Zone 7 evergreen shrubs

This is the first in a series of articles on the Ten “Must Have’s” in your Landscape. Have you ever passed by a house that doesn’t have any – not one – foundation shrub? It definitely looks out of place, it looks lonely, and it is just not right! Foundation shrubs serve the purpose of joining the house to the land. They provide symmetry, perspective, softening and beautification. There are several things to consider when you are selecting what shrubs to use for the foundation planting.

What Make’s a Good Foundation Shrub?

It is simply, the right plant in the right place. Firstly, it should be evergreen. Therefore it won’t go away in the winter time and the landscape always looks “put together”. When we are preparing a landscape design, we always think about what is the landscape going to look like in the winter? Secondly, it should be an appropriate size. Often shrubs look awfully cute at the Nursery, but you bring them home and give them some lovin’ for a few years and they turn into a giant! Read labels carefully and select shrubs that are not going to cover your windows or doors.

Is Color important to you?

Some people don’t like a lot of color in their front yards, but instead prefer the landscape to be completely green. This is perfectly o.k. but it you go with only green foliage shrubs, you should change it up a little by selecting shrubs that have some textural differences so that the landscape doesn’t become boring. If you are not afraid of a little color, there are many wonderful foundation shrubs with colorful foliage, or foliage that changes color with the seasons. The secret to adding a little color is to add a “little” color. Don’t go overboard with a lot of different color choices as then the landscape becomes very busy and confusing on our eyes. Instead, pick one or two accent colors and repeat those colors throughout the landscape.

Do you like Meatballs?

Yes please, but not in my landscape. Meatballs (or continually pruning shrubs into balls) results from shrubs that outgrow their space and therefore we have to continually prune them to keep them in bounds. Over the years the plant industry has developed many size appropriate shrubs, so we have a lot more choices these days to select the proper plant.

Some of our Top Foundation Shrubs

Below is a list of the foundation shrubs that we use over and over again. These are tried and true, and don’t have many issues, and tend to do well in our climate. This is just a small selection of the shrubs we offer at the Nursery, so come on in and see the vast array of colors, textures, and shapes that are available.

Soft Touch Holly
Naturally forms a rounded shrub that stays
small, 2′ tall x 3′ wide. Can take full sun.
Also look at Carissa Holly, Dwarf Yaupon Holly,
and Compact Japanese Holly
Crimson Fire Loropetalum
A fairly new Loropetalum that only reaches
2-3′ tall x 2-3′ wide. It keeps its burgundy
color year round! Can take full sun. If you
need a larger version, look at Purple Diamond
Loropetalum.
Creeping Gardenia
Another low growing shrub reaching 2′ tall
by 2-3′ wide. It flowers in July with fragrant
white blooms. Can take partial to full sun.
Another great Gardenia is Frost Proof if you
need a taller shrub. It gets about 5′ tall.
Georgia Petite Indian Hawthorn
Another small shrub that flowers in the
spring. It reaches 2.5′ tall x 3.5′ wide. It
can also take full sun. It does have one
drawback, the deer seem to like it!
Kaleidoscope Abelia
Great colorful foliage and it only reaches
2.5′ tall by 3.5′ wide. It can take full sun and
looks great with Loropetalum. Also look at
Mardi Gras Abelia which is a newer
introduction.
Winter Gem Boxwood
One of the hardiest Boxwoods. Makes a great
small hedge and will reach 4-6′ tall by 4-6′
wide. Winter Green Boxwood is another
one that stays slightly smaller at 2-4′ by 3-5′
wide.
Vintage Jade Distylium
Only reaches 2′ tall but will spread 5′ wide.
Adds great texture to the shrub border and
adds another shade of green. Can take full
sun also. Also look at Blue Cascade
Distylium and Coppertone Distylium.
Flirt Nandina
A great low growing groundcover type
Nandina that turns Red in the winter. Drought
tolerant, loves the sun, and low maintenance.
Also look for Blush Pink Nandina and
Obsession Nandina.
Sasanqua Camellia
The dwarf varieties of Sasanqua Camellia
make excellent foundation shrubs when you
need a little bit more height. They have the
added bonus of flowers in the winter time too!
Check out the October Magic series.

If you are still not sure where to begin, come in and see us at the Family Tree. We also offer a free Quick Sketch or a full Landscape Design Service that will help you get started.

Happy Gardening!
Tracy Davis
Horticulturist/Designer

Check out the rest of Tracy’s list of the top 10 ‘must-haves’ for your landscape!

#1 Foundation Plants
#2 Trees
#3 Screening
#4 A Welcoming Front Entry
#5 Pops of Color
#6 Focal Points
#7 Nooks
#8 Hardscaping
#9 Entertaining Areas
#10 Animal Friends

The best plants for a foundation planting

Everyone wants a foundation planting that looks great and accents their home. A variety of plants shapes are a sure way to do that. You can easily use this design technique if nothing’s planted in front of your home. Or if you want to revamp an established landscape, simply keep your favorite trees and shrubs and pair them up with a few new selections. All it takes to get a fresh, updated look is choosing a few simple shapes. Start with these tips for choosing the right plants for your space then take a look at some common plant shapes and how they can take your foundation planting from ho-hum to head-turning.

Consider mature size of plants for your foundation planting

Be sure to check the mature width of the plants you’ll be growing next to the house. For example, if you want a pyramidal shaped tree, the first plant that comes to mind might be a large spruce. But do you want one in your foundation planting? Probably not — it could grow to be 25 feet wide or more! That size would be much too large for most houses. And you don’t want to keep pruning a large prickly plant to keep it small. So the mature size of your choice becomes an important factor. Sure, a capitata yew or a Canadian hemlock can be clipped so it fits the spot, just factor the maintenance time it will take as you choose each shape.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about heights. But you don’t want plants covering your windows. The tallest shapes are usually at the corners. And a good rule of thumb is to keep the plants there slightly above or just below the edge of the roof.

Don’t forget there’s sun and shade to consider, along with other growing conditions. So, to help you get started, check out these plant lists, broken down by shapes, below.

Round-shaped plants

This is the most common shape in any landscape. Use it in groups or masses where you don’t want to focus a lot of attention. Your eye moves over a round form quickly and easily, often heading to a weeping or pyramidal shape.

  • Abelia Abelia ‘Edward Goucher’
    Type Shrub Blooms Pink flowers from spring until frost Light Full sun to part shade Size 4 to 5 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9

  • Boxwood Buxus ‘Green Velvet’ 
    Type Evergreen shrub; easily sheared for size Light Full sun to part shade Size 2 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

  • Brownii yew Taxus x media ‘Brownii‘ 
    Type Evergreen shrub; dark green needles; shear for size Light Full sun to part shade Size 8 to 10 ft. tall, 6 to 12 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7

  • Dwarf blue spruce Picea pungens ‘Globosa’ 
    Type Evergreen shrub; stiff steel blue needles Light Full sun Size 3 to 4 ft. tall, 4 to 6 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 2 to 8

  • Dwarf fothergilla Fothergilla gardenii
    Type Shrub Blooms Fragrant white flowers in spring Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

  • Dwarf Korean lilac Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’
    Type Shrub Blooms Fragrant lavender flowers in late spring Light Full sun Size 4 to 5 ft. tall, 5 to 7 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

  • Smooth leaf hydrangea Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’
    Type Shrub Blooms White flowers in summer Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 5 ft. tall, 4 to 6 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

  • Viburnum Viburnum lantana ‘Mohican’
    Type Shrub Blooms White flowers in spring Light Full sun to part shade Size 7 to 8 ft. tall, 8 to 10 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

Pyramidal-shaped plants

Wherever this shape is placed, it will draw attention. And the narrow top will cause you to look up. Use pyramids sparingly, implementing them near an entrance, to frame a view or at the start of a path.

  • American holly Ilex opaca 
    Type Evergreen tree Foliage Shiny green foliage; need a male and female plant to get fruit Light Full sun to part shade Size 15 to 30 ft. tall, 10 to 20 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

  • Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis ‘Holmstrup’
    Type Evergreen tree; soft-to-the-touch green foliage; slow growing Light Full sun to part shade Size 10 to 15 ft. tall, 3 to 5 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

  • Canadian hemlock Tsuga canadensis
    Type Evergreen tree; dark green needles; easily sheared or left natural Light part shade to full shade Size 40 to 70 ft. tall, 25 to 35 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

  • Capitata yew Taxus cuspidata ‘Capitata’ 
    Type Evergreen tree; dark green needles; shear for size Light Full sun to full shade Size 3 to 25 ft. tall, 2 to 15 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Dwarf Alberta spruce Picea glauca albertina ‘Conica’
    Type Evergreen shrub; slow, dense growing Light Full sun to part shade Size 6 to 8 ft. tall, 3 to 5 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

  • Holly Ilex x meserveae Castle Spire®
    Type Evergreen shrub; female produces red fruit Light Full sun to part shade Size 8 to 10 ft. tall, 3 to 4 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 7

  • Juniper Juniperus scopullorum ‘Wichita Blue’
    Type Evergreen tree; prickly steel-blue foliage; can be sheared Light Full sun to part shade Size 10 to 12 ft. tall, 3 to 4 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

Columnar plants

The narrower this shape is, the stronger the effect. Similar to a pyramid, it leads the eye upward, just not as dramatically. Where space is limited, use a columnar shape in place of a wide rounded one to hide or soften the look of a tall corner.

  • Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis Emerald
    Type Evergreen tree; bright green foliage Light Full sun to part shade Size 12 to 15 ft. tall, 3 to 4 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Birch Betula platyphylla Dakota Pinnacle®  
    Type Tree; white bark Light Full sun Size 20 to 30 ft. tall, 8 to 10 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

  • Cutleaf buckthorn Frangula alnus Fine Line® Type Shrub; fine, feathery foliage Light Full sun to part shade Size 5 to 7 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 2 to 7

  • European hornbeam Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’
    Type Tree; medium green foliage Light Full sun to part shade Size 20 to 25 ft. tall, 6 to 10 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Flowering crabapple Malus ‘Adirondack’ 
    Type Tree Blooms White flowers in spring Light Full sun Size 15 to 18 ft. tall, 8 to 10 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba ‘Princeton Sentry’ 
    Type Tree; male cultivar won’t produce fruit Light Full sun Size 15 to 40 ft. tall, 15 to 20 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Hicks yew Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’ 
    Type Evergreen tree Foliage Dark green needles; easy to shear for size Light Full sun to part shade Size 10 to 12 ft. tall, 3 to 4 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7

  • Japanese holly Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ 
    Type Evergreen shrub; very slow growing Light Full sun to part shade Size 6 to 8 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

Horizontal plants

Low plants with flat tops, wider than they are tall, emphasize length. The evergreens flanking the sidewalk above are good examples of horizontals. Other shapes can be planted close together and clipped to form hedges to get this shape. Horizontal forms have a comfortable stabilizing effect.

  • Bird’s nest spruce Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’ 
    Type Evergreen shrub Foliage Dark green needles; slow growing Light Full sun Size 3 to 5 ft. tall, 9 to 12 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

  • Creeping juniper Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Chip’
    Type Evergreen shrub Foliage Blue-green needles Light Full sun Size 4 to 12 in. tall, 2 to 8 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

  • Cutleaf staghorn sumac Rhus typhina Tiger Eyes® Type Shrub Foliage Bright golden yellow foliage Light Full sun to part shade Size 3 to 6 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Deutzia Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’ 
    Type Shrub Blooms White flowers in spring Light Full sun to part shade Size 1 to 3 ft. tall, 2 to 5 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

  • Doublefile viburnum Viburnum plicatum tomentosum
    Type Shrub Blooms White flowers in spring Light Full sun to part shade Size 8 to 15 ft. tall, 10 to 18 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

  • Japanese maple Acer palmatum ‘Shindeshojo’ 
    Type Tree Foliage Shades of red foliage from spring to fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 10 to 15 ft. tall, 15 to 20 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9

  • Pagoda dogwood Cornus alternifolia 
    Type Tree Blooms Creamy white flowers in late spring Light Full sun to part shade Size 15 to 25 ft. tall, 20 to 30 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

  • Rockspray cotoneaster Cotoneaster horizontalis
    Type Shrub Blooms Red fruit in late summer Light Full sun to part shade Size 2 to 3 ft. tall, 5 to 8 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7

Weeping plants

While pyramids make you look up, weeping shapes encourage you to look down. Use this shape to distract viewers from something higher up on the house or against a house where a blank wall feels tall and looming. Most of the time, just one is enough.

  • Beech Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’ 
    Type Tree Foliage Green leaves turn coppery gold in fall Light Full sun to part shade Size 20 to 50 ft. tall, 15 to 30 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7

  • Cherry Prunus Snow Fountains®
     Type Tree Blooms White flowers in spring Light Full sun Size 8 to 15 ft. tall, 6 to 8 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

  • Flowering crabapple Malus hybrid ‘Louisa’ 
    Type Tree Blooms Pink flowers in spring Light Full sun Size 8 to 10 ft. tall, 10 to 12 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Juniper Juniperus scopulorum ‘Tolleson’s Blue Weeping’ 
    Type Evergreen tree Foliage Steel-blue foliage Light Full sun Size 12 to 20 ft. tall, 8 to 12 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

  • Mulberry Morus alba ‘Chaparral’ 
    Type Tree; male cultivar won’t produce fruit Light Full sun to part shade Size 6 to 10 ft. tall, 8 to 12 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Norway spruce Picea abies ‘Pendula’
    Type Evergreen tree Foliage Dark green needles; needs to be staked to grow tall Light Full sun Size 2 to 10 ft. tall, 4 to 10 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

  • Pussy willow Salix caprea ‘Pendula’
    Type Tree Blooms Silvery catkins in early spring Light Full sun to part shade Size 6 to 7 ft. tall, 5 to 7 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Redbud Cercis canadensis texensis ‘Traveller’
    Type Tree Blooms Bright pink flowers in early spring Light Full sun to part shade Size 4 to 6 ft. tall, 10 to 12 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9

All gardens need structure, and one of the easiest ways to provide it year-round is to plant evergreen shrubs. They provide other plants with a solid anchor, and many offer useful winter greenery followed by displays of flowers in spring and summer. Large shrubs can be overbearing in small gardens, so choose evergreens that stay small or tolerate some hard pruning: most of the common broad-leaved evergreens can be cut back. One of the great pleasures of gardening is looking forward to the changes brought about by a new season, so make sure you leave plenty of room for all those herbaceous perennials, deciduous shrubs and bulbs, too.

Fargesia murieliae

Photograph: Clive Nichols/GAP Photos

Bamboos are the antithesis of the often leaden effect you can get from other evergreens such as yew and rhododendrons. They won’t enjoy a dry, windswept garden, but give them some shelter and they are one of the best plants around for movement and lightness of touch. Avoid the invasive species, of which there are many. F. murieliae is clump-forming and likely eventually to hit 3m in height. It is happiest in light shade and soil that does not dry out. The umbrella bamboo’s shorter selections, such as ‘Simba’, need time to gain the grace of the species.

Available from UK Bamboos, 01629 55010

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Photograph: The Garden Picture Library/Alamy

Glossy leaves with the narrowest of yellow margins, dense clusters of pink, heavily scented flowers in late winter/spring and a good shaped shrub up to 1.5m tall combine to make this a very special plant indeed. It can be slow to start, but given sun or light shade, a site out of the wind and some fertile, moist soil, it will undoubtedly give you a plant to be proud of and flowers with a scent to make you swoon.

Available from Burncoose Nurseries, 01209 860316

Ribes laurifolium

Photograph: Marianne Majerus/MMGI

The laurel-leaved currant is less of a structural element and more of a spring treat. The leathery leaves provide the perfect backdrop for cascading heads of creamy green, scented flowers in late winter or spring. Give it full sun or light shade and a fertile soil that doesn’t dry out. Slow to establish, so don’t expect it to get to more than 50cm to 1m tall. Male plants have bigger flower heads, but both sexes are good shrubs.

Available from Burncoose Nurseries

Viburnum tinus ‘Gwenllian’

Photograph: Neil Holmes/GAP Photos

One of the most reliable and easy evergreens, ‘Gwenllian’ is a dense shrub with dark green, leathery leaves. Clusters of deep pink buds open to white flowers throughout winter, but don’t overlook the metallic blue berries (they eventually turn black) that follow. This viburnum copes with shade, but it flowers best in full sun. It will reach 3m, but can be cut down almost to ground level in spring if needs be.

Available from Binny Plants, 01506 858931

Ilex × altaclerensis ‘Golden King’

Photograph: Garden Picture Library/photolibrary.com

Variegated evergreens can be difficult to place in the garden because getting them to “work” with other plants is never easy. With this one I don’t even try – I just give it its own space and let it show off its bright, prickle-free foliage. Despite its name, this is a female plant that produces red berries in winter. ‘Golden King’ can get to 4m or 5m tall, but it’s very easy to clip to shape if your garden is small. It thrives in a wide range of soils and situations.

Available from Gardening Express, 08000 336161

Itea ilicifolia

Photograph: Howard Rice/Photolibrary.com

This classy shrub has many good qualities; light green leaves armed with prickly edges, long (up to 30cm, but usually less) catkins of scented, pale green flowers from mid- to late summer, and a fairly robust constitution. It’s often grown against a wall, but a free-standing specimen makes an elegant sight. Plant it out of cold winds and in any reasonably fertile soil. It can reach 3m or more, but takes a good few years to get there.

Available from Burncoose Nurseries

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