Evergreen bushes in front of a wooden door

Eleanor Clarke


Be Inspired by Evergreens

Evergreens are brilliant. They’re the shrubs, climbers and trees with foliage that’s green all year round – unlike most, which drop their leaves in autumn, leaving boring bare branches or stems that won’t sprout again til April or May. Garden designers love them because they make a garden interesting all year round, giving it structure, definition and focal points to lead the eye around the space. Birds and other wild creatures love them because they provide shelter and cover for feeding and foraging. 

We’re big fans of evergreens at The Nunhead Gardener, too. For all of these reasons, and because they’re some of the easiest, most beginner-friendly plants we can think of. They lend themselves to so many different spots in the garden, and bring so many different vibes. Here are a few you can tap into:

Smart and elegant

You can recreate the elegance of an Elizabethan mansion on a London scale with evergreen topiary plants such as bay, box and yew in handsome pots either side of a front door. Or in matching pots at the top or bottom of a flight of steps in the garden. Keeping your pompoms, balls, lollipops and cones looking sharp and on point is simple: some careful snipping once or twice a year and you’re done. 

Soft and inviting

Shrubs with rounded, domed shapes – like mock orange (Choisya), hebes and Christmas box (Sarcococca) give a garden a calming, harmonious feel. If you dot them about the space, in groups of different sizes, that effect is multiplied, as your eye moves between them. This repetition of form is a brilliant little garden design trick, and one that features heavily in those gorgeously calm and inviting Japanese gardens. Equally, it’s lovely to add in a few of the bolder shaped evergreens among your domes for contrast…

Bold and dynamic

Evergreens with strong, bold shapes can transform the look of your garden. They give you year-round excitement and drama, especially if you choose plants with large, spiky leaves like mahonias, New Zealand flax (Phormium) and yukkas. 

And don’t forget the climbers, which will green up your fences and walls beautifully. Top 3 incoming:

Buy Trachelospermum Jasminoides – Star Jasmine

Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Our personal favourite. Glossy dark green leaves with hints of gold in autumn, and a mass of scented, star-shaped white flowers in summer. Plant in sun or light shade.

Blooms of Clemantis Armandii

Clematis armandii

Another scented one, but for early spring. It’s a good, strong grower and will quickly cover a wall or fence. Again, happiest in sun or light shade.

Chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) blooms in between green leaves

Chocolate vine (Akebia quinata)

It’s not evergreen across the UK, but it is in London! This is an unusual but very lovely climber, with pretty lobed leaves and the loveliest maroon, chocolate-scented flowers in early spring. We’ve not tried them but the young shoots are said to be edible – let us know if you give them a go.

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