Winter is when you notice evergreen shrubs with a good shape or rich foliage, that at other times of the year blend into the background. When there is little around in our gardens, a neatly clipped Box hedge, or a rounded Yew shrub or a Skimmia with red berries really stand out. These shrubs can form the centrepiece of a winter corner of any garden. There is no point in having winter interest hidden away, put the plants where they can be seen from the house or by a path used daily.
For Christmas cheer a few shrubs will provide red, yellow and green colour in your garden. A slow growing columnar golden Yew – Taxus baccata Standishii will form a slim column of green and golden yellow foliage. Next to it plant a rounded Skimmia shrub with white or red flowers and then maybe a couple of Pittosporum Tom Thumb shrubs. They have a dumpy rounded shape with new growth being lime green that then fades to chocolate brown. At the back plant a red stemmed Cornus alba Sibirica and cut the stems back to 30cms each year in February to encourage a forest of new red stems for the next season. Or look for some of the variegated Hollies such as Ilex aquifolium Argentea Marginatai which can be kept trimmed to shape. If you have a male and female, you should have red berries too.
Smaller plants that will give you colour at year end before the bulbs pop up include any of the Euphorbias. These have evergreen foliage ranging from silvery grey, to plum red and green edged with red. Some such as Euphorbia characias subsp. Wulfenii can grow to 1m in height and width. Then there are smaller Euphorbias such as Silver Swan which will form a neat plant with white edged green foliage and bottlebrush flowers in spring.
The ever reliable Heucheras do well in winter where they have some shelter and well drained soil. They will keep their leaves well into winter if it is mild. I have clients who have overwintered the orangey, fudge coloured leaved varieties and in my own garden the purple leaved varieties do well.
Make sure that any tender plants are brought into a greenhouse or well lit garage to overwinter. Or cover plants with a fleece if they are borderline tender. Bubble wrap around any pots with plants that you don’t want to freeze. If the roots freeze then the plants will die.
Plant any bare rooted trees or shrubs, as soon as they arrive. Do not let the roots dry out or they will not grow next year!