The leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees and the winter rain has mashed them into the ground. A soft grey mist floats among the bare branches, turning the landscape into a blur of brown. The landscape is sleeping but my eyes search for something … something green.
In the quiet of winter, green plants in the southeast are a welcome sight. They are a beacon of life in what can be a very brown time. And of course they are good shelter for birds and help to provide a bit of privacy.
We are fortunate to have a good selection of native evergreen plants to use in the landscape, from perennials to shrubs to vines and, of course, trees. Here are a few of the ones you might consider if you are looking to add some winter green to your landscape.
Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) is a lovely yellow-flowering ground cover; partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) offers bright red berries in winter; the leaves of beetleweed (Galax urceolata) bronze to a rich mix of green and burgundy; ground orchids like Tipularia discolor and Goodyera pubescens delight you with the thought that you are growing orchids outside; evergreen gingers (Hexastylis spp.) bravely hold green leaves above the leaf litter; Christmas (Polystichum acrostichoides) and ebony spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron) ferns are so hardy; and patches of moss glisten when revealed among the fallen leaves.
Florida anise (Illicium floridanum) likes shade and moist conditions; Florida leucothoe (Agarista populifolia) is my go-to deer-resistant shrub for part-sun; dwarf wax myrtle (Morella cerifera var. pumila) is great for full sun; dwarf yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) is a bit of a meatball but looks better if you avoid the pruners; creeping pieris (Pieris phillyreifolia) is surprisingly garden-worthy considering where it grows naturally (swamps); inkberry (Ilex glabra) is so handsome; mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) cultivars mean so many choices; and Rhododendron is perfect for that eastern side of the house.
Thank goodness for so many native pine trees – they keep the green front and center (Pinus spp.); eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is not a cedar at all; the festive American holly (Ilex opaca) has red berries and green leaves (well the female does); Carolina cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana) has glossy leaves; southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is very regal; wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) in tree form provides fragrant small berries (female, again); and our native hemlocks (Tsuga spp.) gracefully anchor our shade gardens.
So if you love a bit of green come winter, select some of these great native plants to be a part of your landscape. For more posts on evergreen plants in the southeast, check here.
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