Comments Off on Holiday Decorating with Evergreens
Evergreens of all kinds are a sign of the season, whether used to decorate our landscapes, containers, holiday vases, or festive winter scenes. Needled branches and pine cones also fill the air with resinous fragrance associated with snowy days and glad tidings. Here are several jolly ways to use evergreens and evergreen branches to decorate your home this holiday season, indoors or out.
Outdoor Evergreen Decor
Quality nurseries offer many different potted dwarf evergreens!
Living dwarf evergreens make lovely potted plants that beautify the landscape all season, but during the holidays, a few lights and decorations make them extra pretty additions to front entryways. There are lots to choose from. Tiny Tower® dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca f. conica ‘MonRon’) has the perfect pyramidal shape for patio pots and grows very slowly, reaching a final height of 4-6 feet. Decorate it with lights, bright bows, and sprigs of holly.
Rounded dwarf evergreens also make nice potted specimens. Try the nana Hinoki false cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana’), which only grows to 2 feet and has dense, deep green, fanned foliage that takes well to strings of fairy lights. Mounding mugo pine (Pinus mugo ‘Slowmound’), which only matures to 3 feet, is another pincushion evergreen for festive low containers. Plant them in ornamental pots filled with Fafard Ultra Outdoor Planting Mix for best results.
Lighted garlands are easy to make and brighten winter porches.
Do more than dress up the front door with an evergreen wreath this year. Evergreen garlands are easily created by tying pine branch cuttings to a length of strong twine. And don’t leave those old flower pots empty. If you don’t want to grow live evergreens, convert your seasonal flower pots to evergreen showpieces using cut branches from the yard or tree farm (see final image below). Any evergreen branch will do, and the more textures and colors you add, the prettier the pots. We recommend pine, holly, and evergreen magnolia branches. Add a little glitter, pine cones, or other colorful elements, and you are good to go!
Indoor Evergreen Decor
The fir branches on this mantle are rustically decorated with lotus heads, raffia balls and paper stars.
Use greenery to turn a mantle, piano top, or credenza into a winter scene. These scenes can be as detailed or simple as your taste requires. Simply cut greenery and place branches in tied clusters that can be easily arranged together. This makes it quicker to add greenery where you want it. Then decorate the branches with pine cones and other natural elements. Small lights, paper stars, blue and white dreidels, village scenes or crèches might also be welcome additions.
This simple arrangement of evergreen branches, red flowers, and succulents looks elegant enough for any holiday table.
Gather greens from the yard or take trimmings from the bottom of your tree to place in vases. Embellish the greens with dried or living flowers, berried branches, and pine cones for a truly beautiful holiday table arrangement. It’s simple, inexpensive and always impressive.
Holiday decorating with greens does not have to be costly. Gather what you can from your garden, invest in permanent long-lived evergreen planters, add a few bows and lights, and your home will be the prettiest on the block!
Pots filled with evergreen branches, painted twigs, and pine cones lend a truly beautiful winter look. (Image taken at Newfields)
Comments Off on 10 Best Trees for Year-Round Interest
Lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana)
Everyday trees provide beauty, shade, air purification and windbreaks, not to mention food and shelter for birds and animals. In spite of all that, we gardeners sometimes ask for even more—four seasons of interest.
The following 10 trees are great landscape performers, adding something special to the landscape in every season, including varying combinations of significant flowers, fruit, colorful leaves, and interesting bark. All are great garden investments that guarantee years of good horticultural returns.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier lamarckii)
These small deciduous trees are also known as serviceberry, Juneberry and shadbush. Whatever you call them, they are especially useful in small- to mid-size gardens. In spring, fragrant white flowers bloom in drooping clusters just before the leaves appear. The leaves are dark green by summer, setting off the small blueberry-like fruits that ripen gradually to dark-reddish-purple. Birds love them and humans have been known to harvest them for pies, jams, and other treats. When fall rolls around, the leaves turn shades of yellow, orange and red before dropping. Smooth gray bark, which is marked with reddish fissures, shines in the winter light.
Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)
Japanese stewartia flower
Best known for its gorgeous flowers, Japanese stewartia also has spectacular bark. As the Latin name suggests, its flowers look like camellia blooms, with pure white petals and golden anthers. Unlike many flowering ornamental trees, Japanese stewartia flowers in early summer. Topping out at between 12 and 40 feet, this member of the tea family features oval-shaped green leaves that turn dark red, gold, and orange in the fall. Winter light reveals the smooth exfoliating bark that peels away to reveal dappled patterns of tawny brown and gray.
Lacebark Pine (Pinus bungeana)
This distinctive pine has all the landscape virtues associated with evergreens. Holding its needles through even the harshest weather, the large tree can be grown as a spreading, multi-stemmed specimen or trimmed into a single-stemmed tree that assumes a conical shape at maturity. What makes the lacebark pine distinctive is its exfoliating bark, which showcases patches of silvery-white, olive, and pale gray. Lacebark is an investment evergreen that will begin exfoliating at about the ten-year mark. By the time the tree reaches its mature size of 30 to 50 feet, the exposed portions of the bark will be gleaming white.
Coral Bark Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
Coral Bark Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’)
Japanese maples in the coral bark group, like ‘Sango-Kaku’, feature palm-shaped foliage characteristic of these ornamental members of the maple clan. Growing to a maximum height of 25 feet, the trees are distinctive for their vibrant pink or red bark, which is brightest on young growth and most prominent in the winter. When leaves emerge in spring, they are light green with eye-catching reddish edges. The red gives way to darker green in summer, followed by a brilliant yellow fall color.
Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica)
Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) fall foliage
Tree guru Dr. Michael Dirr calls Persian ironwood, “one of the most beautiful trees for foliage effect”. As temperatures cool in the fall, the small tree’s lustrous green summer leaves turn vivid yellow, orange, and red. The effect is magnified by the leaves’ relatively large size—each one is up to five inches long. When the foliage has disappeared, ironwood’s exfoliating bark reveals a camouflage-like array of gray, green, white and brown. The beauty of that bark is complemented in spring when ironwood trees sprout curious flowers reminiscent of those of their other relatives in the witch hazel family. Though the flowers lack true petals, showy red stamens add visual interest, while the leaves wait in the wings.
Sargent Cherry (Prunus sargentii)
Sargent Cherry (Prunus sargentii) spring flowers
Once you have seen the bark of the Sargent cherry in winter, you will never forget it. It is the color of highly polished mahogany, interspersed with lighter brown lateral striations. But glorious bark is only one of the small tree’s attractions. The rounded, lightly toothed leaves are bronze-purple as they unfold, turning to green in summer, and dark red in fall. Like many ornamental cherry trees, Sargent types cover themselves with masses of single pink blooms in mid-spring. These are followed by nearly-black fruits, beloved of birds.
Green Hawthorne (Crataegus viridis)
Green Hawthorne (Crataegus viridis) fruits
Native to central to southeastern North America, green hawthorne is a handsome tree, growing 25 to 30 feet tall at maturity with a rounded crown. It begins the growing season covered in clusters of fragrant white flowers. These are succeeded by toothed, slightly lobed leaves that are green in summer and red-purple in fall. Hawthorne fruits, sometimes known as “haws”, are bright red, assuming that color in early fall and persisting through the winter. Trunks of mature green hawthorns exfoliate to reveal tawny brown inner bark. ‘Winter King’ is a favorite selection because of its numerous fruits and scarce thorns.
Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa)
Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) fruits
The dogwood clan is full of beautiful trees, but the kousa dogwood stands out. Kousas are relatively small, topping out at about 30 feet tall. Blooming in spring, the trees feature characteristic dogwood “flowers”, each of which consists of a cluster of small, true flowers surrounded by four large, petal-like bracts that are pointed at the tips. The bracts start out white but turn dusty pink as they age. Kousa dogwoods produce unusual, decorative fruits that resemble small pinkish golf balls. The oval leaves are dark green in summer, turning red or red-purple in fall. Afterward, the exfoliating bark takes center stage in shades of gray, brown and tan.
Hybrid Holly (Ilex hybrid)
Hybrid holly berries
Of the hundreds of available hybrid hollies, evergreen ‘Nellie R. Stevens’, a hybrid of English and Chinese holly species, is a standout for hardiness, beauty, and four-season interest. Rising between 15 and 25 feet at maturity, ‘Nellie’ has a pleasing conical shape and abundant, shiny green leaves on densely branched trees. If you look carefully in April, you will notice small, greenish-white flowers. These give way to quantities of bright red holly berries that persist through the winter.
Chinese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata subsp. pekinensis)
Chinese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata subsp. pekinensis)
If you love the shape and fragrance of lilac flowers, Chinese tree lilac is the four-season tree for you. The small, deciduous tree lilacs grow to about 15 feet tall and produce masses of creamy white, fragrant flower clusters in late spring or early summer, in addition to the dark green leaves typical of the lilac family. The brown seed capsules that come after the flowers persist through the winter when trees also reveal furrowed, reddish brown bark that often exfoliates.
Tree Planting Instructions
To make the most of any four-season tree, plant in spring or early fall in well-drained soil in full sun or light shade. Before choosing a location for your young tree, make sure that there is ample space to accommodate its mature dimensions. When planting, remove burlap or other covering on the tree’s root ball. Give your specimen a good start by amending the soil from the planting hole with equal parts of a quality amendment, like Fafard® Premium Natural & Organic Compost. Water in thoroughly while planting and water regularly while the tree is establishing its root system. Apply at least two inches of mulch in a three-foot circle around the tree to conserve soil moisture, but do not allow mulch to touch the trunk.
Salt can be a winter lifesaver for cars and pedestrians. It can also be murder on the garden, sometimes literally. Most de-icing salt contains sodium, which is toxic to many plant species. Even when used sparingly, it can find its way onto the leaves and roots of nearby plants, disfiguring or killing them.
One of the best ways to prevent salt damage to your garden is to use plant species that can handle some sodium. The five shrubs described below are a great place to start. They’re perfect for framing and sheltering gardens in salt-exposed sites, such as roadsides and seashores.
Chokeberries (Aronia spp.)
Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia, image by Abrahami)
Brilliant foliage in fall, attractive clusters of white flowers in spring, and adaptability to a wide range of soil conditions are among the many merits of these handsome, disease-resistant shrubs from wetlands and uplands of central and eastern North America. Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) doubles down on the fall color by covering itself with bright red berry-like fruits that persist into winter. Happiest in moist soil, it slowly expands into suckering, 8- to 10-foot-tall clumps that are at their most luxuriant in full sun. Its abundantly fruiting cultivar ‘Brilliantissima’ is particularly showy. Smaller in size and less flashy in fruit, black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) typically forms a thicketing, 3- to 5-foot shrub with glossy, rich-green leaves and edible black fruits. Varieties of this exceptionally drought-tolerant shrub include the compact growers, ‘Autumn Magic’ and ‘Iroquois Beauty’, as well as ‘Viking’, which is cultivated for its relatively large, tasty fruit that’s excellent for juices, preserves, and baked goods. The fruits of all chokeberries are favorites of birds. Aronia arbutifolia is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 4; A. melanocarpa to Zone 3.
Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)
The suckering, upright, 3- to 8-foot-tall stems of this eastern North American native are lined with lustrous, serrated, dark green leaves and topped in midsummer with fuzzy steeples of white or pinkish, root-beer-scented flowers. The leaves turn bright yellow in fall, and the persistent, peppercorn-like fruits make a pleasant winter garden feature. Sweet pepperbush comes in numerous varieties, including low-growing ‘Hummingbird’, pink-flowered ‘Ruby Spice’, and late-summer-blooming ‘September Beauty’. All forms do best in moist soil and full to partial sun in USDA Zones 5 to 8.
Inkberry (Ilex glabra)
Female Inkberry (Ilex glabra, Image by David Stang)
Its leathery, salt-tolerant, evergreen leaves and rounded habit would recommend inkberry for eastern North American gardens, even if it weren’t native to much of the region. Most varieties become leggy 6- to 8-footers with age, so you might want to opt for a compact, densely leaved cultivar such as the 4-foot-tall ‘Shamrock’. Female inkberries produce small, black, relatively inconspicuous fruits in fall, although white-fruited ‘Ivory Queen’ is a notable exception. All cultivars are hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 8.
Bayberry (Morella pensylvanica)
Female Bayberry (Morella pensylvanica, Image by Jessie Keith)
Recently redubbed Morella pensylvanica, bayberry will no doubt continue to be known to gardeners under its former botanical name, Myrica pensylvanica. A signature species of salt-sprayed coasts from the Maritimes to the Carolinas, it’s literally a natural for salt-tolerant plantings in the eastern U.S. (and an excellent choice for other locations in USDA Zones 3 to 7). All of its parts – from the leathery, deciduous or semi-evergreen leaves to the waxy berries (on female plants) – possess a silver-gray cast and a pleasingly pungent fragrance, made famous by the candles that bear its essence and its name. Mockingbirds, yellow-rumped warblers and other songbirds feed on the fruits in winter.
Lilac (Syringa spp.)
Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris, image by Jessie Keith)
Almost all Syringa species boast moderate to high salt tolerance, reflecting their origins in arid regions of Asia and eastern Europe. Although best known in the form of the ever-popular common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), the genus includes numerous other garden-worthy species and hybrids, many of which are relatively scarce in gardens. Among the best of these for hedging and screening are littleleaf lilac (Syringa pubescens ssp. microphylla ‘Superba’), well worth growing for its aromatic, pale pink flowers that appear in late spring and summer on dense, dainty-leaved, 6-to 8-foot plants; cutleaf lilac (Syringaprotolaciniata), distinguished by its deeply lobed leaves, compact arching habit, and pale lilac-purple spring flowers; and Chinese lilac (Syringa × chinensis), which in its best forms (such as ‘Lilac Sunday’) weights its stems with armloads of pale purple flowers in mid-spring, a few days before common lilac hits its stride. Any of the above would make an excellent screen or hedge in a sunny site in USDA Zones 5 to 8.
Whatever their salt-tolerance, all your plants will do better if you take measures to build their soil and to reduce their exposure to sodium. Apply an inch or two of Fafard Premium Natural & Organic Compost or several inches of shredded leaves in fall or spring to boost and maintain the levels of sodium-neutralizing organic matter in your soil. In addition to its many other benefits, mulch also lessens surface evaporation, thereby increasing soil moisture and lowering salt concentrations.
You can reduce the amount of incoming salt by screening planting areas with structures and salt-tolerant plants, by grading the soil to divert salt-laden surface water, and by using sodium-free de-icers, such as magnesium chloride, on your driveway and paths. The right plants and the right care can go a long way toward making your garden safe from salt.
While we have made every effort to ensure the information on this website is reliable, Sun Gro Horticulture is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. All information in this site is provided “as is”, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information.