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Winter Interest: Native Evergreen Plants for the Inner Coastal Plain - Wild Roots
As I look outside our back window at the birds flocking to our feeder and bath and the never-ending construction site behind us, one thing is clear: We’re in dire need of more native evergreen plants that provide privacy and beauty for us, and food and shelter for wildlife that lasts through winter. The rhododendrons we planted a couple of years ago should eventually reach a point where they cover the fence in the corner (and more!), but there are only two of them toward one corner and lots of space leftover for a shrub and understory layers. We also planted some Christmas ferns, which seem happy back there. You’re probably thinking, “Arborvitae! Duh!,” but Tim seems to have been scarred for life after a long, hot summer spent planting arborvitaes along the perimeters shopping centers and people’s expansive lawns while landscaping in his 20s. Anyway, this isn’t a particularly wet area, so I’ll stick to evergreens that are more drought-tolerant for this post and save other great plants like inkberry (Ilex glabra) for a future rain garden post. My favorite resources for finding new plants? are JerseyYards.org and Wildflower.org, and this research required both because the Barnegat Bay Partnership’s database doesn’t include filtering by leaf retention? and Lady Bird Johnson WildFlower Center’s database doesn’t have more localized info. The area I’m focusing on now is a mostly shady spot when the oak tree has leaves, and sunny during all other months, so I kept those conditions in mind. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) I want to plant some of this trailing shrub as a sort of groundcover border. We spotted some bearberry our in the wild recently, and both really liked it even though without its flowers or berries. I’d love to get some rocks to border the meadow, separating it from the evergreen area, and plant the bearberry so that it grows similarly to the photo. Birds and native bees love it, and it’s a host plant for butterfly and moth larvae, including Rocky Mountain Clearwing (Hemaris senta), Hoary Elfin (Callophrys polios), Freija Fritillary (Boloria freija), Brown Elfin (Callophrys augustinus), and Elf (Microtia elva). While it’s common in the Pine Barrens’ sandy soil, it also grows in loam and in rock gardens, so it should do well. Also, here’s a little fun fact for you: People smoked bearberry before tobacco was available. Characteristics: ?6-12 inches in height, spreads up to…