Monthly Archives: January 2020

The importance of evergreens in the winter garden.

I hate seeing just a load of brown in the garden at this time of year, it is so dismal when the quality of light isn’t great either. Now that the perennials are closing down for the winter there are a lot of bare patches in the garden so it is nice to have some ‘greenery’ that lasts all year round.  (For the sake of argument I am using the term ‘evergreen’ to describe a plant that is not deciduous ie. it keeps it’s leaves on throughout the year.  They may not necessarily be green.)  Not only do evergreens provide a focal point, when you scan the garden your eyes jump form one focal point to the next rather than to the bare earth, but they also help to form structure in the garden.  They are good for the wildlife, not only by providing some protection from the harsh winter weather, but also protection from predators.  Often people think of evergreens as being just shrubs, but there are plenty plants that are classed as evergreen that are not shrubs.  They all give the garden some much needed colour during the dull, grey, winter days.  In my garden the winter colour of the evergreens comes from a variety of plants: a few different types of ivies adorning the ugly walls, golden grasses, gold and green holy, berberis, purple huecheras, carpets of dark green cyclamen foliage, periwinkle, epimedium foliage, mahonia, privet hedge, mosses, ferns, hellebores, osmanthus, rhododendron, pieris, chiastophylum, saxifrages, hebe, tree heath, heather, some succulents, and rosemary to name a few.  Don’t forget the lawn!  Many gardens now have lots of decking and slabbing and can look very drab and dead, but even just a small lawn can add a touch of evergreen life.
There are some plants which are classed as semi-evergreen, which means they may hold onto their leaves in mild winters but shed them if the weather gets too cold.   And just to confuse things there are some plants that hold onto their dead leaves during winter but shed them once the new growth starts such as beech trees.  As far as I know beech is not classed as evergreen because the leaves they hold onto are dead.

evergreens, ferns,
Ferns, epimedium, chiastophylum, purple heuchera, and ivy.
evergreens, ferns,
Ferns, moss, grasses, hellebore, osmanthus, ivy, and periwinkle
Of course colour in winter can also come from non evergreen plants too.  There are pink flowers on the bare branches of viburnum right now, as are the fiery orange flowers of the witch hazel. There are sporadic pink flowers on the hebe, some of the hellebores are about to flower, and the corkscrew hazel catkins are forming, The bark of my neighbour’s silver birch is very bright and silvery, as are the papery white honesty seed heads. The spring bulbs are just popping through – the snowdrops will be the first to flower in my garden.  One plant that has amazed me though by still being in flower in January is the lychnis ‘white robin’.  I have 3 little pots of it on my patio table waiting for me to plant them and they look superb just now.
Lychnis, flos – cuculi alba white robin.