Evergreen plants keep a garden alive in the winter, long after other plants have died or gone dormant until spring. Evergreen plants can have leaves or needles, be tall or short and can require different types of soil and different levels of sunlight. There will be an evergreen plant for any part of a garden in North Carolina.
American holly (Ilex opaca) is a short tree, usually not growing more than 50 feet in height. It has light gray bark and short, crooked branches. The tree produces oval-shaped, dark green leaves that measure 2 to 4 inches in length . There are both male and female holly trees. Both trees produce small, white flowers. On the male tree, they grow in clusters of three to nine and on the female tree they grow in clusters of one to three. Berries, which will attract songbirds, appear when the flowers are done and can be red, orange or yellow.
The natural habitat of the American holly ranges from Massachusetts to Florida and as far west as southeastern Missouri and east Texas in the rich bottomland and forests.
The plant likes well-drained, organic soils and full or partial sun. You will need to plant both a male and female tree if you want to produce berries.
Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) grows to a height of 60 to 80 feet; however they have been known to grow to 165 feet. It lives as long as 1,000 years, does not reach maturity until it is between 200 and 300 years old and does not produce seeds until it is 20 to 30 years old.
The natural habitat ranges from southern Canada through northern Georgia. The tree can be planted in any type of soil as long as it is well-drained. The soil must never be allowed to go dry. It needs to be in partial shade. Full sun can do damage and it can kill young trees. Eastern hemlocks make a good choice for wind breaks or specimen plants.
Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) does not grow over 12 inches tall. It produces leaves that are bronze in spring and dark green in summer. Its white or pink flowers grow in clusters and bloom in May, June and July. Dark red, edible fruit appears when the flowers are done and can be picked in the fall. Its natural habitat is the bogs and swamps of the coastal regions. The plant needs partial shade and wet soil.