants generally recover after pruning

When caring for evergreen decorative bushes, remember that they keep their leaves over winter and water also continues to evaporate from their surfaces. In heavy frosts this water requirement can lead to drought damage (frost drought). So you should always water your evergreens on frost-free days. The leaves will often get sunburned, even in the winter, if the foliage is exposed to the strong winter sun unprotected - perhaps due to a lack of shade from surrounding trees. A shade net, a light fleece or a brushwood cover can provide protection here. Snow-breakage is a third hazard for evergreen bushes. Sticky, wet snow can build up a lot of weight on the foliage draped branches of evergreens, which can push down on and even break off the branches. You should therefore shake the snow off the branches after heavy snowfalls. However, you can happily leave small amounts on the branches - these serve as a natural sunscreen.

Evergreen or wintergreen?

Evergreen plants are characterized by the fact that they continuously renew their leafy apparel in the course of the year. They only ever drop individual leaves, which are immediately replaced by new ones, so that their foliage always appears dense and green. There are two more plant types between the evergreen plants with a year round leafy apparel and the deciduous plants that are completely bare in the winter: semi-evergreens and wintergreens.

Winter green bushes and trees are characterized by the fact that they only lose their leaves very late in the year, namely in spring, directly before the new leaf shoots grow. Winter green bushes therefore carry their leaves over the winter and then drop their entire foliage in the spring and are bare for a short time. Semi-evergreen plants such as Privet or pyracantha lose some of their leaves in the winter, particularly in heavy frosts. The other leaves follow in the spring. So, for example, a hedge with semi-evergreens still remains semi-opaque, even in the winter.

Privet loses a part of its foliage in harsh winters and is therefore one of the semi-evergreens
The best evergreens for your garden

There is a wide selection of evergreen bushes available for your garden today. However, you should be aware that plants are living creations that react significantly to their environment. So it is very possible that a bush will behave differently depending on the variety, climate zone, location, and weather conditions. If in doubt, get advice from your local garden center or nursery, as the employees there have experience with the best varieties for your individual location.

The best known and most popular evergreen bushes for the garden are without doubt rhododendrons and azaleas. Numerous species and varieties of the flowering shrubs are available from trade shops in a number of shapes, sizes, and flower colors. Rhododendrons also withstand heavy frosts, they simply roll up their leaves when they are cold. If you want to play it safe in harsh conditions, you can still cover the plants with a light fleece in bitter minus temperatures to ensure that the flower buds already set out in the spring don’t freeze.

Another classic is the evergreen fragrant Viburnum x burkwoodii, known as Snowball Viburnum. Its shiny, dark green leaves remain on the plants in the winter, then the fragrant flower panicles open as early as April.

Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii)
The snowball viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii) is an impressive decorative evergreen bush

The cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) displays equally large, leathery leaves in dark green all year round. This fast growing bush is the perfect visual screen plant and is highly suitable for hedges. Individual branches of the Cherry Laurel may dry out in harsh winters, however the robust plant generally recovers quickly.

Formerly an absolute garden allrounder, but increasingly coy today due to heavy disease and pest problems, is the Box tree (Buxus). Its dense, small-leaved foliage make the Boxwood the ideal bed border plant, to give structure to a large garden and as an easy to manage topiary tree.

Box tree sphere
Where pyralida has not yet taken over, the box tree remains a beautiful, uncomplicated evergreen topiary tree

If you’re looking for an evergreen bush for a shady spot in the bed, the spring or fall fragrant blooming shrubs (Osmanthus x burkwoodii and Osmanthus heterophyllus) will be close to your heart. These two frost-hardy, evergreen bushes are impressive in the winter with their richly colored foliage, and in the spring and fall with countless fragrant flowers.

A particularly decorative evergreen bush in the winter is without a doubt the Holly tree (Ilex). Its dark green, toothed foliage are decorated in the cold times of year with bright red, spherical stone fruit. Holly trees grow wide and bushy, are fully winter hardy and tolerate pruning well.

The Evergreen Honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida)
As its name suggests, the evergreen honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida) is suitable for low hedges or also for topiary

A low, wide-growing evergreen bush for the garden, which is also treated as a box tree replacement, is the evergreen honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida), which originates from China. It has small, dark green leaves on densely branched, slightly overhanging shoots. The evergreen honeysuckle, also know as Box Honeysuckle, is highly tolerant to pruning and grows good shoots again even after radical pruning.

An equally low evergreen bush that is particularly colorful in the winter is Heather (Calluna vulgaris). It not only retains its foliage in the winter, it also has numerous pinkish-red flower buds. Pruning in the spring is important for fresh flowers the next winter, as the flowers only develop on new wood.

Fortune’s Spindle (Euonymus fortunei)
Fortune’s spindle (Euonymus fortunei) are colorful and multifaceted

The Fortune’s Spindle (Euonymus fortunei) is a delight with variegated or light green foliage. The ground covering or climbing small bush has an abundance of small, elliptical leaves all year, which change color in the fall, depending on the variety. The undemanding evergreen tolerates pruning and grows very well in semi-shady and shady garden corners.

And even bushes that actually originate from a Mediterranean climate are also green throughout the winter in our latitudes, for example Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and many varieties of Lavender (Lavandula). Both retain their needle-shaped foliage all through the year. However, a cover is recommended in harsh winters to prevent the heat-loving plants from freezing.