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Evergreen Shrubs in Permaculture

oregon grape

By Filip Tkaczyk

There are many species of evergreen shrubs useful to the practice of permaculture - a design method which aims to integrate natural shelter, water, and food production into a sustainable system. Shrubs in general are a variety of small, woody, upright species of plants that grow up to several meters tall. Some larger shrubs can grow tall enough to be considered a canopy species, acting as small trees.

These shrubs can provide a wide variety of functions including: edible parts, nitrogen fixing roots, attracting beneficial insects, providing useful fibers, wind breaks, wildlife food and much more. These shrubs also provide the added bonus of having green parts throughout the year. Shrubs are also especially useful when planted as part of an edible forest garden.


Useful Evergreen Shrubs

Here is a list of several highly useful evergreen shrubs for permaculture applications:

  • Bamboo species (Phyllostachys spp., Pseudosasa spp., Pleioblastus spp.) – though technically a giant grass this group of plants often grows to shrub or small tree size, has edible shoots, provides building materials, thicket forming, seeds are edible

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) leaves used in cooking, beneficial insect attractor, used for soaps/shampoos, medicinal plant

  • Salal (Gaultheria shallon)– evergreen, edible fruit, jams/cooked fruit, hedge/thicket forming, shade tolerant

  • Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) – evergreen, fruit edible when ripe, made into wine, beneficial insect attractor, little maintenance

  • Elaeagnus (Elaeagnus x ebbingei) – evergreen, edible fruit raw, jam/fruit leather, cooked fruit, nitrogen-fixer, beneficial insect attractor

  • Oregon grape (Mahonia spp.) – edible fruit, medicinal roots, can be used as hedge

  • Plum yews (Cephalotaxus spp.) – evergreen, edible fruits, prefers shade or partial shade in hot climates, partial shade to more sun in cooler climates, dioecious (1 male per every 5 females is a good ratio)

  • Chilean guava (Myrtus ugni) – edible fruits, evergreen, leaves used in teas, little maintenance needed

  • New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax) – amazing material source for basketry, paper, edible nectar and seeds, beneficial insect attractor, tolerates shade but likes sun

  • Tea (Camellia sinensis) – source of several different teas, fragrant flowers in fall

  • Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) – hedge forming, edible berries, windbreak, full sun to shade, grows tallest (up to 3 meters) in the shade, beneficial insect attractor

  • Ceanothus (Ceanothus spp.) – sweet smelling flowers, beneficial insect attractor, nitrogen-fixer, drought tolerant

These are just some of the amazing shrubs available for permaculture projects. For further information and training in permaculture, visit our Permaculture Courses page.

By the way, a big part of why we love homesteading & permaculture skills so much is because they are a natural extension of learning about wilderness survival (both fields are all about self-sufficiency and working with nature to satisfy needs). An understanding of survival not only helps you become a better permaculturist, it empowers you with life-saving outdoor skills to keep you safe when out in nature. Right now you can get a free copy of our mini survival guide here, where you'll discover six key strategies for outdoor emergencies, plus often-overlooked survival tips.

Additional Resources: 
Edible Shrubs

evergreen huckleberry

Filip Tkaczyk

About the Author: Filip Tkaczyk is a periodic guest teacher at Alderleaf. He also wrote the field guide Tracks & Sign of Reptiles & Amphibians. Learn more about Filip Tkaczyk.

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