Evergreen plants and shrubs are four-season garden performers. Holding their foliage through the winter, they provide texture and garden color when other plants are bare-branched or completely dormant. Many of them have spring or summer flowers, attractive fall foliage or brightly colored---and sometimes edible---berries. Evergreen plants range from low-growing ground covers to towering trees. Evergreen shrubs provide striking backdrops for warm-weather blooming annuals and perennials.
Holly-leaf barberry (Mahonia aquifolium), a mounding, 3- to 6-foot evergreen shrub, grows wild in forests and woods of the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Northeast. The plant's compound, glossy, spiny-toothed leaves, bronze in spring, bring reddish-tinged autumn color. From March to May, holly-leaf barberry has clusters of bell-shaped, vivid yellow blooms. Blue, grape-sized berries following them provide food for wildlife. They also make tasty preserves, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Plant in partial to full shade with protection from winter winds. Hollyleaf Barberry does best in well-drained, moist, acidic (pH below 6.8) loam. Watch for scale, whiteflies and barberry aphids.
Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster astrophoros) is a mat-forming, broadleaf evergreen shrub from the Himalayas. Growing 6 to 12 inches high---with a spread up to 18 inches---it has small, deep-green leaves and white, star-shaped May and June flowers. Bright red berries follow them. Tolerating winter temperatures to minus 20 degrees F, cotoneaster is drought-tolerant. Its spreading habit makes it a good ground cover, especially for erosion control. Plant it, suggests the Missouri Botanical Garden, in full sun to partial shade and well-drained, moist loam. In the lower end of its hardiness range, cotoneaster benefits from protected locations. Check plants for canker, leaf spot and fireblight.
Common jasmine (Jasmine officinale) is an evergreen vine hardy to 0 degrees F. Climbing 20 to 30 feet high, it's known as much for its sweet fragrance as for its glossy, deep-green leaves and clusters of small, star-shaped white flowers. Jasmine will bloom from March to October, with a fragrance that perfumes the air for several feet in every direction. Train it on fences or trellises, or let it cascade over stone walls. Where it isn't winter hardy, grow jasmine in containers. Prune after flowering and bring indoors for overwintering. Outdoor jasmine likes full sun to partial shade and consistently moist, moderately rich well-drained soil. Pinch back frequently to maintain its shape, recommends the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Large-flowered Magnolia 'Edith Bogue'
Large-flowered magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) 'Edith Bogue' is a 40- to 60-foot-high, broadleaf evergreen tree. Spreading to 30 feet, it survives to minus 10 degrees F. The tree has glossy, 5- to 10-inch green leaves with rusty brown undersides and large---up to 1 foot across---white June blooms. Conical fruits follow in early fall, ripening to reveal bright red seeds. Plant in partial shade and fertile, well-drained loam.