For lack of a better term, they are called broadleaf evergreens. No needles, no cones, just glossy green foliage that remains on the plant all year round.
Broadleaf evergreens seem to defy horticultural logic, because they look like any other shrub. But when fall and winter arrive, their leaves remain intact and ready to grow again in spring.
Our most common broadleaf evergreen is boxwood, a tidy-growing shrub in true green colour, with leaves smaller than a dime. It’s a favourite for home landscapes because it’s easy to prune and often maintained as a dwarf hedge.
Boxwood’s claim to fame is it’s a well-behaved plant that grows anywhere, requires little attention, and until recently, had no insect or disease concerns.
Today, boxwood faces an uncertain future. Box tree moth, first detected outside Toronto five years ago, has recently been found in various locations across southern Ontario. Secondly, a fungus, boxwood blight, is raising concerns particularly among Niagara region nursery growers. Time will tell if these pests have an impact for Ontario gardeners.
The success of broadleaf evergreens is very climate dependent. In the southern U.S., the list of broadleaf evergreens is long because winter is hardly an issue. Southern magnolia, with its large, smooth leathery leaves and delightful fragrant spring flowers, grows easily in most areas of southeastern U.S., but apart for an odd specimen in Point Edward, won’t grow in Ontario.
Rhododendrons, wildly popular in Britain and easy to grow in most of Europe, the southeastern U.S. and B.C., are emerging in popularity in southern Ontario. Rhododendrons boast clusters of incredibly showy flowers in spring, followed by attractive evergreen foliage in summer, fall and winter. Give rhododendrons a sheltered location, partial shade and rich, well-drained soil and they will grow comfortably in southern Ontario.
Holly is easily recognized by its pointed dark green leaves, white flowers in spring, followed by red berries in fall and winter. The slow-growing attractive plant is ideally suited as an ornamental plant and slowly emerging as a staple in home landscapes. Hollies come in many varieties, with blue prince and blue princess remaining most popular.
Euonymus gaiety, and its many gold, green and variegated cousins, was a popular landscape plant in the 1980s and ‘90s, but fell out of favour by the turn of the 21st century. That’s mostly due to Euonymus scale, a crawling insect that sucks juices from the plant’s foliage.
Other noteworthy broadleaf evergreens are: yuccas, with their long-spiked foliage; Pieris, with its spring flowers and glossy colourful foliage; and English ivy, an invasive plant that gardeners love to hate.
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