It’s time to get out the winter green
With chilly weather approaching, now is the time to get plants into the ground that will provide colour and structure all winter long
October is prime planting season. Yes, it’s time to get your bulbs in but you can also be planting perennials, trees and shrubs. Why is now such a good time? because the soil is still warm but unlike the summer months, there’s less risk of drought and the soil tends to be moist.
Later on, the earth can freeze or be waterlogged, but right now it’s pliable and welcoming to newcomers. However, anything that’s borderline tender or exotic is probably best left until spring as it won’t benefit from shivering all winter long.
If you have a new plot or are pondering improvements to your existing garden, consider the role of evergreen shrubs and what they might add. evergreen shrubs are our companions in winter, providing structure and interest after the deciduous trees and shrubs have fluttered their leaves away.
There’s a balance to be struck between evergreen and deciduous planting.
You do not want to entirely dominate the space with evergreen, you’re aiming for gentle punctuation and rhythms through the space. by using different leaf shapes and textures and variegations you will not only have an interesting backdrop during the flowering season, but will also extend the beauty of your garden well into the winter months.
I use Prunus laurocerasus, or cherry laurel, in lots of gardens. It’s dependable, versatile and hardy. The dark, dense foliage creates a very useful barrier, acting as a solid windbreak and background for more delicate planting. It makes a glossy green hedge and grows even in lower light levels. choisya ternata, the Mexican orange blossom, is another common evergreen which we sometimes take for granted but it has much to offer, including fragrant foliage and flowers.
I’d also recommend skimmia as a reliable performer, with a good compact shape and winter interest in the form of flowers and berries.
Delicious fragrant flowers are the reward for growing osmanthus x burkwoodii. It has small dark green leaves and in spring is laden with white flowers that are highly scented – an absolute joy.
other gorgeous smelling evergreen shrubs include sweet box Sarcococca, which has a divine winter scent, Azara microphylla which has tiny yellow vanillascented flowers in spring, Daphne for powerfully perfumed pink flowers, and the common enough Mahonia which has sprays of yellow-scented flowers in winter.
Fatsia japonica, or castor oil, is another familiar plant but nonetheless dramatic and sculptural in winter – the foliage is so shapely, it does well in most soils and is particularly valuable in shady spots. There is a new introduction, Fatsia polycarpa ‘Green Fingers’ which has leaves that are more finely shaped and will give an exotic feel to the shrubbery.
A careful selection of easily available shrubs can keep your garden alive while many other plants hibernate. Remember to keep evergreens watered after planting and during dry spells for their first year, as they continue to lose water through their leaves. A generous mulch of manure, bark chips or compost will help nutrients release slowly.