With the earlier-than-usual appearance of daffodils here in Maryland, I’m pausing to appreciate the evergreens that help me get through winter, year after year with almost no effort on the part of this gardener. They may be low on floral thrills or the changing colors of deciduous woodies, but they make my winter garden, which is rarely covered in snow, still look like a garden to me.

That’s especially true of the entryway to my front door.  On the left are some ‘Winter Gem’ Boxwoods (Buxus microphylla).  Two ‘Goshiki’ Osmanthus frame the door. ‘Burgundy Wine’ Nandinas and ‘Ice Dance’ Carex are on the right. There’s also lots of groundcover Comfrey, which is semi-evergreen here in Zone 7. A close-up of one of the ‘Oshiki’ Osmanthus. This is the most-commented-on evergreen I grow, and can you see why? It just looks gorgeous every day of the year. It’s easily pruned to any shape or size I want (in this case, keeping it off the sidewalk). Also, despite its holly-like appearance, its leaves are soft(ish) to the touch.My go-to vine is the very evergreen Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), seen here gradually creating screening around my front yard.

Here in the back yard, it took about 5 years to completely cover the screen.  In May it’ll be covered in orange trumpet-shaped blooms.Golden Groundsel (Packera aurea) is in the foreground and Autumn Fern at the rear. Mondo grass is a truly steppable groundcover that spreads extremely slowly but this patch is finally thick and I love the look and the feel of it. Here it’s seen with my go-to groundcover for sun – Sedum takeseminese. Here’s more of the same Sedum as edging in a sunny-enough spot along the path and under some Amsonia hubrichtii.Here’s a Chinese Juniper ‘Sea Green’ that I bought in 2006 and grew in a pot on my front porch for 5 years. I then moved and because it was in a container and didn’t “convey” to the buyers, I brought it with me and planted it here in the ground.

In this throwback photo from my former garden, you can see that young Juniper and its twin on my front porch, with Boxwoods also providing winter color.

I ditched one of the Junipers after they overgrew the small space I could give them here. Still, I’m just sentimental enough about plants to love having even just one hold-over from a garden I tended for 26 years.

I’ve come to love this single ‘Emerald Green’ Arborvitae serving as an accent.  It was once part of a whole Arborvitae hedge and I hated it!

 Above, my ‘Picturata’ Acuba is already overshadowed by some early daffodils, but it brightened up a bank of dark green groundcovers all winter.

Still more evergreens in my tiny townhouse garden are 7 azaleas, which to my eyes are boring without flowers but still, they have leaves in winter!

With my appreciation for evergreens duly noted, it’s almost spring and I’m ready to rejoice in the crazy exuberance of FLOWERS.

Looking for Natives?

Sorry to report that of the 12 evergreens mentioned here, just 2 are native to the Mid-Atlantic region – Crossvine and Golden Groundsel.  (They’re among these 16 regionally native plants I’m currently growing in my tiny garden.) I like native Junipers but they’re too large for small gardens like mine. Who knows – breeders may have already created some small nativars to suit locations like mine. Hope so.

Of course if you expand your definition of “native” to “anywhere in the U.S.” your options would include the great variety of conifers native to the Pacific Northwest. That definition may make no sense ecologically but some seem to find comfort in it.