Six Great Evergreen Perennials
When it comes to year-round interest in the garden, the mind may first go to the trees and shrubs that create permanent structure in the garden. There are also a smaller number of evergreen perennials that can be an important part of keeping the garden going in every season.
Evergreen perennials will keep their foliage throughout the cold winter months – as opposed to herbaceous perennials, that die back in the autumn and winter. This brings many benefits. In the winter months, the foliage will bring continued interest to beds and borders. This means evergreen perennials tend to require less care to keep them in good condition. Wildlife also appreciates a garden that isn’t completely tidied away for the winter – foliage and piles of leaves offer spots to shelter.
We recommend six great evergreen perennials available from Hillier Garden Centres. *
Bergenia ‘Harzkristall’ is a compact, evergreen variety with smaller leaves than are typically found on bergenias. Not only does it offer year-round interest from its rounded, glossy, leathery leaves (giving rise to the common name ‘Elephant’s Ears’), but from late winter it also produces delicate white flowers that gradually fade to pink.
This is an excellent plant for ground cover or at the edges of beds and borders. Position in a sunny or partially shady position with moist nutrient-rich soil. It will not thrive in very dry soil conditions.
Dianthus make fantastic plants for more informal, cottage-style gardens. Dianthus ‘Memories’ is an attractive, compact, mound-forming evergreen variety that offers gloriously scented white flowers from early spring all through the summer. Position in a sunny spot in neutral or slightly alkaline soil – this plant will not appreciate a more acidic soil – in which case, consider growing in a container.
Dianthus ‘Memories’ benefits from regular deadheading throughout its flowering season to prolong flowering, but in winter the grey-green leaves can be left simply as is.
Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’
This fantastic perennial is really a semi-evergreen. It may lose some of its foliage in winter, particularly during a very cold year.
E. ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ is a bushy, vigorous wallflower variety. It produces long stems of purple flowers from early spring to summer and can continue into autumn. These can reach an impressive height of 0.75m if allowed. Its foliage is made up of delicate narrow grey-green leaves.
Position in full sun where the bees and butterflies can enjoy it – it is very happy with poor soil and will thrive on slightly alkaline soils too.
As the importance of evergreen perennials lies partly in the interest they bring to the winter garden, winter-flowering hellebores are exceptionally valuable. As one of the few plants that bloom from late autumn all through winter, they are heroes of the season.
H. ‘Wintergold’ is a robust, low-growing variety that produces striking upward-facing white flowers with many slightly pointed petals from late November. The white blooms are contrasted against the dark green foliage. It makes an excellent cut flower, as well as a superb winter perennial.
Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ is a stunning-looking perennial that, like heucheras in general, is evergreen so long as conditions do not get too cold in the winter.
It forms a showy compact mound of distinctive ruffled leaves in vibrant shades of reds, orange-brown and yellow with bright pink undersides that seem to change almost from day to day. Position in full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil.
This compact evergreen perennial creates an attractive mound of colour-changing foliage. In spring and summer, the leaves are more of a blue-green, gradually changing to green as the weather gets colder in the autumn and winter months. In summer you will be treated to sprays of delicate pink flowers rising above the foliage.
For best results, position in partial shade in well-drained, humus-rich soil in beds, borders or containers. Remove faded flowers stems and leaves and mulch annually. Be aware that in very cold years, or colder climates, it may need protection during the winter.
So, while the gardener does have in their armoury a good limited number of evergreen perennials to choose from, there are many more evergreen shrubs, which can provide a green backdrop for the garden all year round. Discover some of our favourites in our Guide to Designing with Evergreen Shrubs.
* Plants are all subject to current availability, which may also vary by Garden Centre