Replacing the buzz from blooming plants

Winter flowering cherry.
Winter flowering cherry.

How does your garden stand up to inspection as we head deep into November?

It’s quite natural to be tidying-up all the debris of a summer past; spent bedding displays, herbaceous growth, leaves and vegetable garden left-overs, but what’s going to replace the buzz that came with their presence? It could be a long, depressing winter if there’s no colour out there.

Luckily, this is a good time for planting, be it a modest backyard container, balcony window-box or expansive garden.

The harsh edge of winter is softened in this garden by a background of hedges and strategically-planted trees and shrubs. Permanent colour, as in 365 days, comes from a combination of slow-growing, golden conifers and a diversity of variegated woody perennials. The mixed borders in which they grow become a mass of foliage and colour at the height of summer, reducing them temporarily to bit-part players, but now comes the wow factor, as they emerge from the shadows.

The grandly-named silver-variegated holly, Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’, is making a bold statement in a corner of the garden, even though the birds have already stripped it bare of berries. What a dense barrier these two hollies have made since the removal of their central growth tips two years ago.

A group planting of four evergreens in another distant bed, have stood the test of time in being an attractive feature for us and a lifeline for birds. They comprise two euonymus (Emerald n Gold and Emerald Gaiety) against a background pair of chamaecyparis (Filifera Aurea and obtusa).

But it’s the hardy winter shrubs that are worth their weight in gold and silver for the foliage colour they bring to this garden.

Golden types include Elaeagnus pungens. Aurea Maculata is a personal favourite, but we take no liberties – pungens refers to the occasional spines along its stems.

A relative of the common green-leaved hedging plant (Lonicera nitida) has a place here too. Lonicera Bagessen’s Gold has been trained into a metre-high globe shape, and it shines from the border year-round. Viburnum tinus Aurea, Aucuba Japonica Variegata and the golden version of Peruvian orange blossom (Choisya ternata) are also part of the show.

The traditional florist’s favourite, pittosporum, has a silver variegated form Garnettii, which is very appealing.

So-called winter heathers (Erica carnea), in pink and white, are planted in groups along the driveway and surrounding borders. Their flowers are about to open and will last three months.