Gardens needn’t be dull in winter. There are plenty of plants that offer good looks and colour such as good old evergreen foliage. But you want your evergreens to be interesting, too – something to catch the eye and really brighten up your border. They also need to stay looking good, whatever the weather throws at them.
Silver-leaved evergreens such as Convolvulus cneorum, olive-like phillyrea, bushy artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ and scented lavenders all look good throughout winter, relishing a well-drained sunny spot.
For fantastic icy blue foliage highlighted by frost or snow, you can’t beat a blue-needled conifer such as Picea pungens ‘Koster’or ground-covering Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’. If conifers aren’t your bag, try Ruta graveolens instead.
For green, try Helleborus foetidus with its apple-green flowers or silver-tinged Helleborus argutifolius, both beautiful in winter. Unusual Ruscus aculeatus or butcher’s broom makes a spiky statement, with its red berries balanced on the centre of its pointy leaves. The structure of clipped box balls or cones are invaluable while Arum italicum marmoratum, with its marbled leaves makes sure there’s interest at ground level.
To really brighten things up, go for yellow. Shrubs like Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ and Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Aureomarginatus’ have such bright acid yellow-green leaves, they can’t fail to make an impact – especially in the winter sun. Euonymus ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ makes a big splash of colour and for pure yellow, go for Choisya ‘Sundance’.
Bronze hebe ‘James Stirling’ makes a mound of ochre leaves that stand out in winter. Or there are bronze and orange-tinted phormiums such as ‘Sundowner’ and ‘Maori Chief’ with spiky, grass-like leaves.
Many bergenia leaves develop red tints in winter; look for ‘Ballawley’, ‘Sunningdale’ and ‘Bressingham Ruby’, which will give glossy burgundy ground cover. Phormium ‘Jester’ or ‘Pink Panther’ will also bring beautiful red winter colour.
The conifers Cryptomeria japonica and Chamaecyparis thyoides ‘Rubicon’ both have mauve-purple winter foliage and purple sage has matt, aromatic leaves. Long-lasting heucheras keep their purple leaves in winter too, as do purple ajugas – you’ll be spoiled for choice!
MUST-BUY PLANT... Sedum
Flesh-leaved stems are topped with plateaus of pink flowers that start off green in bud, open to pink, then get darker as autumn progresses.
The same fleshy leaves, but this time in deep purple. Varieties such as ‘Matrona’ are topped with pink flowers, making for a great contrast of colour.
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