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Top 10 Evergreen Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs provide permanent structure in the garden and all-year-round interest.

Some have beautiful flower displays, or are highly scented in winter when little else is growing, and some have variegated or colourful foliage - a perfect foil for summer perennials, and a feature in itself during the winter. Grow evergreen shrubs as stand-alone specimens, as part of a mixed border or as hedging.

There are plenty of evergreen shrubs to choose from so here's some inspiration in our pick of top ten evergreen shrubs for an easy and reliable display.


1. Daphne

Daphne

Daphne plants are well loved for their small but incredibly fragrant flowers which appear in winter and early spring, when little else in the garden is growing. There are plain-leaved and variegated varieties available, such as Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata', which has a rounded compact habit and attractive glossy, yellow-edged leaves. Daphne is a superb small evergreen shrub for the garden. Grow Daphne in sunny or partially-shaded mixed borders, woodland gardens and rock gardens.

2. Box

box

Box (Buxus) is a compact and versatile evergreen shrub. Box plants are superb for clipping into small, formal hedges which can be used to edge veg or flower beds, or try creating your own elaborate box parterre! Tolerant of deep shade, itÂ’s great for awkward sunless spots, or for growing beneath tall trees. Box can also be used for topiary, either in the ground or grown in patio containers. Grow in a well-drained soil in partial or full shade, but keep the soil moist if growing box in full sun.

3. Fatsia

fatsia

Fatsia japonica is a versatile shrub with large, glossy hand-shaped leaves borne on stout, upright stems. This architectural shrub is surprisingly hardy, and copes well with coastal conditions and shady areas of the garden. Fatsia plants make an eye-catching feature in borders or large patio containers.

4. Lavender

lavender

A well-loved shrub, grown for its fragrant summer flowers and scented silver-green foliage. Flowering in shades of purple, lilac or pink, this hardy shrub is versatile; from edging to hedging and borders to patio containers - every garden should have lavender! The flowers are highly attractive to bees and butterflies, and thanks to their Mediterranean origins lavender plants have good drought tolerance, coping well with light, sandy soils. Try cutting some lavender flowers for a vase indoors, or to sprinkle on top of cakes!

5. Aucuba

aucuba

One of the toughest shrubs out there! Aucubas are popular evergreen shrubs valued for their tolerance of full shade, dry soils, pollution and salty coastal conditions. Plain-leaved varieties are available, but the speckled yellow cultivars are the most popular and give rise to the common name 'Spotted Laurel'. The leaves are generally quite large, leathery and glossy in appearance making them useful for achieving a tropical look. Female plants produce bright red berries in autumn if a male pollination partner is planted nearby. Grow Aucuba as specimen plants, for hedges or in difficult heavily-shaded corners of the garden to make a fine contrast to other foliage plants and flowers.

6. Camellia

camellia

A classic spring-flowering shrub originating from the woodlands of Asia. Camellias are popular for their glossy deep green foliage and abundance of large, showy flowers early in the year. Their flowers can be single or double and come in a range of colours from pink to red, through to yellow or white. Although naturally large shrubs, dwarf varieties are available. They are elegant shrubs, ideal for mixed planting schemes or as specimen shrubs in borders and woodland gardens with partial or dappled shade. They need an acid soil, so if your soil is neutral or alkaline, grow Camellias in large patio containers filled with a mixture of ericaceous compost and a soil-based compost such as John Innes No. 3.

7. Euonymus

euonymus

Cultivars of Euonymus fortunei are versatile, low-maintenance, evergreen shrubs with a multitude of uses and a tolerance of poor soils, coastal conditions and shade. Euonymus plants can be grown as evergreen ground cover or trained to climb a wall, and tolerate north-facing walls well. They will also grow as hedges or free standing shrubs in garden borders and containers. With a variety of foliage colours, Euonymus fortunei cultivars are fantastic for adding winter colour to the garden.

8. Mahonia

mahonia

Mahonia plants have an architectural form and glossy, spiny leaves, similar to holly. They are valued for their late winter and spring flowers which are bright yellow and highly fragrant. Mahonia flowers are borne on long, elegant racemes or in clusters at the tips of branches, creating a distinctive and striking display when much of the garden is still dormant. Coping well with coastal conditions, clay soils and heavy shade Mahonia makes an unbeatable, low-maintenance addition to shrub borders and woodland gardens.

9. Photinia

photinia

Photinia is a tough, versatile shrubs, the most popular variety being Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin', whose glossy leaves are bright red when young, gradually changing to bronze-green through to deep green. Photinia grows well in sunny borders, as specimen shrubs in large patio containers, or as hedging, for which Photinia x fraseri is ideal.

10. Holly

holly

A well-known evergreen shrub, with glossy, dark green leaves, which can be either spiny or smooth. Best known for its classic dark green leaves and red berries at Christmas, there are many variegated forms of Holly which make outstanding specimen plants in the garden or as part of a mixed border. Holly also makes a fantastic dense hedge, for which Ilex aquifolium is a good species to use. Spring flowers are highly attractive to bees and are followed by red or yellow berries on female plants, if a male pollination partner is planted nearby. The berries are a good winter food source for birds. Tolerant of harsh conditions, this tough shrub deserves a place in every garden.

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top ten evergreen shrubs infographic from thompson & morgan

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Sue Sanderson T&M horticulturalist

Text by Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.