July 17th, 2021
One of the most challenging pursuits of perennial garden is ensuring that there is always something of interest in the garden throughout the year. Despite our brutal Minnesota winters with frigid temperatures and feet of snow, interest is still possible in the garden with evergreen conifers. Evergreens not only provide wonderful winter interest in stark contrast to mountains of snow and dormant plants, but also can act as great points of interest and anchors for your garden design throughout the growing season.
One of our favorite types of evergreen shrubs are juniper, a group of coniferous (cone-bearing gymnosperm) plants in the Juniperus genus, widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere. Junipers range in size from spreading carpet-like growth patterns such as the ‘Icee Blue’ Juniper or Corielagen Juniper which act as excellent groundcovers, to mid-sized shrubs and trees, such as the ‘Grey Owl,’ to upwards of 100 feet in certain varieties. Juniper have needle-like or scale-like leaves that accompany iconic berry-like structures (galbuli) that most commonly appear blue. Plant junipers in areas of full sun in well-drained soil, though these hardy plants will tolerate a range of soil conditions without issue.
Another fantastic type of evergreen are yew, in the Taxus genus, a group of evergreen shrubs native to regions of Japan, Korea, and China, ranging in size from three feet tall and several feet wide, as with the ‘Emerald Spreader’ Japanese Yew, to more tree-like forms upwards of 20 feet tall, as with the ‘Hicks’ Yew. Needle-like, flat leaves of the yew are accompanied by modified seed cones containing a single seed which mature into a bright red berry-like structure (aril) in the fall. Yews are an excellent evergreen for shadier areas, preferring part-shade up to full-sun, and tolerating a range of soil conditions.