Give evergreen plants a moment’s consideration. On reflection, what image comes to your mind’s eye when you think about evergreen plants? One image might be hedges? Do Christmas trees come to mind? Bushy shrubs? You might think about holly trees? Even ivy or grass?
Perhaps you don’t have a clearly defined image of what an evergreen is – do not confuse the word ‘evergreen’ with meaning frost or winter proof, a plant can be evergreen without being hardy. The Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopaedia of Gardening
describes evergreens thus: - ‘Of plants that retain their foliage for more than
one growing season’. The word ‘foliage’ is important to remember when you are
considering buying an evergreen, for instance, some varieties of Kniphofia (red-hot-poker) are described
as an evergreen and yet, surely, it’s only ever considered for its showy August
flowers? Unless used with a real design flair its long and lank, sometimes
scruffy, grass-like evergreen leaves add little to the garden for the remaining
months of the year. Something else to consider when talking about evergreen
plants is that many of them are not green at all. Good examples of evergreen
plants that are other colours than green are: Heuchera, Artemisia, Choisya ternata
‘Sundance’, Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’.
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Too many evergreens can make a space feel leaden, static and wanting although there are some exciting examples of beautifully designed evergreen gardens. The generally accepted design rule of thumb is to have roughly the same volume of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees.In my opinion the most important quality of an evergreen is not how it looks but what it symbolises. They serve to remind us of the continuous and uplifting characteristics of the natural world, characteristics that I believe are what makes gardening and gardens so important to so many individuals.