A Sampling of Colorful Evergreens

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A Sampling of Colorful Evergreens

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Plants with evergreen foliage are a mainstay of the winter garden.  But how many of these plants are truly green?  The term evergreen means they hold their foliage through the winter but the wintertime foliage can be in almost any hue!  Here’s a look at some of the evergreen plants around the Visitor Center which offers an exceptional collection of evergreens as it was designed to be a sort of winter garden for folks who didn’t want to walk to far to see the beauty of the gardens on a cold winter’s day.

Nandina domestica‘Blush Pink’ offers about the wildest color one can have this season on a dwarf or compact shrub.  The winter color of this shrub is fiery fall red — its pink in the summertime.

Nandina domestica ‘Obsession’ also offers a wonderful blend of winter color with red-bronze-purple hued foliage.
Nandina domestica ‘Flirt’ is a very compact grower with a more overall purple hue now.  All three of these mini-shrub Nandinas are part of the Southern Living Shrub Collection’s zone 6 hardy varieties which were all donated to Powell Gardens for trial.  So far these are tough shrubs surviving last summer’s ferocious heat and drought just fine.  These 3 varieties can be seen around the Visitor Center trolley stop.
Here’s a grouping of native Eastern Redcedars (Juniperus virginiana) that were dug from the wild and planted as a screen to the Visitor Center’s parking lot.  Native male Eastern Redcedars like these three have orange-colored pollen cones on them in winter that will release dusty yellow pollen in spring.  Many gardeners don’t care for this color of evergreen in the wintertime but we feel it is part of the natural color scheme to our local landscape — the “Spirit of Place” we try to capture at Powell Gardens.

These are a grouping of a ‘Oxford’ Eastern Redcedars which is a cultivar selected in southern Kansas for its greener foliage in winter.  It is a female cultivar so has some of the blue, berry-like cones that are so nice to adorn the plant in wintertime and ofter a major food source to wildlife.  You can eat these cones too, sometimes they have a sweet burst of flavor to begin with but always end with a strong gin aftertaste.  Yep, gin is flavored with juniper “berries.”

Cannaertii Eastern Redcedars are another Kansas selection of our only native evergreen.  Canaertii Junipers are also female and have wonderful open branching patterns that are so striking in the winter landscape.  The trees on the right side of this shot are a bit lopsided because of severe deer browse on their leeward side.

This evergreen (but yellow-leaved at all seasons) is the Golden Japanese Sweetflag (Acorus gramineus‘Ogon’).  It is a very underutilized perennial groundcover that really does add a bright spot in the landscape throughout the year.  This mass is just northeast of the Visitor Center right along the main path.

Here’s one of the greenest evergreens I could find: a Southern Magnolia (M. grandiflora) grown from a cutting off the Greater Kansas City champion.  This is certainly one of the hardiest Southern Magnolias anywhere and does grow as a sturdy, relatively compact plant despite its unsheltered site south of the Visitor Center.

The wonderful red-purple hues and rugose texture of this Leatherleaf Viburnum (V. x rhitidophylloides) make it one of our favorite huge shrubs for winter interest.  The foliage holds well through mild winters but this shrub can become more deciduous after a harder winter like last year.  Look for these big shrubs below the Visitor Center’s Conservatory.

Rhododendron ‘PJM’ has some of the nicest dark, almost chocolate purple leaves of any hardy shrub that grows well here.  On cold, sub-freezing days the leaves roll up — rolling up tightly during severe cold and giving the plant an entirely different look.  I think of it as a living thermometer in winter as the leaves unfurl as the temperature returns to above freezing.

This is the fabulous foliage of the Redboor Kale (Brassica oleracea) which holds beautifully down to temperatures around 10F or above.  It is naturally a biennial where completely hardy but since we are usually colder than zone 8, it often dies or the foliage is killed by our winters.  We would love to see this mild winter continue as all the kale look great right now.  We also have blooming pansies and a few spring bulbs already out!
Come out to Powell Gardens for a New Years hike and enjoy some of the beautiful evergreens that adorn the grounds.  The biggest collection is around the Visitor Center but there are marvelous varieties to be seen from the Heartland Harvest Garden to the Perennial Garden and even  a plethora of winter colors along the Byron Shutz Nature Trail.  Consider staying fit by walking outdoors as often as you can this winter, and may our mild winter continue!