Guidelines for Placing Evergreens In The Landscape

We are in the throws of winter, bare branches and naked garden beds. We clearly see the need for some backbone evergreen shrubs and trees. But how do you place them to get the maximum effect? Try to imagine how they will look in every season. Consider the following guidelines for placing evergreens in the landscape.

  • Isolate a dramatic evergreen tree, such as a pine, against the open sky where it’s dark silhouette will be a scene against a colorful winter sunset or sunrise.
  • Locate tall evergreens where their shadows fall away from your house or sidewalks in the winter. You need all the sun you can get to help keep your home a bit warmer and sidewalks free of ice and snow.
  • Group several rounded or spreading evergreen shrubs together in a mass planting. Plant groups of azaleas under deciduous flowering trees. Mass a group of dwarf hollies or dwarf Nandinas in a large sweeping bed. Use a single upright or conical evergreen tree as an accent in these groups.

Most broadleaf evergreens appreciate a bit of shade in the south; most conifers need full sun. Plan ahead when choosing the perfect shrubs for a particular spot in the garden. Watch the sun as it shines on your yard during the day and calculate how many hours of direct sun a planting bed gets. Six hours (or more) of direct sun is considered “full sun”.

If you need a visual screen (a living fence), plant an evergreen hedge of Holly, Cleyera, Distyllium, or Camellia. This hedge will make a great backdrop for deciduous shrubs and flowering perennials. Make a wider planting bed to accommodate this second layer of seasonal color.

Rather than planting a uniform row of evergreens to block unattractive views, try a mixed planting of tall evergreens in groups of three and five with medium-height shrubs in front. Great combinations are large-scaled Nellie R. Stevens hollies with Yews or Nandinas, large-scaled Emerald Arborvitae with Goshiki Osmanthus, or large-scaled Blue Ice Cypress with Yews. These types of screens add color and texture year round with little or no maintenance.

This Winter assess your garden’s weak spots and plan to add some well-chosen evergreens. Keep these tips for placing evergreens in mind and visit your local garden center. It’s a great time to plant!

Color For The Dormant Landscape