The 1950s era neighborhood I grew up in was originally stocked with yew, arborvitae, and privet, all green. Garden centers now show home landscape choices that go way beyond those limited offerings. The photo at right shows Osmanthus heterophyllus cultivar 'Goshiki', just one of many exciting evergreens.
Osmanthus, false-holly, 'Goshiki'
Instead of just evergreen, how about "ever green, white, cream, bronze and/or pink? That's Osmanthus 'Goshiki.' Osmanthus heterophyllus leaves look like those of various hollies, hence "false holly" is a common name for the genus. 'Goshiki' leaves have that classic, scalloped spiny holly-leaf shape. I think these colors would look wonderful against the brick walls of the many Cape Cod homes that fill Baltimore's fifties era developments. And Baltimore, Maryland is comfortably in the middle of the recommended zones 6 to 9 for 'Goshiki.'
Plant 'Goshiki' in full sun to light shade; some amount of shade may help the plant weather the hotter zones of its range. You'll want to site this near a walkway so visitors can appreciate the complex variegations in the leaves. 'Goshiki' is described as slow growing. Most sources say it matures as a six foot shrub that will be nearly as wide as it is tall. This cultivar is not known for its flowers, though Osmanthus are fragrant when in bloom. The Elisabeth C. Miller Gardens recommends this cultivar for an informal hedge, even in shady spots. By the way, many web pages describe 'Goshiki' leaves as soft, or softer than holly leaves. If so, it is only marginally. I've felt them. Don't believe everything that you read, especially when it is repeated verbatim on many sites.
Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress'
Mahonia 'Soft Caress' was named Plant of the Year at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show. What further certification could it need? 'Soft Caress' is not only attractive in its own right, but especially so for gardeners who are familiar with other "Oregon grape-hollies." (My M. beali has positively lethal spiny leaves and stems.) I'd give 'Soft Caress' an award for brilliance in naming. Callling a Mahonia soft guaranteed I'd read further about the plant.
Right — Mahonia 'Soft Caress' at Greenleaf Nursery in Tarboro, NC. ) DG contributor plantfreak78 comments that this plant " may look delicate and refined but it has proven to be incredibly adaptable, as well as heat and drought tolerant. Below — a young 'Soft Caress' budding in fall in a zone 7a garden.
'Soft Caress' has a form that reminds you of bamboo. The upright stems bear sweeping horizontal sprays of thin, soft leaves. 'Caress' leaves are a glossy dark blue-green like familiar American grape-hollies. Yellow flower spikes arise atop the sprays of foliage, and bloom in winter with a sweet scent on mild days. Dark blue berries follow the blooms. This Mahonia will serve well in a zone 7 to 9, shaded to partly shaded area that needs a rounded shrub about three feet tall and wide. Once established, it will tolerate dry soils.
Chamaecyparis 'Fernspray Gold'
Forget the arborvitaes; leave them to their bagworm armies. Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Fernspray Gold' has foliage in small fans somewhat like those on an Arborvitae. But 'Fernspray Gold' glows with yellow highlights. Those bright delicate fans light up against the darker, shaded interiors of the plant. Chamaecyparis obtusa is also called Hinoki cypress or false cypress.
'Fernspray Gold' grows into a loose tapered shape. It's hue and form make it a natural focal point. Growth of false cypress is called slow, but remember that it is also steady. These plants will continue to grow at an annual rate determined by their site. Don't ignore pruning completely, rather, feel encouraged that you will be able to keep this specimen tidy with periodic attention. This Chamaecyparis is recommended for zone 4 to 8, in moist but well drained soil, and a sunny but not windy site.
Three very different specimens, but all "evergreen." These and other choice cultivars will spark up a humdrum landscape and provide beautiful clippings for wintertime displays in the home.
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Thank you, DG subscribers plantfreak78 and Catmint20906 for photo permissions.
Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden is located in Seattle, Washington.
(no relation to author)
Dirr, Michael A. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants; Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses (fifth edition) ISBN 0- 87563-800-7