BEST EVERGREEN SHRUB?
I was recently asked the following question by a visitor to the garden: “What would be the best evergreen shrub for under my kitchen window in full sun? I don’t want an arborvitae that turns brown in the winter or an Alberta spruce. I want something that stays green.”
In the Midwest, where she was located, there are many great choices depending upon the look she was looking for. Upon a little more questioning of her, I determined she did not want a juniper or a yew, even though there are many great junipers and yews as well as many that have been overused for decades. I instead will focus on what I think would be the top 3 choices for her and maybe you.
#3– Enci Dwarf Mugo
(Pinus Mugo ‘Enci’) – If you had a mugo pine in your last house that grew over the roof, erase it from your mind. It didn’t really happen. Well maybe it did. Most mugo pines sold today are P. mugo var. pumilio. That plant is grown from seed and some of them get 3 feet tall, some of them get 6 feet tall, and some of them get…. well, you get the point. This one is a clone, not grown from seed, so its maximum height is a more reliable 3-4 feet high. It is a mugo pine so it will get those little caterpillar looking pine sawflies that eat some needles every year in the spring. Although, picking them off and squishing them is easy to do and a good way to get rid of a little anger.
There are other named cultivars of mugo pines that are truly dwarf. One way to pick one that actually is, is to look for small needles on the plants. Generally, the smaller the needle, the less the plant will grow each year.
#2 – Bird’s nest spruce
(Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’) – Boy if there was ever a plant it and forget it plant, it’s this one. This dwarf variety of the Norway spruce will take decades to outgrow its spot. If you give it a bit of pruning you can keep it pretty much keep it from ever outgrowing its space. After about 10 years these plants might grow to a 1-2 feet high and 3 feet wide. They don’t need it, but can look great if thinned out to show their main trunk and branches. Besides an occasional spider mite, they are pretty carefree to take care of to.
#1- Green Velvet Boxwood
(Buxus ‘Green Velvet’) – My favorite. Tight growing green mound that very gradually gets bigger. Very classy looking in all seasons. In the first winter or two they may discolor a bit, but after they are established they look great even in January. I have three that I planted 8 years ago and I would say I spend an average of 5 minutes shearing them each year. I almost forget they are not plastic how slow they grow.
If you want one that grows a bit faster, and hence will require a little more pruning to keep looking nice, Chicago land Green boxwood (Buxus ‘Glencoe’) is a nice choice, but can be hard to find.
One of my favorite fall hunting exhibitions is to go to my local Home Depots when they mark their plants 50-75% off and try to find any nice and big Green Velvet boxwoods they have left.
So what do you think are the best evergreen shrubs?
Russell Bacchi says
Hi Jim can the green velvet boxwood endure winds off lake Mendota. We live across the street from the lake but windy a times? Thanks , Russell
It may have issues. I would try one and see how it does. I have done the same thing moving a boxwood this Spring into my backyard where lake wind can be pretty intense. So I will have a better answer for you next year.