How can I inject a bit more winter interest in this border?
STYLISH HAZEL FENCING is a smart way to mark out your boundaries: if only the neighbours here hadn’t planted a hornbeam hedge so close behind it! It’s quite attractive to see the golden autumn leaves poking through; in time they’ll create a pretty backdrop for the plants in this border. However, it’s not a good idea to have a plant growing through a fence because the branches will rub against it and could bring it down in time. In the meantime, by far the best solution here is to make the border deeper – at least 1.2m (4ft) wide. This would allow you to move plants away from the fence and lay a stepping stone path, allowing for hedge-trimming activities behind. In terms of planting I’d make the most of the part-shady conditions with a mix of evergreens for shape and colour. The existing Nandina domestica is a good choice because it turns a lovely purplered in winter (H and S1.5m/5ft). But for me the border lacks some statement plants to improve its architecture. Go for fastigiate evergreens such as Irish yew, Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’ (H8m/26ft in 20 years) or, ideal for this tight space, slender Cupressus sempervirens ‘Totem Pole’ (H8m/26ft). These will create height and rhythm. At the far end, pop in a Himalayan birch as a focal point. A classic choice for winter interest, its ghostly white bark draws the eye, and leaves provide a shimmering gold autumn display too. Topiary balls add structure at ground level – here I’ve chosen neatly clipped Hebe topiaria rather than box, with smaller rounds of Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ in front. Around these sleek evergreens I’d plant a sea of wafty grasses such as frothy Nassella tenuissima, tassel-flowered Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’ or upright Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’. I also like the idea of adding a few architectural shrubs – white-and-green variegated Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan’ or grey-and-white Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’. The latter can be shaped into a loose pyramid shape, or ball. ● Need help with your planting schemes? Contact garden.an[email protected]media.co.uk