Evergreens suddenly surprise in December. As the garden falls into increasing disarray overhead and muddiness underfoot, previously unnoticed evergreen shrubs and climbers rise to prominence, solid and dependable, reassuring. Choisya ternata, fatshedera and ivy grow against the far wall, visible from the kitchen window. Also visible from the house are potted evergreen shrubs like Fatsia japonica (photo, right). Closer, on the wall in Kitchen Corner, is Garrya elliptica, with long tassels of green flower in the middle of winter.

Dependable shrubs

One shrub has been growing gradually since it was bought as a tiny plant more than ten years ago. The label was long since lost, but I think it's Euonymus japonicus microphyllus variegatus. (No wonder I didn't remember.) This has grown ever-so-slowly over the years to form a nice rounded shrub, never showy, putting up with getting by on less attention than I give the fussier plants, never noticed by visitors as anything spectacular. Now, in December, in the muddy pit of the year, just before the shortest day, it stands as a sentinel to the season. (It is shown on the photo to the right, with the equally robust evergreen ivy.)

It is obvious, looking at such a plant, why it has for so long been a custom to bring greenery into the house at this season. This evergreen, which I can see now from the window as I write this, symbolises endurance. We need qualities of endurance sometimes, as much as we need anything else.

Reflecting light

These tough evergreens look shiny-leaved and vigorous despite all the grime and muddiness of winter. Leaves of evergreens like Choisya ternata pick up and reflect back what little light there is, in the midst of winter, around the shortest day.

The description 'evergreen' can bring to mind images of depressing sooty shrubberies at the edge of town parks. It used to conjure such images for me, until I noticed evergreen leaves shining in winter rain.

A few favourite evergreens

The links are to photographs on this site, where available.

Buxus sempervirens (Common Box) - often grown as topiary. Mine is in a pot, and is rather vaguely clipped into a roundish kind of shape, but I don't think I could call it proper topiary. It is however a nice-looking evergreen all year round. See photo, right.

Choisya ternata - a shrub best grown against a wall, to give some protection to its handsome, glossy evergreen foliage. A pleasing dark green all year round, with almond-scented white flowers in spring.

Fatsia japonica - shown in the photo, top right. Large shrub with massive shiny leaves. I grown mine in a pot.

Garrya elliptica - growing on an east-facing wall in Kitchen Corner

Hedera helix - common old ivy. Often despised, as it's so common, and robust, but it's great for wildlife, and good evergreen wall cover.

Fatsia japonica

Above: Fatsia japonica
Left: ivy leaves

Variegated euonymus and hedera (ivy)

Above: Variegated euonymus and hedera (ivy)

Buxus sempervirens (Common Box)

Above: Potted Buxus sempervirens (Box)