November 17, 2017

Are Evergreen Plants Really Ever-Green?

Evergreen Shrubs in the Garden 

Evergreen plants get a mixed bag of comments, many people look at them as the lazy gardeners’ method of creating a garden without working and they don’t belong in a ‘real’ garden. Some people feel they are so architectural you might as well put an artificial plant in their place. Whilst others say they are the only plants that keep the garden looking like a garden and not a wasteland during the winter!

All these ideas might be  true, but I think people have a misconception about evergreen plants and bushes. If you take a look at many evergreen plants at this time of the year you will notice they are not green at all. The lovely pieris shrub is seen in so many urban gardens at this time of the year with fiery red and yellow flaming leaves, the red robin will continue to produce deep red leaves through the summer before turning green.

cross marking contrast between new growth and old growth on buxus bush

Even those evergreen plants where the juvenile foliage is green, the young shade of green is often a far cry from the green of last years foliage. I cut a cross in the centre of the top of a box pillar (buxus) to show how the new foliage is a bright green in total contrast to last years deep green leaves (pictured above).  The common ivy – love it or loathe it- will also surprise you with new foliage of a very lime green colour in some varieties closer to yellow than green until it reverts to a deep green with age.

Flowering Evergreen Shrubs

azealia

Till now we have only referred to the non flowering evergreen bushes – but when it comes to those that flower – they often flower much more profusely and in a stronger array of colours than their deciduous cousins.

rhodedeneron

Lets take the Azealeas that are now clothed in fiery red, or their close relatives the Rhodedndron, that are now beginning to flower – some cover the whole bush with flowers leaving no sign of being (ever) green at all. Or take the Ceanothus a not so well known evergreen bush which at this time of the year is hidden under a mauve blanket of flowers, whilst the Choiysa bush is a mass of white petals.

Ceanothus

It’s all in the name

I have therefore arrived at the simple conclusion that the name evergreen applies merely to the fact that it does not change its leaf colour in autumn, but in spring these bushes are by no means ever-green. This just proves how a name can distort our feelings about a plant . Call a rose Happy Times and everybody will rush out and buy one, call it Dull Days, and it will stay in the garden centre!.

So, forget what people say or think, if you feel you need a  bush to fill a space in the garden (and you would like it to be pest free as most evergreen are), have a good look round at the most colourful bushes in your neighborhood now – and that is the evergreen bush you should plant there !

Good  Gardening to you all,

Boris.

About The Author

Profile photo of Boris Legarni

Boris inherited his green fingers from his mother, who was still planting potatoes and rhubarb in the sixties as she was afraid that they would once again be rationed. As a teenager he used to plant radishes in the corner of the school garden and sell them during break time for sixpence, to give his classmates a healthy crunchy snack. He and his wife both have had an allotment for years, but there is no competition – he does the planting and she does the harvesting and cooking. With a passion for growing anything edible, Boris has planted dozens of named fruit trees in his orchard. Nevertheless he is an avid flower arranger, and assists local communities and charities with his flower arrangements. Boris tells us that after so many years on the allotment he has made all the mistakes possible, and he will share with you his practice to make yours perfect!

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