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16 October 2014
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Winter 2004
John Cushnie On...

Winter Green
15th December 2004

Non gardeners probably think that in winter the garden is a disaster area with no interest or colour and best ignored until the weather is on the mend and the evenings are brighter.

HollyNonsense. This is the time when the garden relies heavily on its evergreen plants to provide the WOW factor.

Certainly there are winter flowering shrubs and even trees. Berries and bark can add sparkle and splashes of colour but it is the greenery that makes the difference. During summer and autumn the foliage is taken for granted forming a backdrop to the more showy plants. When the deciduous plants have lost their leafy cloaks and bloom and are standing stark naked then attention turns to the evergreens.

IvyThere are so many favourites but since it is December I will mention the holly and the ivy. Both have the ability to be spectacular, the former with its glossy, crinkly, spiked foliage that is often variegated and its bright red or yellow berries. Ivy leaves glisten in the rain forming a sheet of leaves on a wall or scrambling up an old tree. Variegated varieties such as ‘Paddy’s Pride’ and ‘Iceberg’have small, attractive leaves.

Eleagnus is tolerant of cold winds and coastal gardens. My favourites are the green and creamy-yellow of ‘Limelight’ and ‘Maculata’ with its dark green foliage margined and splashed with deep gold.

euphorbia fortuneiFatsia japonica has enormous, hand-shaped, glossy, evergreen foliage. It is striking as a large plant. With smaller leaves but every bit as shiny the camellias seem to be alive waiting to break out into spring flower.

There are gaultherias, euonymus, heathers, rhododendrons, pieris and magnolias that attract attention by waving in the slightest breeze. Conifers are great for winter leaf colour with a range that includes green, blue, plum, and yellow. Some, such as the golden Irish yew (Taxus baccata fastigiata ‘Aureomarginata’) stand at attention every day unheeding of wind, frost, snow or rain.

Fatsia japonicaOn a windy day Phormiums (New Zealand flax) wave aloft their sword-like leaves as if in anger while the Australian palm (Cordyline australis) works itself into a frenzy of thrashing foliage. Winter green makes for a winter wonderland.

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