describes evergreens thus: – ‘Of plants that retain their foliage for more than one growing season’. The word ‘foliage’ is important to remember when you are considering buying an evergreen, for instance, some varieties of Kniphofia (red-hot-poker) are described as an evergreen and yet, surely, it’s only ever considered for its showy August flowers? Unless used with a real design flair its long and lank, sometimes scruffy, grass-like evergreen leaves add little to the garden for the remaining months of the year. Something else to consider when talking about evergreen plants is that many of them are not green at all. Good examples of evergreen plants that are other colours than green are: Heuchera, Artemisia, Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’, Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’.
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The most common use of a properly chosen evergreen is probably for bringing garden interest between November and March and, surely, there cannot be a garden anywhere, of any size, that won’t benefit from the presence of at least one plant that keeps it foliage for all 12 months of the year? However, to utilise evergreens simply as winter interest can mean missing the point of some evergreen plants. For example, Azaleas, Hypericum, Viburnum, Bergenia, Rhododendron and Camellia all have fabulous displays of seasonal flower colour.
In my opinion the most important quality of an evergreen is not how it looks but what it symbolises. They serve to remind us of the continuous and uplifting characteristics of the natural world, characteristics that I believe are what makes gardening and gardens so important to so many individuals.