Evergreen shrubs leave your garden looking vibrant all year round. Many have pretty flowers and provide lush green colour in the winter months. Most are hardy but can outgrow their containers, so careful selection and planting of dwarf varieties will ensure that your plants do well. Be sure to plant your containers with the correct type of compost. Many shrubs prefer acid soils and will only thrive in ericaceous or acidic compost.
Conifers are versatile in that they can grow very big but also work well in containers for modest growth. Golden false cypress is native to North America and grows no more than 2 feet high. It thrives in containers placed in a sunny location. Golden false cypress doesn't flower, but it does provide interesting shades of green all year round. Juniper old gold remains gold for most of the year but turns bronze in the fall and has an arching habit. It never reaches more than 2.5 feet high but will spread outwards if you take it out of the pot. Other varieties of juniper include Andorra compact which is low growing and goes a plum colour in the fall.
Euphorbias produce ball-shaped flowers in spring in a range of colors.Many dwarf varieties which are ideal for containers. The purpurea spurge shrub is an evergreen, with vivid red shoots and leaves. Its leaves turn purple in the spring before green-yellow flowers appear. It tolerates most soil types and will only grow to a maximum height of 4 inches. A smaller variety is creeping spurge. Its blue-green leaves look like succulents and can trail out of taller pots with greenish-yellow blooms in spring. Select euphorbias carefully, as some are only half-hardy.
Azalea flowers come in many different colours and are ideal for containers. They flower in spring while maintaining dark green foliage for the rest of the year. The red azalea produces masses of funnel shaped, double bright red flowers in late spring and early summer months. It requires well-drained ericaceous compost or acid soil and is slow growing. Another dwarf red variety that works well is geisha red, which copes well in extremes of climates. Gumpo white produces masses of white funnel-shaped, flowers on a dwarf, compact plant. It thrives in containers but is only half-hardy.
Japanese skimmia is a compact evergreen shrub with dark green leaves which have red marking on the edge. They grow no higher than 2.5 feet and flower in spring in well drained acidic soil. Skimmia rubella has dark evergreen leaves tinged with red. The flower buds appear in the fall but wait till the spring to open to produce scented flowers.
Dwarf lavenders have all the qualities of the bigger varieties but remain compact all year round. There are many different types which thrive in containers and provide year round evergreen foliage. English lavenders include dwarf munstead which has blue flowers and fragrant grey/green foliage and grows no higher than 1.5 feet. Cutting it back after flowering will help keep the plant bushy. The hidcote variety also works well in a pot. It has one of the darkest purple flowers of any lavender. Nana Alba has white flowers and a compact growth habit reaching no more than 1 foot tall. There are many Spanish varieties of lavender, but these are less hardy.