Benefits of an Evergreen Foundation

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In the coldest months of the year, a garden that has strong lines and structure still looks good, even without colorful flowers. Evergreen shrubs and trees help define the bones of a garden, outlining the shape of beds, screening views and providing green walls for garden rooms.

1. Divide a garden into multiple areas with hedging. Creating divisions between different areas of a garden can make even small gardens feel bigger. Low hedges of boxwood can be useful for delineating garden borders, while taller hedges can create more visual separation between garden rooms. Without the low hedges or potted trees in this formal entry garden, for example, the front yard would feel like one monotonous space instead of three more interesting garden areas.

2. Frame a view. Evergreen hedges become building blocks for a garden, guiding a visitor down pathways or lines of sight. Borrow a design technique from formal European gardens that looks just as good in summer as it does in winter, and create an allée of trees and evergreen shrubs that leads to a viewpoint, fountain or piece of garden art.

3. Carve out more privacy. When deciduous trees and shrubs have lost their leaves in winter, it can bring attention to areas of the garden that could benefit from increased privacy. Evergreen hedges provide year-round screening where you need it most, blocking the front windows from a busy street or concealing the waste bins from view. Take the time to mark out these areas now for planting this month or in spring.

4. Layer evergreens with different forms in a single bed. Create a landscape with year-round beauty by filling garden beds with interesting evergreens instead of seasonal flowers. To get the look, choose shrubs and small trees with different foliage colors; then maintain them in different forms, such as spheres, cones and clipped hedges, or leave them unclipped and natural.

5. Define the foundation of the home. House-hugging plants help anchor a home to the site, providing a transition from the garden to the building. Using evergreen shrubs as a foundation planting ensures year-round curb appeal. For a totally integrated look, mimic the architectural lines of the home — such as mirroring tall rectilinear windows with upright, narrow evergreen hedges.

6. Use free-standing shrubs as focal points. Evergreens clipped into geometric shapes and planted with low-growing ground covers form accents in garden beds or focal points from a distance. To save on time spent with your pruning shears, choose a slow-growing or dwarf variety of evergreen to make into a topiary, such as a boxwood, dwarf white spruce or yew. In winter, wrap focal-point shrubs with strings of white lights to brighten up the landscape.

7. Create lines and curves. Evergreen hedges can be just as useful as hardscape materials at carving out the geometry of a garden. Hedges in straight lines tend to have a more formal feel, while curves and organic shapes look more naturalistic. Strike a balance between the two by using curving hedges paired with straight stone walls.