Skip to main content

Designing With Evergreens

While deciduous trees and shrubs and herbaceous perennials sleep, assess your winter landscape. Is it all it can be? Read how evergreens play an essential role now and get tips for placing them to the best effect.

In cold climates, evergreen trees and shrubs are crucial parts of the garden in winter. They remain a constant sign of life and color. However it can be tricky to place evergreens in your garden design, because you must consider how their placement works in multiple seasons—how they look alone, when other plants are dormant or absent, plus how they look in relation to blooming and/or leafy plants in spring through fall.

The best ratio of evergreens to deciduous plants is probably just enough evergreens to keep the garden from looking barren in winter, and to provide a backdrop to other plants in other seasons without crowding them. Follow these tips to make the most of your evergreens in winter:

Use tight-growing or clipped evergreens to flank the start of a path.

Plant evergreens as a hedge to create a sheltered space or for privacy.

Place evergreens strategically along a path and/or throughout your garden's space to keep its depth and direction defined even in winter.

Create rhythm in a border by mixing evergreens and deciduous shrubs and perennials, but stagger the evergreens so that in winter, when the other plants are dormant, the border won't look stiff and contrived, as it might with an evergreen appearing every 10 feet and blank space in between.

Consider shape. Evergreens may be mounds, spires, pyramids. Their shapes will be most apparent in winter, so place them where their silhouette can be most appreciated and can serve the best purpose.


Small garden? Choose evergreens and deciduous plants of the perfect size and shape with 400 Trees and Shrubs for Small Spaces

Get a library of timeless design and growing advice—106 back issues of Horticulture on one handy, searchable CD

Browse outstanding gardening tools, including high-quality shovels, hand tools and pruners.