September 2014: Evergreen Trees for Winter Garden Structure

Now is a good time to be thinking ahead to the coming winter months. Looking around the garden with a critical eye now can pay dividends if you want to create a space that gives year-round interest. There are some plants that will give your garden a double dose of value by giving colour or texture during the summer and eye catching forms in the winter. Until very recently it was the accepted wisdom that the whole garden was tidied and ‘put to bed’ for winter. Nowadays the fashion is to leave seed heads on and selected, dried, summer growth to provide form and interest during the often barren winter months.

Plants that have this wonderful multi tasking ability include Sedum, Achillea, poppies, honesty, golden rod, teasel, Eryngium, Phlomis russeliana, Cardiocrinum giganteum, and Cynara cardunculus. Many of the grasses and bamboos will also give great summer and winter interest too. The dogwoods are also well worth considering for their vivid red, yellows and greens.

However, an evergreen tree could be for you if you are looking for a plant that will provide a strong visual structure or a focal point to the otherwise barren winter garden. A well placed, single specimen tree can have the effect of somehow consolidating the design of a whole garden. In design terms a tree is just a big object that when correctly placed will harmonise an entire scene. They perform an indispensible job in any garden and indeed because trees add so much value we would have invented them if they did not already exist.

Randomly placed trees seldom give of their best because they simply aren’t given the best possible chance to shine. Compare the placing of a tree in the garden to the positioning of a person in a well structured photograph. If the person in the photo is put in the wrong spot the whole picture is almost pointless.

So, below is a list of evergreen trees that if placed in the correct spot will bring the whole picture together with harmony, balance and structure. Just make sure you chose a tree suitable to your soil and micro climate, (harsh wind, frost pockets, permanently damp/dry/shaded) and that won’t outstay its welcome and turn into a giant problem.

Abies (Silver Fir), Araucaria (Monkey Puzzle Tree), Arbutus (Strawberry Tree), Buxus (Box), Cedrus (Cedar), Cephalotaxus (Plum Yew), Chamaecyparis (False Yew), Cupressus (Cypress), Eucalyptus (Gum Tree), Garrya (Silk Tassel Bush), Ilex (Holly), Juniperus (Juniper), Magnolia, Osmanthus, Photinia, Picea (Spruce), Sciadopitys (Japanese Umbrella Pine), Taxus (Yew), Thuja (Arbor-vitae).