This week it feels as though deciduous garden plants are really getting serious about bedtime. The wind and rain of the last few days have brought leaves cascading down, and those still clinging on have turned yellow overnight, as though to signal their intentions. It’s an untidy season, which is probably one of the reasons I don’t like it very much – but it was still good to get outside for an hour at the weekend to begin the clean-up. You need to keep moving outside at this time of year to keep the cold at bay, so I gathered several buckets of fallen leaves to add to the leaf mould pile beside the shed.
But even as the garden sheds its lovely summer clothes, there is shape and colour to catch the eye and interest over the winter months – this is why it’s so important when planning a garden to think of the entire year as an ever turning wheel – like those tables with a revolving bit in the middle – so that wherever you are in the cycle, there is always something interesting going on.
When planting evergreens, size, shape and colour should all have a bearing on your choice of plants. Larger gardens can accommodate the bigger shrubs easily – pyracantha, viburnum tinus and the bigger cotoneasters will all give structure and decorative berries. But you still need smaller evergreen shrubs and perennials for a balanced composition – and in more compact gardens, these will be the biggest residents. Euphorbia characias is brilliant – growing quickly to a medium size, its architectural glaucus green leaves look good every day of the year. The pheasant’s tail grass, Anemanthele lessoniana, features in so many of my planting schemes that landscapers have started calling it my ‘signature’ plant – it stands up to coastal winds as well as looking beautiful.
Moving further down the size scale, Pittosporum ‘Tom Thunb’ is another favourite – a hard-working small shrub whose maroon – chocolate glossy leaves and naturally rounded shape make it invaluable for winter structure towards the back of a small border or the front of a larger one. You’d almost wonder why we need summer flowers at all………….
Viburnum tinus buds and berries in a winter bouquet, with Pittosporum 'Tom Thumb' in the background
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