Do Your Flower Gardens or Borders Have Year-Round Interest?

If your flower gardens or borders do not have year-round interest, one solution would be shrubs; especially evergreen shrubs.

There are some wonderful ones that stay relatively small, look great and require little care.

Three that you may want to consider are:

  • Acuba (also aucuba)
  • Mugo Pine
  • Nandina

#1 – Acuba is one of my favorites. Both the variegated and the solid green are vibrant and colorful even without berries.  But with big red extravagant berries that the female will bear (if she has a male close by to pollinate) it’s spectacular!

Disease-free, they’ll grow slowly to a height of about 5 or 6 feet (sometimes taller) in most gardens. They may be pruned to fit a certain spot and are easy to grow as long as they have some shade and not too much sun.

Variegated acuba foliage with ornamental grass and small nandina in lower left corner


The foliage is wonderful for arrangements.  Also makes great decorations at Christmas time.


After your initial investment for a male and female shrub, you can start your own from cuttings and have as many as you want.


When we moved here there were 3 small acubas by our heat pump. We didn’t want them there. Thus, we moved them. A year later I discovered I’d not placed them well. They were moved again.  It took them a couple of years to recover from all that transplanting but they are thriving and gorgeous.

Beautiful solid green foliage of acuba used next to variegated seen a very top.

A beautiful and enjoyable shrub.

# 2 – Mugo Pine – Great in the border, it’s a beautiful little evergreen growing to a height of about 3  to 8 feet depending on the variety. It will adapt just about anywhere. Has a slow to average growth rate. Usually the hardiness zones are shown as 3 – 8. Great interest 12 months of the year!


Eleven years ago I planted a Mugo Pine.  I loved it but thought it was in the wrong place and very foolishly moved it too close to summertime.  We had a drought year and I lost it. I plan to plant another this spring.

#3 – Nandina – These shrubs stand about 4 to 5 feet tall.  Every year the largest and/or tallest stem is cut at the base to keep the plant looking its best.  The color of the bamboo-like foliage is superb if it gets enough sun. (It can take part shade, but if placed in full shade the leaf color will not be as vibrant.)


When I first encountered this widely cultivated Asian evergreen shrub, I was not at all impressed. I realized later that I had underestimated the value and beauty of this versatile member of the barberry family.

I absolutely fell in love with Nandina when I saw it used and cared for properly by friends who used it as a foundation planting along one side of their home.

At night that side of their yard is lighted and one can look out of an all-glass/sliding-door wall and enjoy the beauty of these shrubs which is magnified when they bear their winter dressing of red berries.

At my home, I use a cluster of them with boxwood-like evergreens of different texture in front of my house.  In our tree border I use them as part of a natural hedge with ornamental grasses and next to acuba.

acuba, nandina, hosta and sweet woodruff in our tree border


Nandina sends out new plants about a foot from its base.  Not a problem in most cases if you can just cut them off.  In my beds, I have to take up the underground part of the stem and cut back to the base of the plant so they won’t interfere with other plants.  It’s a task I have to attend to once a year at least or they will become too thick and spread wider than desired. The good point — lots of new plants if you want them.

A note in closing:

If you find a shrub that works for you and is easy to propagate, you can use it throughout your gardens and borders to give a thread of consistency.

Green can tie the garden together not only in the starkness of winter, but in times of drought as well. So, if you need to add more all year interest to your flower gardens and borders, these 3 evergreen shrubs may help you solve the problem.


  • Theresa,

    Could you please give me some pointers on how to propagate acuba from cuttings?

    I have a very dear friend who has one plant and I would love to start a plant for me with a cutting from his plant.

    Thanks so much,

  • Betty,
    Would have been nice to take cuttings in May —- but go ahead and see if you can’t get some terminal growth cuttings now. Start in water until they root or start in grow mix. Just to experiment — stick a few in the ground as well. You’ll probably have luck with them all.
    Make the cuttings about 5 inches long or so. Remove all but the top leaves.
    Good luck!

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