Each year, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society awards its Gold Medal Plant Award to little-known and rarely used woody plants of exceptional merit.
The 'Green Velvet' variety of boxwood (Buxus 'Green Velvet') is the latest in a series of winter-hardy boxwoods from Sheridan Nurseries in Georgetown, Ontario. 'Green Velvet' grows 4 feet tall, and keeps a tight, round shape without much pruning, though you can trim for a more manicured look. 'Green Velvet' holds its bright green color well during harsh winter weather. It's hardy to zone 5 (-20° F), and deer don't seem to like its flavor.
I love viburnums and think, in general, that they should be grown more often. Viburnum burkwoodii 'Conoy' is the first evergreen of its type. 'Conoy' is a low-growing shrub that produces three seasons of interest with very little care. It's hardy to zone 5 and evergreen to zone 6. 'Conoy' grows only 3 to 4 feet tall and has shiny, dark green leaves. The shrub produces pink-to-red buds that open to fragrant white flowers in April and red fruit in late summer. The plant is disease-resistant, and the leaves turn a maroon color in fall. It grows equally well in full or part sun, in dry or wet sites with acid or alkaline soils.
Both 'Green Velvet' boxwood and 'Conoy' viburnum are widely available from local nurseries.