I have a sloping area that makes growing and mowing grass difficult, so I’m planting a grouping of shrubs instead. I’m looking for an evergreen shrub that would reach 4 to 5 feet with a fairly loose habit. I want to keep the area informal, so I don’t want anything tight or compact. Any suggestions?
Trish Gardner, Pittsboro, NC
Dr. J. C. Raulston, director of the
North Carolina State University Arboretum
, replies: Many evergreen shrubs meet your requirements and will flourish in your area with average soil, drainage, and aeration. Even though the potential height of some of these shrubs is higher than you want, most won’t grow over 4 feet tall in our warm southern climate. And if they do grow tall, they can be pruned back.
For shaded areas, try Alexandrian laurel (Danaë racemosa), fragrant sweet box (Sarcococca ruscifolia), or Gardenia jasminoides ‘Kleim’s Hardy’, also known as G. augusta. Japanese laurel (Aucuba japonica) and lily of the valley bush (Pieris japonica) are also good choices, but they won’t survive in heavy clay soil.
If you have an area with light shade or sun, try growing Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) and inkberry (Ilex glabra). Other good choices are wintergreen barberry (Berberis julianae), Mexican orange (Choisya ternata), heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), and Leucothoë populifolia. If your area is in full sun, many types of junipers will work well, or you can try mountain pine (Pinus mugo) and Adam’s needle (Yucca filamentosa).