If you live in a place that gets a fair amount of snow, is it important to have evergreen perennials? For many years we have debated this question around our editorial planning table, and the staff falls into two camps: those who say that ever-green perennials aren’t just for regions that receive little to no snow, and those who see no point in spending money on a category of plants that might be buried out of sight for more than three months.
I fall into the first category, and I’ll tell you why. Climate change is happening, and with it the normal weather patterns of the past are being thrown out the window. One year in Connecticut (where I live) we may have what is considered a typical winter filled with feet upon feet of snow. The next year—like the winter of 2023—we may have a snow drought.
What does this mean for gardeners? You’ve got to garden for both possible outcomes. That is why we asked an array of regional experts to share their favorite evergreen perennials. There you’ll find plant recommendations for the snow-prone Midwest as well as for the largely snow- free Southwest. I don’t know about you, but nothing is more depressing to me than looking out my windows in February and seeing nothing but brown. I have some conifers and broadleaf evergreens throughout my beds and borders to keep things somewhat interesting. But a greater portion of my landscape is made up of deciduous plants, which means things look pretty bare in winter. A few years back, however, I added some choice perennials that stay green year-round, and they made the last snowless winter much more attractive. Thanks to the lack of snow cover, the bergenias, epimediums, and gingers put on a glossy show for weeks on end, giving the surrounding beige backdrop a run for its money.
I know most of the perennials you’ll see in the regional pages of this issue fall below the 2-foot-tall marker. So yes, if you get a blizzard, those gems will be covered. But in the times between full snow coverage, they’ll sparkle and provide some hope that spring—and its lushness—is just around the bend. I don’t regret spending money on my ‘Miss Piggy’ bergenia. It may only be 18 inches tall, but every one of those inches is beautiful when not much else is happening in the garden.
Contributing editors Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken may have said it best when it comes to the importance of these staple plants: “As winter drags on, it is the evergreen perennials that keep the garden (and gardener) stable.”
– Danielle Sherry, Executive Editor