When most teenagers went to work at Dairy Queen for the summer, I decided to punch a time card at the local nursery. I had a basic knowledge of plants, thanks to my garden-savvy parents, but admittedly, I didn’t know the answer to every question customers threw my way. The one question that I dreaded being asked—and the one that was asked most often—went something like this: “I want a low-maintenance, flowering, evergreen plant.”
I understood this desire to “have it all” quite well; it was like me wanting a low-fat, low-calorie, great-tasting candy bar. But unlike the too-good-to-be-true treat, flowering evergreens do exist and come as close as possible to plant perfection. They have the year-round interest of conifers and the floral display of perennials. They’re great as foundation plants, not only because they’re evergreen but also because many have a short stature, so they won’t engulf a front entry. But they’re equally good mixed into any-size bed because they give plantings year-round staying power—otherwise known as the bones of the landscape. For all these reasons, I’ve come to understand why people want these evergreen gems and why I came to want them, too—even more than the world’s best-tasting, fat-free candy bar.