Sweet-smelling spruce, pine, cedar and yew—and all of the wonders of the evergreen world—have many gifts to offer. Oak, maple, and elm often take the spotlight in summer, but when the deciduous leaves blow away in the fall, suddenly, the conifers take center stage. If we get to know them, we soon discover they’re not only a boon to our winter landscape, but offer us beauty, privacy, wildlife habitat, and shelter during all four seasons.
1. They’re Green All Year
Who can deny the majestic beauty of an oak or maple? Their fresh leaves revive us in the springtime, their glowing canopies give us shade all summer, and their vibrant colors dazzle us in the fall. By contrast, evergreens are more mysterious. Their foliage doesn’t undergo the same dramatic changes. Instead, they hang on to the needles, patiently. When the winter blows all of the other leaves away, their vibrant green boughs remain as beautiful as ever, kissed by frost and swirls of snow. Snow-covered spruce boughs are one of the greatest beauties of the winter world.
Two Evergreen Shrubs for Four-Season Color
Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae and the Emerald Spreader Yew both rise 2-3 feet at maturity, giving vibrant green color and texture throughout the year. The yew displays red berries and fern-like leaves, while the arborvitae shows lacey needles and a mounded shape.
2. They Break the Wind
Besides offering year-round beauty, they shelter our homes from wind and snow. Just as wind chills our bodies when we’re outside, it also steals heat from our houses. Planting a buffer of evergreens can protect our property from cold northwest winds and help us save on the heating bill. In the summer, they shade our house from the sun, saving us dollars on A/C. All trees moderate the climate of a home, but conifers make especially good windbreaks.
A Hardy Windbreaker: The Siberian Arctos Spruce
With a mid-sized height of 30 feet and a spread of 15 feet, these tough spruce will happily buffer the cold winds, while bringing gorgeous blue needles and sweet scent to your property 12 months of the year.
3. They Make Good Privacy Screens and Noise Buffers
As sound travels through the wind and air, it shouldn’t surprise us that needled trees also make great noise buffers. Like all arbors, they rise taller than a fence and provide a thicker barrier from unwelcome eyes and noise. Whereas deciduous shrubs only give coverage during the warm months, evergreens screen your property all year. Their dense skirt of low branches can fill in the gaps between other trunks, too.
Offering Privacy And Good Looks: The Hoopsii Blue Spruce
This queen of blue-needled trees rises 30-50 feet in height. Bred from the Colorado Blue Spruce, it buffers wind and noise, while giving privacy and habitat for wildlife.
4. They Give Food and Shelter For Wildlife
Many native birds overwinter in Chicagoland, like cardinals, nuthatches, juncos, pine siskins, screech owls, and woodpeckers. They eat a wide variety of food such as fruit, berries, buds, insects, and nectar. While evergreens won’t provide all they need, they provide crucial cones and often host insects in their bark. Thick evergreen boughs also provide all-important shelter from the cold for birds and squirrels. Though our city may have eaten up wildlife habitat when we built it, there is no reason why we can’t grow some of it back. Our kids will get to discover the wonders of nature right in our backyards, and the animals will thank us too.
A Home For Wildlife: The Vanderwolf Pine
Rising 50 feet in the air with a 20 feet spread, this beautifully scented pine can live 100 years or more with its long needles, distinctive cones, and healthy dark green color.
5. They Clean and Purify the Air
My favorite time of year is when deciduous trees wake up and open their leaves in the spring. You may not realize it, but evergreens go dormant in the winter and wake up in the spring too. It’s harder to track their revival. Except you may notice that you can suddenly breathe more easily. Yes, there is more oxygen in the air. While the oak and maple have to grow fresh leaves before they breathe—spruce and pine don’t have to wait. Since they never shed their needles, they can take powerful first breaths of the year as soon as possible. More fresh air around our house can do everything from elevate our moods, reduce our stress, and make us healthier and stronger. As an added bonus, these trees sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
While flowers and deciduous plants often take the spotlight in a landscape, evergreens have many virtues of their own. Swing by our garden centers to see these gorgeous trees in person. Fall is the best time for planting!
Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.