Last updated on January 21st, 2020
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If you have a smaller garden, finding the right combination of plants can be challenging especially when you have to consider incorporating things like containers and doing away with plants that take over every space possible. More importantly, you don’t want plants that require endless pruning or maintenance in order to keep them in check. With this in mind, there are some wonderful evergreen and deciduous shrubs that you can incorporate into your small garden not just to provide colour and low maintenance foliage but to even incorporate in pots or as hedges.
Below are the top 10 evergreen shrubs for small gardens each of which bring a luminescent quality and rich design to your space.
Azalea mollis luteum (sweet pontica azalea)
This particular shrub is prized for the bright yellow colours it brings in the springtime and the sweet fragrance it can offer your garden. Commonly referred to as the sweet Pontiac Azalea, it is a striking bush with floral dresses that have funnel-shaped flowers reaching up to 5 cm in size. The flowers bring light yellow and a rich yellow blotch to your spring and summer garden perfect for patios.
As the season changes, you will catch stunning shades of red, yellow, and orange leaves as the otherwise green foliage. This stunning shrub will grow quite vigorously and reach up to 150cm tall and wide.
It grows very well in sun or partial shade and we’ll thrive easily in moist acidic soil. It is perfect for creating a privacy screen, attracting butterflies and bees, even as a shrub border or a flowering hedge.
Pieris ‘Forest Flame’ – (lily of the valley Bush)
The forest flame gets its names from the mixture of colours you will get during a single season. This broadleaf evergreen is commonly referred to as the lily of the valley Bush. It blooms between March and April with white blooms, requires some water but is going to thrive most in acidic, well-drained soil.
This Evergreen prefers sheltered location so that it’s protected against cold winds and bright sunshine in the afternoon. Is perfect as a shrub border or to be mixed in with other evergreens like those on this list. During the course of a single season, you will see the bright green leaves at the base and as you bring your gaze up right you will take in A collection of pink, red, and orange leaf colours. The new foliage is a stunning bright red as pictured above which is another attractive feature.
Santolina chamaecyparissus (Cotton lavender)
The lavender cotton is a favourite staple of Mediterranean gardens and will bring your garden a beautiful array of colour. This evergreen shrub is well known for having dense, finally packed grey-green foliage all year round making it a good ground cover plant. It is also very drought tolerant which makes it good for any areas where you might not get a lot of rainfall.
In the summer months, you will see it bloom small, bright yellow flowers that are about the size of a button. It grows in dense mounds that can reach up to 60cm in height and 90cm in width. It is perfect as a contribution to any edging in your small garden and offers a rich colour all year round which can add ambience to an otherwise dull garden space.
Hebe ‘red edge’
The Hebe red Edge is an evergreen shrub that is known for having simple leaves and spikes of small tubular flowers throughout the summer and the Autumn. The leaves themselves are oblong in shape taking on a blue or green shade and the margins are tinted with red in the winter time which is where it gets its name from ‘red edge’.
This plant will reach up to half a meter in height and width once it reaches full maturity. It does well in full sun or partial shade and can tolerate alkaline or neutral soil. Overall its a really good plant to consider for small gardens and can even be pruned to keep it in check.
Evergreen azaleas offer magnificent flowers and truly are what are the most prominent ornamental shrubs for small gardens. The Evergreen varieties come in all shapes and sizes with tiny delicate blossoms, fragrances, and stunning foliage. There are plenty of varieties I can tolerate severe winter conditions as well which means that even in the coldest of gardens, the azaleas will thrive.
There are a handful of evergreen varieties that do best in British gardens and have received multiple prizes such as the Golden Lights variety which is a hybrid offering funnel-shaped golden flowers, the English roseum which is a showy evergreen shrub that gives you lilac rows flowers adorned with orange freckles.
And then, of course, there are the richer shades of the rosy lights, white lights, and windbeam. The best time to get evergreen azalea at your local garden centre is very early spring just before they begin to flower. Garden centres sell out fast and supply is usually limited, I know this as I use to work in a small garden centre.
Ceanothus ‘Puget blue’ (Californian lilac)
The California lilac is an award-winning evergreen shrub that is known for producing an abundance of luminous, lavender coloured flowers by the end of spring and throughout the beginning of Summer.
The flowers produced take on such an abundance that they will obscure any of the foliage underneath. They draw to the flowers butterflies, bees, and the birds love them for cover, once established, it will reach up to 150cm tall and wide. These plants are perfect for creating shrub borders, wallside borders, or as a specimen plant especially if you have a sunny area in your small garden. They are very tolerant of alkalinity and drought tolerant as well once established. If your garden needs a stunning lilac colour, this is the shrub to pick and is easy to keep pruned.
Cytisus × beanii (Beans Broom)
For a shrub that takes on a unique appearance both in stems and flowers, the beans broom is what you want. This is an evergreen shrub that can grow erect, taking on almost a tree-like shape with very small, 3 parted leaves and bean-like flowers that you will see throughout the spring in the summer.
This semi-prostrate shrub can reach up to 35cm in height and it offers linear green leaves and rich yellow flowers. The flowers themselves take on sort of closed appearance similar to bells and they grow up right along the prostrate stems offering a fascinating collection of colour for your garden.
Daphne ‘Aureomarginata’ (golden edge winter daphna)
As the name suggests this evergreen produces leaves that are rich and green with golden edges. When it blooms in winter and early spring it will produce pink and white flowers. It thrives in full sun, morning sun with afternoon shade, and even filtered sun which actually makes it an ideal choice to integrate in smaller gardens that might be limited in terms of the sunlight exposure.
More importantly, it’s drought resistant and deer resistant. When you plant this in your garden rest assured you will not only get beautiful flowers but you will get fragrant flowers. The intoxicating scent that is produced causes this shrub to stand out especially when you consider those one of the few that blooms at the end of winter, indicative of the upcoming spring.
It is best planted close to your deck or patio where you can enjoy the fragrance and the early winter blooms. If you are looking for only one evergreen shrub to add fragrance to your small garden this should be it.
Otherwise known as the mophead hydrangea, this shrub will give you voluptuous blooms that can range in size and colour. If you are looking for a plant that requires very little maintenance, next to no pruning, and whose bloom colours you can control, this is what you want in your small garden.
These big-leaf hydrangeas in the form of mop heads or lace caps offer a stunning collection of large flowers complemented by larger leaves. You can change the colours so that they range between blue and pink or anywhere in between. This is one of the few plants with which you can do that. More importantly they require morning sun and afternoon shade, well-drained soil, and the shade of blue or pink that you achieve is a direct result of the alkalinity or acidity of your soil which means if you have particularly alkaline or acidic soil and you don’t want to go through the effort of changing that soil for the other plants in your garden, you can simply pick this hydrangea and let the colours reflect the soil. These hydrangeas are also perfect for growing in pots.
Hypericum Hidcote (St. John’s Wort)
Commonly known as St John’s Wort this shrub blooms beautiful, open gold and yellow flowers from June through September. It can be very easily grown in well-drained soil and tolerate full sun or partial shade. More importantly, it tolerates a wide range of soils including sandy or rocky soil so if your small garden has particularly sandy soil and you simply don’t have the time or the money to put into changing the structure, consider plain St John’s Wort.