Trees and shrubs are generally separated into two categories, evergreen and deciduous. Evergreens maintain their green leaves (or needles) through all four seasons. Deciduous trees and shrubs loose their leaves (or needles) once a year.
Evergreen versus Deciduous
Evergreens are then broken down into two more detailed categories, broad-leaf evergreens, and conifers. Broad-leaf evergreens have leaves instead of needles or scales, some examples are most hollies, Southern Magnolias, Camellias, Rhododendrons, and Azaleas. Conifers are evergreens (there are fifteen exceptions) that are descended from a common ancestor in the late Paleozoic era (300 million years ago). Conifers generally have needles or scales, some examples are Spruces, Arborvitaes, Junipers, and Pines.
There are many benefits to planting evergreens, but many deciduous plants have unique characteristics that provide winter interest in the landscape. For instance, Cornus sericea (Red Twig Dogwood) has red (sometimes coral or yellow) twigs that become brighter in colder temperatures, and Platanus occidentalis (American Sycamore) has exfoliating bark that is almost white in color during the winter months. These deciduous trees and shrubs can add color, and texture to the landscape in a way that many evergreens cannot.
Broadleaf evergreens can be more susceptible to damage from cold weather which can make them hard to care for. Plants loose water and moisture through their leaves as part of the natural process of photosynthesis. During the winter months this loss is more pronounced because there tends to be less moisture available and the larger the surface area of the leaves the more damage can be done. Broadleaf evergreens have developed a technique to reduce the amount of water loss, they reduce the surface area of their leaves by wilting, however, there becomes a point when wilting will not help and that is when wind burn can be a problem. Because of the increased chance of water loss in the winter broadleaf evergreens should be protected from prolonged winter wind.
Many people choose broadleaf evergreens or conifers because they do not want to clean up leaves in the fall, however, even conifers and broad leaf evergreens shed their leaves. Leaf or needle loss of broadleaf evergreens and evergreen conifers only happens when new leaves or needles replace the old. Pines for instance drop their needles every year around the same time of year, but the new needles have already emerged, so the tree never looks bare.
Whether you prefer evergreen or deciduous, broadleaf or conifer, our designer can develop the right planting plan for you. Just give us a call at 410-667-8900 for a free estimate.