Evergreens will form a backbone to the winter garden that ensures you have something of interest to look all through the year, says award-winning gardener Kate Gould

Ham & High: Evergreen hedgesEvergreen hedges (Image: Archant)

Winter is traditionally a time when the garden looks bare. The deciduous herbaceous perennials have died back, the annuals have long been removed, the trees have lost their leaves and everything is looking a little drab if not outright boring. This is where evergreens really come into their own.

Sometimes when we think evergreen we think of holly and ivy or perhaps topiary forms but there are so many more evergreen plants to choose from than these.

First let’s consider the perimeter of the garden. Height is very important when considering planting, you don’t want all your interest at ground level and the walls or fences can be very stark and empty if they are not greened up or carefully planted.

Evergreen wall trained shrubs and climbers are a good place to start with fences as they hide a multitude of sins all the year round. Some evergreen shrubs that you could plant in front of your fences (depending of course on the aspect) include ceanothus ‘Autumnal Blue’, elaeagnus x ebbingei, garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’.

Ham & High: DryopterisDryopteris (Image: Archant)

Climbers to consider include clematis armandii, trachelospermum jasmonoides and akebia quinata.

Remember in most cases with climbers that you will have to provide supports for them in terms of tensioned wires so you can tie in the exuberant growth.

Next let’s think about adding in some of the flowering evergreens. Plants that flower when there are few pollinating insects about have to put on quite a show to attract them and consequently often have really highly scented blooms which are a lovely bonus in the cold winter months.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginta’ lives up to its name and its clusters of pink flowers pack quite a punch. Daphne are often considered tricky to grow but give them a warm sheltered spot where they can be left to their own devices without too much intervention from heavy pruning and they will flower year after year above glossy evergreen foliage.

Ham & High: AdiantumAdiantum (Image: Archant)

Sarcococa confusa is known as Christmas box or sweet box. Its leaves are a rich glossy green and a little like buxus, hence the ‘box’ part of its common name and are worth growing the plant for alone as it adds bulk and form to a shady border. It is though, the added bonus of white spindly flowers, which open in mid winter with a vanilla-like scent which is really worth growing sarcococca for, especially if you can site it along a path edge in a part of the garden where it can associate with ferns and helleborus to create a wonderful winter display.

If flowers aren’t your thing there are a multitude of plants with fabulous winter stems and bark, all of which look beautiful backlit on a crisp sunny day:

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ – as its name suggests a firey copper set of stems

Prunus serrula – one of the less blousy Cherries when in bloom this tree makes up for it with shiny dark burgundy bark

Acer griseum – one of the lovliest of trees with fantastic autumn coloured leaves but also cinnamon coloured peeling bark

Whatever your choice, with a little planning and the placement of some carefully chosen evergreen shrubs to accentuate your colour scheme, winter need never be boring in the garden.