Foliage of year round interest

While flowers of perennials and woodies most often grace these pages, there are numerous long established evergreens in the garden. Once, these were most favored, and still they are the backbone that connects parts of the garden through the seasons. Hollies, magnolias, and yew were humble introductions into the business side of gardening, and the start of two personal gardens, though these have been supplanted in favor in recent decades by less common paperbushes (Edgeworthia), mahonias, and a variety of large leafed perennials.

Brackens magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) in mid June

In recent weeks, masses of red berries (Koehne holly, above) have been featured, but hollies were once selected first for foliage, and no matter that distinctions in leaf size and form are relatively minor, and of no apparent interest to a portion of the populace that might know ‘Nellie R. Stevens’, or no holly at all. A dozen hollies (guessing, probably several more) of similar appearance are most prominent in late autumn and winter, several unfortunately emerging only then from beneath wide spreading katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) and Japanese maples (Acer palmatum, A. japonicum and others) .

Two variegated English hollies (Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’, above) stand out, not for size since they grow reluctantly in this environment, but for the distinctive contrast of foliage coloration. Several variegated Chinese hollies (Ilex cornuta) were grown and discarded long ago when variegation was hardly noticeable. I presume the two English hollies are males since no berries have been witnessed, though it is possible there is not a suitable pollinator nearby.

The common Golden Fernspray False cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Fernspray Gold’) shows its best color in the winter months.
Globe blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Globosa’) is often misused, planted far too close so that it grows to obstruct walkways, Here, I miscalculated growth over three decades, though the patio it grows over was used only as a path to larger patios in the rear garden,

With warming temperatures, the longevity of several conifers becomes questionable, but others have long thrived in sunnier spots of the garden. I expect these will be around at least as long as I am. Blue and yellow needles are most prominent in the garden’s dormant months, and several conifers reserve brightest coloring for the winter, presumably due to a lack of heat stress.

Other notable evergreens in the garden.

Goshiki false holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’)
A variety of gold dusted aucubas add color to the winter garden. While aucubas are resistant to deer browsing through most of the year, they must be protected by a repellent in the winter months.
The green leafed aucuba is a sturdy evergreen in shade.
Blue needles of Blue Atlas (above) and Horstmann cedars add color throughout the year. Blue Atlas must be provided with ample space since it grows quite tall.
The variegated Winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’) flowers in late winter to early spring, but if temperatures remain above zero degrees (F.) the foliage remains evergreen.
Silver Edge rhododendron is included in the garden as much for its foliage as its purple blooms.
Sweetbox (Sarcococca humilis) is very slow to become established, but after decades it spreads into gaps between path stones. Tiny flowers in late winter are barely noticed except for fragrance.
Rainbow leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’ )
This single stemmed Daphniphyllum has quickly grown into a small evergreen tree, which is most convenient in a spot where a wide spreading shrub, which it should be, would be a problem.
Globe Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Globosa nana’) is a finely textured evergreen that will tolerate sun or part shade,
Perhaps Acrocona spruce will one day reach the sixteen foot height that references list, but in a decade it has sprawled wide but only waist high at the base of the koi pond.
‘Torulosa’ Hinoki cypress stands sentry at the start of the driveway. As it spreads my wife demands its removal, but it remains for as long as I can ignore her demands.
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11 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    I do not suppose you grow coastal redwoods there. They are popular in Japan and milder parts of Europe. They do not tolerate cold, and they are seriously sensitive to snow.

    1. Dave says:

      Thirty years ago, I grew the weeping Giant redwood in my last garden. It survived, but was never happy. Years later, I drove by and it looked pretty miserable, and I’m sure it’s long gone now. Heat stress in our area is more a matter that humidity holds the heat, so that nighttime temperatures in summer rarely drop below eighty degrees rather than cooling substantially overnight.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        Giant redwood is an odd one. It has a much more limited natural range than the coastal redwood, but does well in a much larger range. Forest Grove in Oregon is named after a grove of them that do well there outside of Portland. It does not do well here though, partly because it is damp enough to keep the coastal redwoods so happy. We have one at work, and it drops lower foliage. Where one does well, the other probably will not.

      2. Dave says:

        I’ve been to Forest Grove many times visiting growers in the area, who unfortunately have closed shop in recent years. The local golf course has fairways lined with redwoods, I assume ones planted long ago. When you’re in the northwest you have to look closely, between firs and redwoods all forest trees are huge.

      3. tonytomeo says:

        The giant redwoods there are little ones, but they are happy.

  2. LInus says:

    Which ones of these do you have in some shade (part shade)? A lot of the plants you listed appeared to tolerate some shade.

    If I had more sun, I’d love a Chief Joseph Lodgepole Pine

    1. Dave says:

      While most needle evergreens prefer full sun, cryptomerias will tolerate part shade. Otherwise, spruce, cedars, and cypress must have full or part sun. Aucuba, sweetbox, and rhododendron will tolerate deeper shade, as will hollies, but there’s a point where flowering is diminished (and berries). There are many other evergreens in the garden. Camellias were not included, but they are planted in both shade and part sun. Flowering is diminished with more shade, even when growth is not effected.

      1. LInus says:

        Thanks for the response.

        Forgot to mention that that photo of the Magnolia is gorgeous. Martin Johnson Heade would be jealous.

  3. We adore beautyberry here in Oregon for the winter color, and have found that winter hardy eucalyptus trees do very well here on the North Coast where we recently moved, taking the wind very well and providing gorgeous color.

    1. Dave says:

      Berries of beautyberries dropped for us once temperatures regularly dropped into the twenties, so we have berries on hollies and nandinas, and a few other minor shrubs that are not a significant presence in gardens. This year, my purple beautyberry was disappointing, but the white ones were exceptional. I think the purple is getting into too much shade, so I’ll probably have to plant another in a sunnier spot. I am surprised that beautyberry is not more popular.

  4. Ruth says:

    Thank you for the lovely flower pictures Dave. The hollies were all so beautiful and the magnolia! Have a good day in the garden! 😀

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