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When guests stroll through my garden during the height of summer it is highly unlikely that they notice the many evergreens planted among the more showy flowers and foliage, but as the leaves begin to fall in autumn, these workhorses emerge from behind the scenes to reveal the real secret of my garden's design.

There is a lot more to an evergreen than just year round foliage. These plants can serve as garden walls, privacy screens, focal points and points of punctuation. It could be said that evergreen plants are some of the most important in your garden because they posses both form and function.

As we transition from autumn to winter, the structure of your garden becomes more apparent, which makes it a good time to evaluate where you could use a few evergreens to bolster the framework. The first thing to consider is what type of structural element is lacking. Do you need a point of interest in an area of your garden? How about a hedge to create privacy or to screen out an unpleasant view? Maybe you could use a low border of green to frame a bed of flowers? The type of structural element you need will be a guide to the size and form of the evergreen plants to consider.

Next, decide what type of evergreen will best suit the conditions where the plants will grow. What are extremes of temperatures (heat and cold) in your area? Will the plants be in full sun, shade, or a little of both? Would you say the area is moist or dry?

Another consideration is the form of the plant you want (weeping, conical, spreading etc.), and the plant's growth rate (slow or fast). It is also a good idea to know the size the plant will reach at maturity.

There is a whole world of evergreens to be explored. I suggest you visit your local garden center to see what they have that may be unique to your area.