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


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.


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.


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,


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