Evergreen trees, shrubs and plants make a wonderful addition to any garden or landscape. Their greenery stays on all year, adding a hint of color to winter landscapes. Used to provide privacy, protection from the wind and to attract birds to the yard, evergreens are popular with many gardeners. There are many evergreens from which to choose, and the best evergreen is the one that suits your individual wants, needs, space requirements and intentions.
Juniper has a wide climate range, growing anywhere from USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. Known scientifically as Juniperus communis, this woody evergreen is ideal for those seeking a large shrub or small tree. Normally found as a wide, low and spreading shrub, juniper trees have been known to grow up to 35 feet tall under optimal conditions. Juniper trees do exceedingly well in poor-quality, well-drained soil. Easy to grow and maintain, juniper has a high tolerance for drought and prefers full sun for growth. Juniper's favored habitat is rocky areas, and mimicking this environment causes juniper trees to grow exceedingly well. Juniper produces white-blue berries that are bitter and fragrant when crushed.
Japanese yew, or Taxus cuspidata, is an ideal evergreen for shady areas. One of the hardiest types of yew, Japanese yew grows from 30 to 60 feet in height. They prefer well-drained, moist soils and partial to full shade. If you are seeking an evergreen as a privacy measure, consider the dwarf Japanese yew, which grows to a height of about 15 feet. Yews are slow-growing trees with needles of dark green to greenish-yellow. Female Japanese yew trees produce bright red berries in the winter that are a vital food source for winter wildlife. Though wild birds love and can tolerate the berries, reconsider choosing Japanese yew if you have a dog or cat, because the plant is highly toxic, according to the ASPCA Poison Control Center.
The American holly tree, Ilex opaca, has a USDA hardiness range from zones 5 through 9. This versatile tree is easy to prune into a privacy hedge, but grows to 40 or 50 feet if left untrimmed. While some use the American holly tree as a wind break, others find it purely ornamental in value. American holly prefers full sun, but does well in a variety of soils. Characterized as a classic winter holiday decoration, American holly trees only produce berries if both a male and female tree are present. Leaves are spiny and sharp, but create a striking image when planted alone or with complementary plant life. This native North American evergreen is ideal for those seeking to attract songbirds to their yards, because the berries provide a vital winter food source.