Like anything else, the key to a good landscape in the front of your home is the foundation. In landscaping, the “foundation” of the perennial garden plan is evergreen shrubs.
But evergreen shrubs are soooo… blah…. right?
Even though a lot of evergreen shrubs don’t have a ton of color interest, they do come in many variations of colors, leaf shapes, left textures. All of these elements, when combined, make for a really interesting foundation planting. The best thing about evergreen shrubs is that they keep their leaves all year round… even in the dead of winter. They serve as an important backdrop for your other shrubs, plants, and flowers. Evergreen shrubs also help to create consistency throughout your landscape so that it doesn’t look haphazard.
blue star juniper (front), northern charm boxwood (back left), euonymous (back), and coral bells (right)
Why Use Evergreen Shrubs Against Your Foundation?
Creating a Backdrop
Evergreen shrubs provide some neat foliage to choose from, but most will not be knocking your socks off with their amazingness. I know as a beginner I wasn’t drawn to the evergreens but they are sooooo important. As I said above, the goal here is really to create an awesome backdrop for your other showcase plants. It’s much easier to see those rose blooms with a nice, solid background behind them. That way your plants don’t get lost in your house colors or other distracting objects
The Workhorses of your Landscape – all year round
The best thing about evergreen shrubs is that they will keep their foliage all year round (even in the freezing cold winter). When all of your other beautiful rose bushes and flowers die off or go dormant for the winter, these evergreen shrubs are the workhorses that will keep your landscaping looking put-together… even in the desolate winter months. It’s amazing what life these plants bring to the gloomy winter months.
Texture and Size
Evergreen shrubs do have many options for foliage. Some have very small leaves, some have pine needles, some look really soft and fluffy. There are many textures and options to choose from. When you put things with opposing textures or sizes next to each other, it will accentuate the differences in the two and make for a more interesting landscape. While you’re choosing your evergreen shrubs, think about using the textures, sizes, and even color variation to really play off of each other
Combining Different Evergreen Shrubs
It’s ok to combine a few different kinds of evergreen shrubs in your garden, too. The variation in size and shapes of these plants will really add some subtle interest to your landscape.
In my garden I use three different types of evergreen shrubs:
Here you can see the combined textures of the northern charm boxwood (left), emerald & gold euonymus (right) and the blue star juniper (front). While they are all different colors, they are actually analogous (which means they are next to each other on the color wheel. Analogous color schemes create a harmonious effect.
The euonymus and boxwoods will grow to be about the same size, but have different textures, colors, and overall shape. The euonymus has tiny leaves that are green and outlined in gold. The boxwood has even smaller leaves that just look and feel softer than the leaf of the euonymus. While the euonymus is often pruned into a rounded shape (as shown below), without pruning these guys are really just free flowing party guys. They are much more casual when left to grow naturally. The northern charm boxwood is a bit more uptight. Even without pruning, it grows in almost a perfect spherical shape. The junipers are smaller conifers (so they have needles like a pine tree). They are a lot lower to the ground than my other two shrubs, and definitely have a blue color that pops.
My picks for the best evergreen shrubs
Emerald & Gold Euonymus
The trademark of this evergreen shrub is its variegated foliage: in this case, green on the inside, golden on the outside. Zones 5-9, about 3′ high x 4′ wide. (In case you are wondering, the yellow and purple plants near the front of the photo are called coral bells. We’ll get to them in my post on other plants and flowers.)
Boxwood “Northern Charm”
This oval/round shaped boxwood has emerald green foliage. The small round leaves have a fine texture and turn dark green in fall. Zones 4, about 4′ high x 4′ wide
Blue Star Juniper
I chose this evergreen because I like the cooler blue tones. I planted these junipers a year and a half before I planted the boxwood, so although it looks larger in my photo, it really will be smaller/lower than your other foundation planting choices. I would recommend pulling these out a bit from the foundation so they don’t get buried. Zones 4-8, about 2′ high x 3′ wide.
Yews are a green option for a more wooded area. If you have a lot of mature trees or have a shady corner. Yews have an attractive dark green foliage and can even be planted on steep slopes. There are lots of varieties so you should be able to find one to fit your needs!
Emerald Spreader® Japanese Yew
Taxus x media ‘Tauntonii’. Lovely spreading form with dark green needles noted for their resistance to winter burn and tolerance of summer heat.
Evergreen shrubs are probably the most important part of your perennial garden plan. They create an awesome backdrop for your other showcase plants, so they don’t get lost in your house colors or other distracting objects. Plus, they stay green all year round… even in the bitter cold of winter. Some great picks for evergreen shrubs are the emerald & gold euonymus, northern charm boxwood, blue star juniper, and yews. While these are mainly green in color, they have tones of blues and yellows throughout the year. While you’re choosing your evergreen shrubs, think about using the left textures, shrub sizes, and even color variation to really play off of each other and make for a solid but interesting foundation row.
What’s your favorite evergreen shrub? There are so many to choose from it’s hard to pick just one.
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