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5 Great Boxwood Alternatives

Posted by Chloe Smith

Boxwoods are incredibly popular in the landscape, but could the recent appearance of boxwood blight threaten their place in our gardens? Only time will tell how devastating boxwood blight will be to the boxwood population. Until then it might be good to consider these 5 great boxwood alternatives that are not susceptible to the fungal pathogen that causes boxwood blight.

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Tags: Plants, Branded Plants, Evergreens, Shrubs

The 6 Best Evergreens for Live Holiday Wreaths

Posted by Chloe Smith

This blog post briefly explains how to make a live holiday wreath and list the best evergreens for live holiday wreaths. It analyzes each plant material’s pros and cons, gives ideas for additional decorations, and hopefully inspires your own creativity to make a unique and beautiful holiday wreath. For more information, please visit the Missouri Botanical Gardens website.

Live holiday wreaths are elegant and classic home decor. In today’s fast paced culture, wreath making is a dying art, but making your own holiday wreath is simple, cheap, and you probably have trees and shrubs already in your yard that you can use! It’s a great winter activity to partake in with your kids, grandkids, parents, sibling, or significant other while simultaneously getting your nature fix in the cold winter months.


As I mentioned before, making a holiday wreath is simple and cheap, especially if you use greenery harvested from your yard. To make a wreath, you need a frame, paddle wire, scissors, greenery, and any decorations your heart desires. The frame and paddle wire can be purchased most places that craft supplies are sold, including Hobby Lobby and Michael’s. Once you have your materials, tie the end of your paddle wire on the frame. Gather a bundle of greenery and lay it on your frame while wrapping the paddle wire around the base of the bundle to tightly secure it to the frame. Don’t cut your paddle wire until the very end, as this will help the process flow more smoothly. After your first bundle is secure, simply start layering in more bundles until you have made it all the way around your frame as illustrated in the photos above. Perhaps the hardest part about making a live holiday wreath is choosing what greenery to start with!


#1: Arborvitae

Arborvitae make an excellent choice for wreath making because they will not shed any needles like some of the more traditional options. Arborvitae have flat leaves. The lack of depth of arborvitae foliage is a good choice if you intend on adding a lot of additional decorations to your wreath. Since arborvitae have cultivars with yellow foliage, this gives you an additional color option that you can’t get with your classic conifers. The effect is a very regal wreath that appears almost golden. It is perfect option for an autumn or thanksgiving wreath.


#2 White Pine

              White Pine is a great choice for holiday wreaths. It will hold its needles for a long time without shattering, unlike spruce which will shatter almost immediately once you bring it inside to the warm temperatures. The texture of a white pine wreath is incredibly fine and will give your wreath a unique look. It appears silky smooth, and it actually feels pretty nice too! This makes it a great wreath option if you have kids running around the house and you don’t want them to poke themselves on something sharper like spruce or juniper.


#3 Douglas Fir

              Douglas fir is another evergreen that will hold its needles for a long time. If you are going for the more traditional look, this is the way to go, since most Christmas trees on the market are Douglas fir. Douglas fir needles are flattened on one side and radiate on the other side, making it easy to lay them flat on your wreath frame while simultaneously giving you a good amount of volume. 



#4 Boxwood

              Boxwoods have small leaves which makes a nice tidy looking wreath, if that is the style you are looking for. Additionally, boxwood leaves won’t shatter making them a long-lasting option. In ideal circumstances, a boxwood wreath could last up to 2 months. This wreath is perfect for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time for upkeep and revitalization of their wreaths throughout the season. Pair it with a strand of LED lights for a simple and elegant display.


#5 Red Twig Dogwood

              One of my favorite new trends is holiday wreaths made with red twig dogwoods! Personally, I love red twig dogwood; I love anything with good winter interest. While this is not the route you want to go if you’re looking for a traditional wreath, I think this is great if you are looking to shake up your holiday decorations. The advantage to a wreath like this is that it will not drop leaves and leave a mess in your house.  You could also use yellow twig dogwood if you are feeling especially adventurous with your color palette.


#6 Holly

              An obvious advantage to making a wreath with holly is, of course, the berries. The berries might fall before you are done displaying your wreath, so make sure you don’t have it hanging over a white carpet. This is one you will probably want to keep on your front door instead of inside the house. The shiny foliage creates a really stunning display especially if you incorporate variegated cultivars like the photo on the left. I do not recommend using deciduous holly as your only plant material, since the shelf life would be very short. However, deciduous holly berries incorporated into a wreath with something like fir or pine would be perfect.


BONUS: Herbs

              Another option you have at your disposal as the crafty gardener you are is to incorporate dried herbs into your wreaths. The wreath pictured to the left is made of both rosemary and lavender. The advantage to using herbs in your wreaths is definitely the fragrance. It’s also a fun addition to holiday décor in your kitchen, since you can pull pieces off to use as you cook. 


Any of the plants listed above would make a great holiday wreath, however they are by no means your only options. Don’t be afraid to mix and match evergreens to get a variety of textures in your wreath. Let your creativity flow! The best part about making your own live wreath is adding extra little decorations, yet another chance to be creative. You can use ribbon and decorations from the store, or you can scavenge in your yard some more. Things like dried hydrangea flowers, pinecones, grass seed heads, viburnum berries, or acorns make great additions. Other store-bought options are led lights, dried fruit, or cinnamon sticks. These items can be wired in as you make your wreath or wired in separately at the end.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with plants that you aren’t sure about. If it doesn’t work you can always replace it with something else latter. Most importantly, have fun. Connecting with nature in any way you can is a fun and fulfilling experience. Nothing will make you appreciate the plants in your yard more than finding a new and exciting purpose for them.

Have you gotten creative with a live wreath? Let us know in the comments!  

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Tags: Evergreens, Winter

Green Velvet Boxwood VS. Winter Gem Boxwood (comparison)

Posted by Jeff VanBuren

Boxwood Green Velvet VS. Boxwood Winter Gem 

Green Velvet and Winter Gem Boxwoods are two of the most popular smaller sized evergreens sold in our area. They have many similarities such as: they are both boxwoods, stay small, evergreen, deer resistant, bloom in April, grow about any where,  have shallow root systems, hardy in zones 5 – 9, low maintenance, can take heavy pruning, and they both work great planted as hedges or just as single plantings. They have gained in popularity over the last decade because they are just so easy. They can be trimmed or left to grow naturally. They will grow in about any soil but prefer a moist, yet well drained soil. They will grow in sun or shade, but the ideal location would be either a morning sun and afternoon shade or a filtered sun. Both of these varieties are less prone to getting the "bronze" look in winter that many types of boxwood get. If they are in full sun and the temperatures are really cold even these two can get the bronze color. But, if planted in shade they will rarely aquire that coloring.

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Tags: Plants, Evergreens, Shrubs

Which Is Better? Mugo Pine Vs. Birdsnest Spruce (comparison)

Posted by Ann Tosovsky

Which Is Better? Mugo Pine vs. Birdsnest Spruce 

Although evergreens don’t seem to be one of the top choices for consumers these days, they do provide a necessary component to every landscape……year round color!  Green in the landscape doesn’t look too shabby in the middle of winter when everything else looks sparse and, frankly, dead. There are many different types of pine and spruce on the market today.  Let’s bring it down to a “foundation” level and talk about a couple smaller varieties; Dwarf  Mugo Pine and Birdsnest Spruce.

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Tags: Plants, Evergreens, Shrubs

Creating Screens With Limited Space

Posted by Angela Jackson

Using Evergreens For Screening A Small Space

Arborvitae North PoleTM—Thuja occidentalis ‘Art Boe’ P.P.A.F.

This columnar Arborvitae is a great tree for narrow hedges, small gardens and accent plantings.  North PoleTM, a selection of the Arborvitae o. ‘Hetz Wintergreen’, has a superior resistance to winter burn and exhibits excellent cold-hardiness.  The year-round deep green foliage keeps its branching down to the ground as it ages.   With a width of 5 to 7 feet, this tree slowly reaches 12 to 14 feet high.  It has a naturally symmetric, conical habit.

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Tags: Plants, Branded Plants, Evergreens, Shrubs

Blue Hollies vs. China Hollies (comparison)

Posted by Dave Morgenroth

Blue Prince and Princess Hollies vs. China Boy and China Girl Hollies-Which Variety Is Better??

Blue Prince/Blue Princess Hollies, and China Boy/China Girl Hollies are part of the group of Meserve Hybrid Hollies first bred nearly 40 years ago. They are broadleaf evergreens and have found an important place, as well as continue to play an outstanding role in landscape plantings. Blue Prince/Blue Princess Hollies, and China Boy/China Girl Hollies have similar characteristics, yet differ from each other in many ways.

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Tags: Plants, Evergreens, Shrubs

Where Should Junipers Be Planted?

Posted by Paul Blanche

Juniperus Virginiana "Canaertii"


      "The Right Plant For The Right Space"

How important is it to select the right plant for the right place? Just ask my neighbor Fred. Recently he asked, "Hey Paul, why are my hostas always crispy brown and my roses rarely bloom?" Well Fred, I'm glad you asked.....I think.

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Tags: Plants, General, Evergreens, Trees, Shrubs

Ilex x meserveae ‘Hachfee’ Castle Spire® Blue Holly (Review)

Posted by Angela Jackson

Ilex x meserveae ‘Hachfee’ Castle Spire® Blue Holly

The Ilex Castle Spire® is handsome year-round and spectacular when laden with fruit.  This variety of dwarf, pyramidal, blue holly is an introduction from Germany from a cross of Ilex aquitolium ‘Pyramidalis' and Ilex x meserveae 'Blue Prince'.  The most noticeable improvement for this Proven Winners® selection is the symmetrical branching and shiner leaf.  It makes a great foundation or hedge plant, or a dramatic statement as a specimen plant.

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Tags: Plants, Evergreens, Shrubs

Best Spreading Junipers In The Midwest

Posted by Jeff VanBuren

Best Spreading Junipers In The Midwest (Reviews/Ratings) 

When you hear the word Juniper, do you think about that overgrown prickly bush in front of your grandma’s house? I think visions of such a bush come to many people who hear the “J” word. Well that’s just not true anymore. There are varieties of Junipers that would look great in just about any landscape anywhere. Spreading Junipers have about as many uses as there are varieties, and that’s a bunch. Three of the best-selling Junipers in the Midwestern area are Sea Green, Grey Owl, and Saybrook Gold and trust me these are not your grandma’s old Junipers. 

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Tags: Plants, Local, Evergreens, Shrubs

Best Upright Junipers In The Midwest (Ratings/Reviews)

Posted by Ann Tosovsky

Best upright junipers in the Midwest

When you hear the name Juniper you might immediately think, UGH, I hate that plant.  Sure, for a long time in the 1950’s and 60’s junipers (mostly spreading) were probably a bit overused, but who can argue that a low maintenance shrub with year round color isn’t nice to have.  Upright junipers lost favor as well because the faster growing and cheaper arborvitae came into the picture. As gardeners we’ve evolved quite a bit over the years.  We have access to more information, growers are producing so many more varieties of plants, we’ve turned our yards into outdoor living spaces and we basically are demanding more.  But, does that mean junipers are a “has been” or should be thrown to the curb?  I say, NO! Junipiers, just like any other plant, serve a purpose and have their place in everyone’s landscape.  Since there are several types of junipers, uprights, spreaders, groundcover, let’s focus on the upright junipers and talk about three of the top selling varieties in the Midwest.

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Tags: Plants, Evergreens, Trees, Shrubs