Regional Picks: Unusual Evergreens – Mountain West

Fine Gardening - Issue 160

1. ‘Cream Puff’ Deodar Cedar

Name: Cedrus deodara ‘Cream Puff’

USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9

Size: Up to 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

This dwarf true cedar makes an excellent focal point with its wispy, pyramidal habit. A great companion to small crabapples, ‘Cream Puff’ Deodar cedar has lime-colored needles and white-tipped branches that nod down, complementing the crabapples’ small red fruit. This an excellent choice for areas with heavy, wet snows, which it sheds easily. The delicate branches are resistant to sunscald. ‘Cream Puff’ Deodar cedar truly lives up to its moniker and is sure to brighten even the darkest of winter days.


2. Sonoran Scrub Oak

Name: Quercus turbinella

Zones: 6 to 10

Size: Up to 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Sonoran scrub oak looks most striking on a bright, clear winter day, its spiny gray-green leaves standing out against the leafless forests beyond. It is quite possibly the hardiest live oak for gardens, retaining its thick leaves in all but the coldest winters. It has the appearance of a gnarled old oak, only in miniature. Sonoran scrub oak thrives in the blazing hot desert sun and is equally happy in higher-elevation mountain regions, taking deep snows in stride. It’s perfect for a small dry garden as it can be pruned as a tree or allowed to grow as a shrub.


3. Fremont’s Mahonia

Name: Mahonia fremontii

Zones: 5 to 10

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; sandy, well-drained soil

Fremont’s mahonia is covered in fragrant, bright yellow flowers in spring and sports dusty, bright blue-green pointed leaves that take on a purple cast through winter. Its dry, tart red fruit provide winter interest and encourage wildlife. The plant is useful as a point of contrast to midsize grasses and as a complement of yucca (Yucca spp. and cvs., Zones 4–11) and agave (Agave spp. and cvs., Zones 7–11). Keep this deer-resistant, spiny-leaved shrub away from garden paths but close to open windows to enjoy its wonderful scent.


4. Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany

Name: Cercocarpus ledifolius

Zones: 5 to 10

Size: Up to 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

This native of rocky outcrops and low foothills is a highly adaptable shrub that deserves to be more widely planted. Curl-leaf mountain mahogany makes a great privacy screen and can be sheared for a formal look or pruned as a small tree. This low-maintenance plant has lovely silver bark and gorgeous feathery corkscrew seed plumes. While happy in dry conditions and generally slow growing, curl-leaf mountain mahogany’s growth rate will increase about 3 to 8 inches per year with regular irrigation.


Fritz Kollmann is a horticulturist at the Red Butte Garden at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Photos: (1),; (2, 3 and 4), Stan Shebs/courtesy of

View Comments


Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest