When prospective clients approach me to do planting plans for their gardens it’s always because they are lacking colour and/or structure year round. Although winter colour is what you’d think most people would find difficult to achieve, a lot of people also really struggle with lack of colour in July and August when they find they have a very ‘green’ garden. So, how do you achieve a year round colourful garden with plenty of structure in the winter? There are a number of ways you can tackle this problem.
Ornamental grasses have come a long way since the 1970s Pampas grass that most people think about when you first suggest grasses. These not only add almost year round structure but can turn the most beautiful shades of purples and pinks in the autumn, like Panicum virgatum ‘Squaw’. Others like Imperata cylindrica’ Red Baron’ turn blood red as the season progresses while Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ and Panicum vigatum ‘Heavy Metal are blue from the get go, no need to wait for any colour. If you are looking to brighten up a shady area try Carex elata ‘Bowles Golden’ which has butter yellow leaves or Hakonechloe macro. ‘Aureola’ with limey green leaves. Both will give you colour when you need it most and virtually year round structure.
Heuchera are one of my most favourite perennials because of the beautiful leaf colour it has, adding a variety of instant colour to any garden and great at the front of the border. It is a semi-evergreen and so it will give you a long season of interest. When it comes to July and August there are a plethora of options available both in the way of shrubs and herbaceous perennials. My first suggestion for those of you who currently have ‘green’ gardens at this time is to measure up the area where colour is lacking and pop along to a reputable garden centre and choose something that is flowering at that moment, that would grow in your garden conditions. Good nurseries will always give you good advice and suggestions about what to choose, so let them help!
Winter is a good time of year to take a long hard look at the garden and think about what is and isn’t working. Definitely think grasses for winter structure and often colour throughout the year along with some herbaceous perennials which do a good job then too. For example, Libertia grandiflora is a lovely evergreen perennial that has white flowers from May – July but gives great structure in the winter or one of the Euphorbia family which will give you an interesting architectural plant all winter long. You can get orange, red and yellow winter colour from the Dogwoods (Cornus) and cheerful yellow flowers from the winter flowering Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) just when we need it most in December and January.
So if you think you might be missing a trick, I hope these tips will give you a starting point from which you can try a range of new plants and ideas in the coming year.