From the Garden: Evergreens
As the colors of your garden start to fade, you may find yourself longing for the days when they were abundant, when green grass seemed to be around every corner. Instead of waiting until spring for the vibrant scene to return, plant evergreen shrubs and trees to provide a lush, verdant backdrop that’s as beautiful in November as it is in May.
Evergreens also can create a privacy screen that doesn’t wane with the seasons, and they can be used as a buffer or noise barrier from busy streets and loud neighbors. Whatever your reasons for introducing evergreens to your yard, here are five of my favorites to plant:
1. Boxwood: I use boxwoods to create living walls, punctuate entries and serve as focal points. Their bright green foliage pops against the gray winter landscape. You’ll want to plant these workhorse shrubs in full sun to partial shade in fertile, well-drained soil. Even though they are shrubs, they can grow up to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide, depending on the variety.
You will not be disappointed with the green foliage these classic beauties bring to your lawn. Keep in mind some boxwoods will ‘brown out’ in the winter, so choose a variety that retains its green color. At Moss Mountain Farm, we plant Green Velvet.
2. Arborvitae: These green beauties have a natural conical shape and are often grown as a tree or tall shrub. Planting arborvitae close together in a row is a great way to create a natural fence. The plants grow best in full sun to partial shade and need well-drained, slightly acidic soil. I like to use arborvitae as a background to make flowers and shrubs ‘pop.’
Arborvitae can withstand the weight of ice and snow. I recommend the Emerald Green variety, which holds its color through winter; foliage of the Green Giant tends to bronze when the temperatures drop.
3. Yew: Similar in style to boxwoods, yew trees are a staple in English gardens. They are particularly beautiful when used to create the walls of a garden room. All parts of the yew are poisonous, so don’t bring them inside or ingest them. Plant them in full to partial shade in well-drained soil. Yews prefer a drier soil, so water carefully.
4. Holly: Hollies grow quickly, which makes them a great choice for screens or hedges. Most hollies require full sun and well-drained soil with some acidity. They are low-maintenance and pest-free for the most part. There are plenty of varieties to choose from. If you want to grow hollies for their berries, have male plants around for pollination since only the female plants produce berries. Their pretty berries are poisonous to dogs and humans, so be careful! I like to use cuttings from my hollies in holiday decor around the farm.
5. Leyland Cypress: Perhaps one of the most popular evergreens, Leyland Cypress trees will grow quickly wherever they are planted if you continue to water them. They make excellent privacy screens but can grow 50 feet high (or taller in many cases), so you’ll need plenty of space for them to mature. Plan for 5 to 7 feet between each cypress tree, and assume they will be 10 to 15 feet tall after 5 years of maturation.
P. Allen Smith is an author, conservationist, and TV host of Garden Home on PBS and Garden Style (check your local listings). He uses his Arkansas home, Moss Mountain Farm, to promote the local food movement, organic gardening and the preservation of heritage poultry. For tours of the farm, visit pallensmith.com/tours.