It’s easy to ignore evergreens when the yard is loaded with flowers. Often called the “bones” of the landscape, some evergreens are about as sexy during the summer as just that — bones. The “flesh” draws all the attention when times are good: flowers, bolder and more sensual, steal the show while warm winds blow.
But when Old Man Winter arrives in the North, blowing icy gusts that chill us to the bone, we rediscover our admiration for that mousy little Blue Star juniper over there in the corner. It’s not that the evergreen, itself has changed; it’s just that the deciduous flowering plants around it have been deprived of foliage and flower alike. Evergreens have become the only game in town, a rare commodity. Suddenly, their stock price soars.
In Aesopian terms, evergreens more closely resemble the tortoise than the hare. They plod along in a slow, steady, unspectacular manner. Yes, some of the broadleaf evergreens (e.g., mountain laurel) do bear impressive flowers, too. And yes, some of the needled evergreens, belying that name, display needles in a color other than boring old green (e.g., blue spruce and Gold Mops). But mainly, evergreens win our admiration for their persistence. They’re always there for us — especially when plants of a more ephemeral beauty desert us in our hour of need.
Evergreen trees come in all sizes, from giants such as hemlocks and eastern white pine trees to dwarf trees such as Slender Hinoki cypress. Somewhere in the middle are evergreen trees commonly used to create “living wall” privacy screens: arborvitae in the North and Leyland cypress in the South.
So as a prelude to shopping for plants in spring, cast a critical gaze over your landscaping, while it’s still winter, to determine whether you could use some more evergreen trees or evergreen shrubs. The relative barrenness of the landscape in winter, denuded of its sensual summer finery, makes this the ideal time to make such a determination: The x-ray switch has been thrown on, revealing the missing bones in the skeleton. Armed with a new vision for your landscape, you can march into the nursery prepared to postpone your lust for flowers until you’ve taken care of matters of a more fundamental nature.
Just don’t make any remarks at the nursery about wanting to buy bones or not lusting excessively after flowers. I find that such remarks always invite funny looks.