In the fall, many trees like the maple and oak put on a showy, colorful palette for North Georgians to enjoy, but we cannot forget the beautiful evergreens that retain their leaves and needles throughout the year.
Think about how our landscapes would look in the winter if there were no evergreens. It would be a dreary winter season for sure. Evergreens and conifers provide color in the winter landscape.
It is hard to narrow down the choice to a favorite conifer tree. So many choices can provide a landscape with beauty and style this time of year.
Evergreens come in different shapes, colors and sizes. Some excellent evergreen choices for North Georgia are the deodar cedar, cryptomeria, arborvitae, loblolly pine and hinoki cypress.
Evergreens are a hardy type of tree since they can handle the stress from cold winter temperatures and short growing seasons. Their trunks are filled with a concentrated antifreeze of sap and are insulated from the cold by extra thick bark. Most evergreens retain their needles anywhere from two to eight years. And they are always shedding and replacing needles.
A conifer evergreen is a softwood tree, which usually bear cones. Conifers include pines, spruce, firs and cedars, with only one notable exception being the bald cypress, which sheds annually. Many of these conifers are of major economic importance for lumber and paper products.
Coniferous trees and shrubs also provide important winter shelter and nesting spots for birds. Many small mammals and birds depend on a conifer’s seeds for food. However, the conifers of fir and spruce trees have a difficult time surviving in Northeast Georgia.
When I make room for an evergreen in my yard, I want something not for just an ecological asset, but for maximum visual interest as well. I go for eye-catching color from blue gray to near aqua gold in some species of evergreens and a diversity of textures and focal point qualities.
One of my favorites is the golden hinoki cypress with its lacy, golden needles. The small evergreen shrub is a great addition to any garden for its eye appeal.
Another favorite is the deodar cypress tree with its soft feathery needles. Make sure to have plenty of room for this one, because it can grow to be fairly wide and tall.
Another great one is the Arizona cypress tree. It is a fast-growing tree that can get fairly tall as well. It has a beautiful bluish-white color for its foliage.
If you are looking for an alternative to the problematic leyland cypress, plant an arborvitae or cryptomeria in its place. The sun-loving, fast-growing trees can be used as a border or hedgerow. They are basically disease- and pest-free and very similar in looks to the leyland.
Evergreen privacy hedges are easily planted with the narrow-shaped thuja green giant or emerald green.
Many low-growing evergreen shrubs are like the juniper plant. Junipers are underused in the Southern landscape. Many junipers such as the Horstmann are an upright green juniper with a loose weeping character. Blue forest is a sprawling carpet of blue-green foliage that only gets 10 inches high. Both are among my favorites.
Japanese plum yews are another great evergreen shrub that tolerates cold and heat and will thrive in shady areas. Little gem magnolias are also excellent garden evergreens.
During the Christmas season, prune evergreen shrubbery and take cuttings indoors for holiday decor. Juniper, holly, magnolia leaves and holly foliage can be quite beautiful centered on a table or mantel. Snip nandina berries for some red accents to go along with the greenery.
Consider purchasing a live Christmas evergreen tree to plant after the holidays. Just remember a live tree should not be kept inside for more than two weeks. Some examples would be a Virginia pine, white pine or maybe a Carolina hemlock.
Conifers and evergreen trees are good choices in the landscape because their structure adds architectural detail to the garden, and they provide year-round color and visual interest.
If you have questions on how to select and care for the plants, call the University of Georgia Extension office. Staff members can provide the consumer with information about what to buy, where to plant it and how to maintain evergreens in this area.
We can be thankful that we live in an area where there is an overabundance of evergreen choices to fit into our landscapes. Happy Thanksgiving wishes to all!
Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.