The secret to a fantastic garden/landscape is to have an architectural foundation with a solid structure of evergreens. These perennials, bushes and trees will provide beauty and interest year round and elevate the aesthetic of your garden.
While I have always had several evergreens, they were more of a “backdrop” until I started loving on punctuation points of the gardens of Provence in southern France that I used as references for my oil painting studies.
British and French gardens feature boxwood hedges or Italian cypress trees for their iconic presentations. Florida has its own iconic evergreens and they are palm trees which I love but wanted a pinch of formality.
You can see the palms I use in my garden in this post The Best Palms in My Central Florida Garden.
Other excellent evergreens I have in my garden include camellias, English ivy, banana shrub, snake plants, bromeliads, azalea, selloum philodendron, podocarpus, jasmine, and cast-iron plants for the shade.
For the sun or part sun there is loropetalum, agave, yucca, schefflera, hollies, leyland cypress*, oleander, roses, arizona cypress, viburnums, boxwood, junipers, ligustrum*, tea olives, rosemary, ilicium/anise, coontie, plumbago, thryallis, tractor seat plant, loquat, citrus, eleagnus*, foxtail fern, flax lily, spider plants, firecracker, magnolias, and bottlebrushes.
In years with mild winters or in other sections of central Florida, there are many other plants that may be considered evergreen like crotons, some gingers and lilies, gardenias, hibiscus, indian hawthorn, jathropa, allamanda, coffee plant, and more but I can’t rely on these as most will die back in the winter.
While I’m sure I have several other “evergreen” plants, if they didn’t make the lists above, then they probably don’t stand out as “cheerful evergreens” during the winter, lose some of their leaves, or just look blah while dormant. My first buddleia stayed green all winter. Well, actually it was a silver color and looked dormant, but I don’t have enough experience with it to know where butterfly bush falls in my evergreen categories. Another two are duranta / golden showers and abelias… their best season is not winter.
Other plants that just don’t shine for me, probably because I planted them in the woods, are oregon grape/leather leaf mahonia and simpson stopper… but likely that’s all on me.
My bougainvilleas typically die to the ground each winter. This is the first year they did not. However, their blooms were killed off before they could flower. I do not recommend bougies since their thorns have poison that hurts for days and I dislike cutting the totally dead branches off of these monsters once a year with really not many flowers to show for it. The one we had in St. Pete was exceptional… but that is a much warmer zone that the cooler microclimate I have in Pasco.
I have both white and orange bird of paradise, which remain evergreen, but they do not “shine” during the winter. I would put Texas sage here as well which is a beautiful silver but don’t look that great a couple of times of year. They are beautiful when they flower pink, however.
I have never tried ixora, seagrape, clusia, or cocoplum because they need more warmth than my microclimate provides.
Other evergreens on my list to try are wax myrtle, pineapple guava, firethorn, pittosporum, cleyera, soft mahonia, japanese blueberry, Italian cypress (although they struggle with mites), and potentially non-invasive nandina.