Melinda's Beginners Guide: Evergreen Shrubs - Pasquesi Home and Gardens
Melinda Beginners Guide

Melinda’s Beginners Guide: Evergreen Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs, those plants that hold onto needles and leaves year-round, are more than foundation plants nestled next to your home. They also provide attractive backdrops for other shrubs and flowers, shelter for songbirds, screening, winter greenery and so much more.

Boxwood and arborvitae are two popular options with good reason. They are year-round beauties that are easy to grow.

Boxwood shrubs can be sheared and shaped for formal gardens and foundation plantings or allowed to grow into their natural shape for a more informal look. Combine them with deciduous shrubs, those that drop their leaves in winter, perennials and annual flowers for additional color and seasonal interest.

Proper selection and placement in the landscape is key to success.  ‘Green Velvet’ is a hardy variety that stays green throughout the winter. This boxwood grows up to four feet in height and width. Small fragrant flowers, easy to overlook, appear on mature boxwoods in early spring and are a favorite of bees. Best of all, deer tend to leave this plant be.

Plant boxwood in full sun to partial shade in an area where it will be sheltered from drying winter wind and sun. Lightly prune wayward branches for a natural look or shear and shape to the desired form. Prune late winter through early spring. Then touch up hedges as needed in early summer. Keep the top of sheared plants narrower than the bottom to allow sunlight to reach all parts of the plant. This technique promotes green growth from the top to the bottom of the plant. Avoid pruning after August 1st   as late summer pruning encourages late season growth that can be winter killed.

Arborvitaes, often called white cedars, come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Upright forms make excellent screens and privacy hedges. Select the one that is best suited to the space and your landscape design. Those little plants quickly grow to mature size. Give the plant sufficient space to reach its mature size eliminates the need for drastic pruning.

Grow arborvitaes in moist, well-drained soil in full to partial sun. Those grown in the shade tend to become loose and open over time. Avoid exposed areas and those open to drying northwest winter winds and winter sun from the south. Check the tag of the variety you select for spacing recommendations.

Protect arborvitae from hungry deer in the winter. Use a repellent according to label directions or wrap the plant in bird netting. The netting is virtually invisible and also prevents damage from heavy snow piling onto and damaging the plant.

Proper spacing is important for all plants including these two. Temporarily fill the empty space with annuals, perennial flowers and ornamental grasses.  As the boxwood and arborvitae grow you will need fewer annuals to fill the space. Move perennials and grasses as needed to other locations in the landscape. It is much easier to move perennial plants than established shrubs.

Water new plantings thoroughly whenever top four to six inches of soil are crumbly and slightly moist. You will water more often during hot weather. Water thoroughly in fall before the ground freezes to help these evergreens through our harsh winters. Shallow frequent watering and soggy soils are just as detrimental as drought stress.

Spread a three inch layer of shredded bark or wood chip mulch over the soil surface. This will help conserve moisture, keep roots cooler in summer and warmer in winter and suppress weeds that compete for water and nutrients.  You’ll need to water less often, pull fewer weeds and your plants will be better able to adapt to their new setting.

Consider adding a few of these evergreen beauties to your foundation plantings, hedges and gardens this season. You’ll enjoy them throughout the summer and welcome that extra bit of greenery all winter long.

Written by gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Beginner Gardeners’ Guide with you! 


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