Colourful EvergreensAlison Marsden
As April is probably the peak plant buying and planting month for many gardeners, I thought that I would give a shout out for a category of garden-worthy plants sometimes overlooked in our quest for flower power – evergreen shrubs. That label certainly sounds more ‘worthy’ than exciting but, of course, evergreen does not have to mean green. There are many shrubs that retain their leaves and provide colour all year round, and quite a few that have flowers as well. Unless you are creating a purely herbaceous border, shrubs are a great addition to any planting scheme. They provide height and structure and this is especially valuable in winter and spring when the top growth of many herbaceous plants has died off and been cut back. And an evergreen shrub gives a real sense of fullness in the sparse months as well as anchoring the planting scheme to the ground.
A common complaint about evergreens is that they are boring. Well, then you are choosing the wrong ones! I generally prefer plants that have either flowers or variegated leaves but not both as it is rare to get a really good colour combination. My personal worst-case scenario is a yellow variegated leaf with pink flowers – but this is just my taste. Of course, we all know Rhododendrons and Camellias and probably regarded them as ‘flowering shrubs’ rather than evergreens in the first instance, but they still provide that winter bulk and structure that is so valuable. It is really the coloured-foliage evergreen shrubs that I want to highlight here and some that may be less well known.
As light relief from dark and dull green, look at Griselinia, a medium size shrub very tolerant of wind and coastal areas, has soft green leaves and the variety ‘Variegata’ is edged with cream. Some evergreens take on a reddish tinge when temperatures drop, livening up a winter border, such as Nandina and especially the dwarf form ‘Firepower’. Finally I love the almost black, shiny, ruffled leaves of the dwarf Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’. There is plenty of colourful choice in evergreens.
Happy Gardening from Alison
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