Give your garden a golden winter glow

Chinese witch hazel.
Chinese witch hazel.

SOUTHSEA GREEN: With Irene Strange

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Have a look at your garden. Does it look interesting during the winter?

A couple of evergreen shrubs could make a difference, especially if we can find some with golden leaves.

Why golden leaves? Gold and yellow look great during the winter, we only need a glimpse of sunshine and the garden lights up!

Eleagnus pungens maculata ‘Aurea’ is the best evergreen shrub. It’s certainly in the top 10 of evergreens for any garden. It will grow to a height of 10 feet 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. These shoots 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; a pruning knife is useful.

Green leaves may also appear. If these are not cut out, the whole shrub may produce more green leaves.

One of my favourite evergreens is Grisellinia. The ordinary one has lime green foliage but the variegated variety looks brilliant. The only thing is where to find it.

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 rhododendrons but the variegated forms are just brilliant during the winter.

Not as boring as rhododendrons, Aucuba leaves and berries shine in the sun.

Have a look at the garden centres. Choose a variegated type which looks good, put it on a pathway, get hold of a red-stemmed cornus and three white and three red winter-flowering heathers, place them where they look good and you can see what they will look like in your garden – colour all winter.

Plant the evergreen towards the back, put the cornus about three feet away and plant the heathers a foot apart in the front.

If you would love to see instant colour in a couple of weeks’ time, look for the Chinese witch hazel Hamamellis mollis.

The leaves fell off six weeks ago and left behind a beautifully-shaped shrub with masses of curly locks flower buds.

These buds will soon unfurl, presenting pretty golden yellow perfumed flowers with a tiny red spot at the centre of each bloom.

The yellow petals attract the bees to the centre of each flower. Are there any bees around at this time of year? Yes, on mild days they can’t resist the perfume.