Take a long hard look at your garden. Does it look interesting during the winter? Do the birds call in?
A couple of evergreen shrubs could make a world of difference, especially if you can find some with golden leaves.
Why golden leaves? Because gold and yellow look great during the winter. We only need a glimpse of sunshine and the garden simply lights up.
Birds are also attracted to them because they offer shelter from the wind, they can hide inside them from cats and during the night they will cling on to the branches when the wind is hateful. Poor little things. But never mind; we put out a selection of wild bird food in dishes and those evergreens are there to look after them.
Elaeagnus pungens maculata Aurea is the best evergreen shrub ever. It’s certainly in the top 10 of evergreens for any garden.
It will grow to a height of 10ft if left unpruned, but if pruned in late spring it can be kept as low as three feet.
This golden-leafed Elaeagnus often throws out strong shoots from the base. They grow from the rootstock on which the plant was grafted. The unwanted shoots are a silvery colour and must be carved out at the base of the shrub with a pruning knife.
Green leaves may also appear. Cut them out or the entire shrub may gradually produce more green leaves. The trick is to prune out all the shoots with green leaves right back to where variegated leaves can be seen.
One of my favourite evergreens, especially if you live in a windy area, is Grisellinia. The ordinary one has lime green foliage, thrives near the sea and provides shelter for other shrubs in gardens. The variegated variety is brilliant, but is difficult to find.
If you love dramatic effects take a look at Mahonia japonica or Fatsia japonica. These amazing shrubs can often be seen in pictures in the expensive magazines we see at the dentist.
For what is called ‘arcitectural amazement’ see if you can find Phormium tenax variegata. This is a gem from New Zealand with its wide, sword-like, variegated blades.
Not many evergreens have huge fruits during the winter, but have a look at the cherry laurel. This well-known Victorian evergreen called Aucuba is just amazing. The leaves look like rhododendron but the variegated forms are just brilliant during the winter.
Look around your garden centre, choose a variegated type which looks good, and put it on a path. Now get hold of a red-stemmed cornus and three white and three red winter-flowering heathers and place them where they look good. Now you will see what kind of display they will make in your garden; colour all winter.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Give yourself a little treat, buy a pot of hyacinth bulbs at your garden centre. Wow! The perfume will fill your lounge.