In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
October, 2004
Regional Report

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Evergreen banana shrub delivers fragrance and color all year.

Don't Forget the Evergreens

Too often we overlook evergreen shrubs in coastal landscapes. Focus on using wonderful woodies for year-round color, fragrance, and great texture. Soon you'll be looking for another place to put some.

They've Got it All
When it comes to consistent, comforting geometric shapes in our gardens, evergreens cover the map. Mounds of yaupon, erect cleyera, upright palmetto, and bulky Russian olive will just sit there, delightfully reliable. Yet each works to unify the landscape design and bring color and texture to the scene. Add the fragrant flowers of banana shrub and sweet olive to their distinct form, and their power spans generations. My great aunt called them dooryard bushes and had a pair by each entrance to her house in Gulfport.

Put Them to Work
Beyond their beauty and individual appeal, evergreens are extremely useful in the landscape. Make evergreens the bones of your design plan and they can provide erosion control, windbreaks, and instant screens. Smaller shrubs are unbeatable for growing a neat frame around a bed or along a walkway. It's a good bet that the shrubs will get pruned even if the plants in the bed are a bit unkempt, and the whole thing will look better than if there were no evergreens to focus on when the perennials and annuals are not at their best.

Don't Miss These
Traditional evergreens get a bad rap for being boring, perhaps because every foundation planting has three of the same six. But the plant breeders stay busy, improving their vigor, color, and form, and some of the newest results are well worth considering in new or replacement plantings. If you haven't looked at the latest in yaupon and cleyera, you're missing out. Dwarf yaupons have long been a favorite for their tiny leaves, dense form, superb response to pruning, and drought tolerance. But if their constant medium green bores you, look at Ilex 'Bordeaux', which has red new growth that turns a darker shade of green and takes on a deep maroon in colder winters.

Cleyera got a revival a few years ago when people realized those leggy old shrubs could be limbed up into nifty small trees at the edge of the patio. Now there are more choices in this fine shrub group, including what I call the "Three Bears" because one is an average bear, another larger like Mama, and the third is huge, like Papa Bear. When choosing an evergreen for shiny leaves, dense form, and colorful new growth, consider 'Bronze Beauty' (6-foot shrub), 'Regal' (easily maintained at about 8 feet), and 'LeAnn', the biggest of all and perfect for windbreaks and screens in just about any soil or site in our region.


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