Evergreens for the Patio

There are some spectacular evergreen shrubs that grow very well in containers. For round-the-year interest include one or two plants that flower at differing times. For instance include with a spring flowering Mexican Orange some summer flowering Lilies, and a small leaved Ivy and Carnations to trail over the pot edge.

However there are some plants that look best displayed on their own because of their strong shape and one of these in the centre of the patio will form a good architectural feature.

For covering walls and fences Evergreen climbers give wonderful background cover specially on harsh-coloured new walls and fences. Mix those that flower or produce berries at different times of the year and intersperse with some showy flowering climbers that shed their leaves like Clematis and Summer Jasmine. Many evergreen shrubs provide wonderful wall cover too.

Large evergreens need not always dominate outside — smaller Ivies and Yuccas also have their place. Massing a whole variety of leaf types will enliven a patio all year round.

Evergreens for the PatioConifers for tubs

  • Miniature Cedar of Lebanon
  • Cedrus libani ‘Comte de Dijon’.
  • Western Red Cedar Thula policata ‘Irish Gold’ forms a golden yellow tree of Christmas tree shape.
  • Juniperus communis ‘Hibernica’ forms a very narrow column of blue-grey foliage.
  • Pencil Cedar, Juniperus virginiana ‘Skyrocket’ is also very slim with a finely tapered spire tip.
  • White Cedar Thula occidentalis ‘Rheingold’ is a shrub growing to 1.2m (4ft) with bronze-yellow young foliage.

Shrubs

  • Camellias have shiny, dark green foliage and wonderful exotic early spring flowers in pink, red, white, some streaked, some single, some double.
  • Mexican Orange Choisya ternata, has shiny green leaves and clusters of small white fragrant flowers in late spring.
  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas need acid soil and part shade. They come in a vast range of flower shapes and colours — white, yellow, orange, pink, scarlet, crimson, purple, violet, some scented.
  • Cistus flowers late May to early June and has aromatic leaves. Not all are hardy but tougher species are ‘Silver Pink’ and the small Cistus crispins with purple blooms that have yellow centres in late July.
  • Veronica Hebe salicifolia needs protecting. ‘Midsummer Beauty’ has red flushed leaves and lavender flowers.

Sculptural plants

  • Mahonia Japonica has large, spiky dark green leaves and lemon-yellow scented flowers in early spring.
  • New Zealand Flax forms a clump of sword-like leaves that are topped by dark red flower spikes in summer. Variegated leaf type is also available.
  • Windmill Palm with its large fan-shaped leaves will create a tropical landscape. Slow growing and hardy.
  • Yucca gloriosa has thick grey, spiky leaves in a mound that is topped in a hot summer by a 2m (61/2ft) spire of cream bell-shaped flowers.

Bamboo

Arundinaria muneliae has narrow green leaves on arching canes.

Trees for tubs

It seems surprising but almost any tree can be planted in a tub and, being confined, its growth will be stunted, in the same way that a bonsai can be kept small. It is best to trim the roots periodically rather than let the tree get too pot bound.

Conifers come in a wide range of greens from a deep blue or olive green, to lighter yellow and silvery tones.

Many town houses have only a narrow front, and trimming a tree to a tall, slim shape provides a tidy focal point, as with the small Bay above.

Ivy is usually thought of as a climber, good for covering walls, but it can also be trained as a shrub. Its hardy nature and spreading habit make it most adaptable. Very effective or form a corner group by mixing shapes and shades.

More evergreens to consider

Climbers and wall shrubs

  • Pyracantha P. angustifolia has grey-green foliage and orange-yellow fruit. P.Mohave has large orange-red fruits and glossy green foliage. Vigorous.
  • Myrtle Myrtus communis has white flowers in August and fragrant foliage.
  • Ivy Hedera canariensis ‘Gloire de Marengo’ has large leaves with silvery-white variegation. ‘Goldheart’ has small green leaves with bright gold centres.
  • Winter flowering Jasmine, Josminum nudiflorum has star-shaped bright yellow flowers in mid-winter.
  • Garrya elliptica has long greenish yellow catkins in February.
  • Akebia quinata is a twining plant with deep purple fragrant flowers in spring.
  • Ceanothus repens has a mass of light blue flowers in May and a spreading growth.

Low evergreens for pot edges and window-boxes

  • Small-leafed Ivies and Tree Ivy, Fatshedera lizie (a cross between ivy and Japanese Aralia) which spreads to form ground cover or can be tied to a support.
  • Festuca glauca creates spreading clumps of blue-grey grass and small sprays of beige coloured flowers in early summer.
  • Heathers Erica cornea has red, white or pink flowers and green or golden foliage.
  • Hebe H. rakaiensis forms small-leafed apple green hummocks with tiny white flowers in summer.
  • Pachysandra terminalis ‘Variegata’ has bright green, cream edged leaves and will thrive in shade.
  • Raoulia Australis forms a tight silver mat from which pale yellow fluffy flowers grow in summer.

Trimming to shape

It’s fun to create additional interest by trimming trees to form traditional birds or unusual animal shapes. You could include the family pets! If you have a special hobby, like an interest in trains or old cars then display your interest with a pair of trimmed shrubs either side of the front entrance.

Box is probably the best material for trimming to shape. Grow a line of these shrubs in identical tubs along the patio edge where they can be seen from the house and trim constantly until you establish the shape you want. Use wire if necessary to train branches to go in the direction required to create specific sections like a head, or tail.

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