Friday, 13 February 2015

Foliage for winter interest

It would be wonderful to have a dedicated winter garden, but shrubs such as Cornus, Rubus and Hamemelis take a lot of space, and to be honest I find them to be pretty dull for the rest of the year. We don't have a huge garden, so every plant needs to earn its space and provide interest for more than one season. I also don't want to look at bare earth - so what to do?

We have a variety of low-growing foliage plants that add colour and interest to the borders now, but allow later plants to emerge around them.

Pachysandra terminalis variegata, a low-growing evergreen suitable for shade

We were very lucky to inherit large numbers of autumn-flowering cyclamen. I would never have thought to buy this plant, but having seen how beautiful and useful it is I would definitely recommend it. Its flowers are lovely in late summer, but the real bonus is the mounds of mottled foliage that remain looking fresh all winter. It dies back completely in late spring/early summer, allowing emerging summer-flowering plants to take over. It seems to grow in any aspect, and doesn't mind being moved about or jostling for space with other plants. Cyclamen also seed themselves about freely - what more could you want!
Autumn-flowering cyclamen and a yellow Tiarella




It might be common as muck, but for me Sarcococca confusa (Christmas box) is a must-have plant. Ours is located so that on each visit to the chickens we can enjoy the amazing perfume. It is a very compact shrub and its dark green leaves make a good backdrop for other plants.

Sarcococca confusa




The grassy leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens and Luzula hohe tatra stand out now because of their dramatic colours. Both are evergreen and are fantastic edging plants all year round, and can be used to create dramatic colour contrasts with other foliage or flowers. They seem happy in sun or shade and clump-up quite quickly. 

Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens


Luzula hohe tatra

Our favourite foliage plant, and one that keeps us going out in the garden to enjoy it, is Meconopsis paniculata/napaulensis. The rosettes look particularly stunning covered in rain droplets. These plants are monocarpic, so once they have flowered, which takes two or three years, the plant sets seed and dies, but they are well worth growing for the stunning, evergreen foliage.
Meconopsis - with a silver leaf


Meconopsis - with a gold leaf














Meconopsis in flower

We also have a green backdrop on the fences surrounding the garden. We grow evergreen Lonicera (honeysuckle) mint crisp for its zesty foliage rather than for its summer flowers.
Honeysuckle mint crisp







Variegated ivy, which might seem a bit brash in summer, bring welcome cheer in winter. We densely plant our climbers (as we do in the whole garden!) so in spring and summer roses and clematis take over. 
Hedera green ripples

Small-leaved white variegated ivy and autumn-flowering cyclamen leaves

Hedera sulphur heart with large glossy leaves