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Out of the Shadows garden by Kate Gould
© Helen Fickling Photography
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Evergreen garden: How to create an evergreen garden

Published: May 25, 2022 at 12:04 pm

Kate Gould, triple medal winner at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022, gives her tips on creating an evergreen garden. Main image by Helen Fickling

At this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Kate Gould won a gold medals for her ‘Out of the Shadows’ garden, as well as both Best Garden and Best Construction in the Sanctuary Garden category. This contemporary spa garden is home to a swim-spa, climbing bars, a meditation space, a fire pit and seating – all set within hardy tropical and mostly evergreen planting to create a private, calm and relaxing space.

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We caught up with Kate to ask her advice on creating an evergreen garden.

Why create an evergreen garden?

Kate says: "Certainly in a front garden you want a lot of evergreens, as you go through it every day of the year. But also, people are increasingly putting huge bifold doors at the back of their houses and are now connected to their back garden every day of the year. We don't live in the tropics, so we have down seasons. Evergreens ensure your garden looks attractive all year. They are also a great foil for other plants, and of course, many flower too."

How to create an evergreen garden

Make at least 40 per cent of plants evergreen
"At least 40 per cent of plants in a garden should be evergreen – or they should offer interest over winter," says Kate. "They could flower from their stems in the winter, or have colourful winter stems – a plant doesn't necessarily have to have leaves on it in winter to be interesting."

Remember that not every evergreen is green
"Evergreens can be yellow, lime or even everpurple, such as the shrub Loropetalum chinense (Chinese witch hazel) a great plant if you have a sheltered garden."

Think again about variegated plants
"People are really iffy about variegated foliage, but actually, it can bring an evergreen planting scheme to life."

Dasylirion in Kate Gould's Out of the Shadows garden
The evergreen Dasylirion in Kate Gould's Out of the Shadows garden

Use evergreens to create structure
"All the small-leafed plants, like Taxus (yew), Euonymus, Ilex (holly) and box (which I don't use much any more due to pests and disease) can be used to create domes or topiary shapes. These add punctuation and structure, against which all your wafty summer plants look great. In the Out of the Shadows garden, Kate has also used Dasylirion acrotichum and Dasylirion longissimum, which are both spiky and have a mounded shape.

Don't forget bulbs for spring and early summer colour
In this garden, Kate used Cardiocrinum giganteum, Eremurus himalaicus, Iris 'Mer du Sud' and Lilium 'Snowy Morning'.

Kate Gould's top evergreen plants

Raphiolepis
Raphiolepis indica

Raphiolepis indica
An evergreen shrub. "Its flowers have a really sweet smell and is hardier than it looks. A client has one out in the wilds of Gloucestershire, and it's absolutely fine."

Cycads and tree ferns
"If you've got the right space, cycads are great as they're so dramatic." Kate has used Cycas revoluta as well as a tree fern, Dicksonia antarctica.

Kate Gould's Out of the Shadows Garden
Using evergreen Chaemerops humilis in the Out of the Shadows Garden at Chelsea © Helen Fickling Photography

Palms
"Palms are great if you have a hot and dry garden and they act as a sculpture, too. Put a light under a palm at night, and you've got an amazing effect." In this garden, Kate has used Chamerops humilis.

Aspidistra eliator
"Aspidistra is known as a house plant but is also called the 'cast iron plant' for a reason – it has a very tough constitution and can be hardy in a sheltered garden."

Pistacea lentiscus
The evergreen Pistacea lentiscus (top left)

Pistacea lentiscus
I've tried to use plants in this garden that people may not have seen before, such as this Pistacea. It's forms a shaggy dome – I do like a shaggy dome."

Choisya ternata
"A very common and humble plant, but don't knock it. It's lovely and glossy, it flowers and it smells nice. I don't follow fashion - if it's the right plant for the right place, I'll use it."

Echium candicans
The evergreen Echium candicans

Echium candicans
An evergreen biennial sub shrub. "Beware of 'echium burn' – I planted some at the back of the garden when it was wet, and the hairs on the leaves irritated my skin."

Begonia luxurians
"Keep them outside in the summer, bring into a glasshouse or the house in winter."

Sisyrinchium stratium 'Aunt May'
The evergreen Sisyrinchium stratium 'Aunt May'

Sisyrinchium stratium 'Aunt May'

"This part of the garden is all about coming towards the light, and the variegation helps to bring this area to life. It looks especially good with blue-flowered plants."

Head to our Chelsea Flower Show hub to read our extensive coverage on the show this year.

The Out of the Shadows garden full plant list

Trees and palms

Acer palmatum
Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira'
Chamerops humilis
Cyathea cooperi
Cycas revoluta
Dicksonia antarctica
Schinus molle

Shrubs / structural evergreens

Echium candicans
Echium fastuosum
Euphorbia myrsinites
Euphorbia x pasteurii
Muehlenbeckia axillaris
Phyllostachys aurea
Pistacea lentiscus
Pittosporum tobira 'Nanum'
Pseudopanax lessonii
Raphiolepis indica
Trochodendron araliodes

Ferns

Asplenium bulbiferum
Blechnum magellanicum
Blechnum tabulare
Dryopteris wallichiana 'Jurassic Gold'
Pteris nipponica
Pteris umbrosa
Woodwardia fimbriata

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Perennials and aroids

Angelica archagelica
Anigozanthos flavidus 'Beauty Yellow'
Arisaema amurense
Asarum maximum 'Ling Ling'
Aspidistra eliator
Begonia luxuriens
Cynara cardunculus
Disporopsis pernyi
Disporum longistylum 'Night Heron'
Farfugium giganteum
Farfugium 'Wavy Gravy'
Geranium palmatum
Hosta 'Krossa Regal'
Melanoselinum decipiens
Mitella breweri
Paeonia 'Bartzella'
Persicaria 'Purple Fantasy'
Pinellia pedatisecta
Pinellia tripartita
Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty'
Rhodanthemum 'Casablanca'
Salvia 'Spencer Lake'

Authors

Veronica Peerless is commissioning content editor at Gardens Illustrated and is a trained horticulturalist and garden designer.

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