I stopped by my favorite independent garden center yesterday to see what’s in stock and honestly, just to be among beautiful plants – green ones – and I wasn’t disappointed. The shrub department looked ready for spring already, and truckloads are still arriving as I type. (I may go back this weekend to see what the truck from conifer specialist Iseli Nursery in Oregon delivers; I visited once and was duly wow’ed.)
Seeing nurseries and gardens in mid-March, just before they erupt with color, makes me appreciate once again the reliable go-to plants like Cherry Laurel that landscapers know to use en masse as foundation shrubs or to create the bones of gardens. I had over a dozen of them in my last garden, where they required almost no care yet always looked great, though I mostly appreciated them in the winter.
Like most people, even experienced gardeners like me, I would never have bought them (or the many Viburnums I had planted at the same time) if it weren’t for the advice of a designer at a local nursery who almost insisted I plant them, despite my doubts. And I thanked her for the next 25 years I gardened in that spot for the difference they made, while adding almost no maintenance.
So like that designer who helped with my first major garden back in ’85, I urge people to buy Cherry Laurel varieties like the ‘Otto Luykens’ and ‘Skips’ in these photos, and I tell them that they won’t regret it. They come an assortment of ultimate sizes – including the ‘Ottos’ that are just the right size for under windows.
Another evergreen that’s made large contributions to my garden are Junipers, like the one above that’ll grow quickly to 6′ tall x 8′ wide. Junipers can and often do get too large for their location but but I’ve never regretted buying ones this size or smaller –
especially groundcover-height Junipers. The ‘Grey Owl’ on the left grows to 3′ tall by 6′ wide and on the right, ‘Grey Guardian’ just 2-3′ tall and 3-5′ wide.
I bought a few of these Gold Mop False Cypresses last summer for one of my adopted gardens and so far, so good. They were a welcome bright spot in the border over the winter.
‘Goshiki’ Osmanthus is one of the best, most attention-getting plants I’ve ever grown. It grows slowly to 3′ tall by 4′ wide but is easy to keep even smaller, as I’m doing to the ones on either side of my front door. They look sharp to the touch but they’re not.
Above, Pieris Japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ has done really well for me in shady spots.
Nandinas can definitely spread but the non-fruiting ones like ‘Firepower’ aren’t a problem and are sometimes the only evergreen shrubs that’ll perform in tight, shady spots like between a sidewalk and a building. This one grows to just 2 x 2′.
I’ve never grown a Gardenia or a Sweetbox but I almost hauled some home yesterday, just for the fragrance. Thrill-seekers of the olfactory variety should check ’em out.
Boy, did this ‘Garnet Fire’ Chinese Fringe-flower (Loropetalum) ever pique my plant lust – for its dark purple color and the fullness of each shrub, even in late winter. But it’s only hardy to Zone 7, where I am, so a colder-than-usual winter could wipe them out. Though with climate change, who knows?
Soon the nurseries will be SO full of plants in bloom that only a very few customers (the ones who’ve talked to designers) will notice these evergreen shrubs, despite their obvious charms. On second thought, maybe their charms aren’t obvious enough, which is the point of this post.
I never forget a plant that fails me, no matter how pretty it looks at the nursery. So sure, these Leucothoes look stunning but they soon looked like crap in my old woodland garden.
The pots on display of Colorado Spruce, Mountain Laurels and Rhododendrons also reminded me of long-ago failures, but they weren’t good-looking enough to cause any yearnings at all. Sea level doesn’t seem to suit them.