Posts Tagged ‘evergreen’

Not just the holly and the ivy

December 20th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Four Christmas Foliage Shrubs - Nandina, Pittosporum, Mahonia, Hebe.

Last year, about this time, I discussed holly and then ivy, the two favourite Christmas evergreens and the traditional evergreens for indoor decorating in the holiday season. But there are more, plenty more. And a quick look round my local garden centre, The Barn in Oundle near Peterborough, reveals some of them. And it’s the colours that are so appealing, not green but red and silver and purple and bronze.

Most are better suited to small arrangements, they just don’t have the vigour, and so the length of stem, of holly and ivy.

More and more varieties of nandina (top left) are now appearing and while some of them are rather dwarf and bushy, not ideal if you want to cut stems to bring indoors, many also have pendulous clusters of bright red berries alongside reddening winter leaves.

Two pittosporums feature purple foliage but one has green tints that let it down and another is short and dumpy. Silver ones (top right) are a better bet as many are vigorous and also respond well to having shoots cut to bring indoors.

Bronze shades always work well as they harmonise with red and contrast with whites and silvers. Some mahonias develop fiery winter tones while M. aquifolium ‘Atropurpureum’ comes in bronzed winter colouring and a bold, holly-like shape.

Most hebes, like ‘Red Edge’ (left, below), are only suitable for small table arrangements but the silvery colouring is invaluable and a the faint red margin to the leaf helps create harmony with red berries.

Elaeagnus and eucalyptus are also good for silvery colours and for background green try sarcococca, osmanthus, and trails of vinca.

It’s definitely time to complement ivy and holly with some new choices. Take a look round your own garden…

The finest foliage perennials

February 22nd, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’, ‘Lime Marmalade’ and ‘Forever Purple’.

The number of different heuchera varieties now available is simply astonishing. These tough evergreens have established themselves as the finest coloured leaved perennials we can grow but the problem is that some are better than others – but how do we know?

The RHS lists almost seven hundred different varieties – seven hundred! -but which can we depend on?

The good people at Mr F have made their choice and picked a trio with foliage in wonderful colours: ‘Berry Smoothie’, ‘Forever Purple’ and ‘Lime Marmalade’. But it’s not just the colours of the leaves they’ve had in mind. These three varieties are strong and reliable growers, the leaves retain their colour all the year round, although they may change with the seasons, the neat overlapping foliage creates a dense cover and they’re reliable in propagation so there shouldn’t be any supply problems.

The leaves of ‘Berry Smoothie’ open bright rose pink, bronzing as the season progresses, and with creamy flowers in early summer. ‘Forever Purple’ has glossy purple, black-veined leaves all the year round, with purplish pink flowers in summer and the slightly larger ‘Lime Marmalade’ has ruffled lemon yellow leaves that turn lime green as they mature but with relatively insignificant flowers.

All three are good in containers and I like to grow them individually in terra cotta pots where they can be groomed as specimens to look their best all the time. Site them on the shady side of the patio. They’ll also thrive in shaded borders and appreciate well drained but rich soil.

The leaves are very long lasting when cut for posies and tabletop arrangements and I like to plant snowdrops and other spring bulbs amongst them for a sparkling spring display. And they bring you unique foliage colours that no other perennial provides. Why wouldn’t you try this colourful collection?

The holly…

December 21st, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Ilex aquifolium 'J. C. van Tol'

“How cheerless an aspect our gardens wear, in this dreary month of December,” Charlotte Elizabeth remarks in her delightful and slightly eccentric, Chapters on Flowers of 1842, “ had not some plants been endured with hardihood to retain their leaves, when the greater proportion have been stripped bare by chilling frosts and blighting winds.”

Charlotte Elizabeth was described in 1901 as “a woman of strong mind, powerful feeling, and of no inconsiderable share of tact.” She was also an early enthusiast for women’s rights. In Chapters on Flowers she has a tendency to divert her attention from the plants to religious matters but nevertheless continues wisely on the subject of evergreens.

“It is a point of wisdom, plentifully to intersperse our evergreens among the brighter, but more transitory children of summer; and now that the dead leaves are finally swept off, and my garden looks once more perfectly tidy, I can appreciate the taste that, in first laying it out–long before I had ever seen it–allotted no small space to plants that would defy the season’s severity.”

In today’s magazines, that fine sentiment would be expressed more crudely: “Grow evergreens for winter colour” .

She then continues, via a sly dig at lawns, with crisp reports of her own evergreens before “last, not least, the Holly-Bush abounds, valuable as a fence, beautiful in the lustre of its highly-polished leaves, sprinkled with berries of vivid red; and endeared by the sweetest, the purest, the most scared associations that can interest the mind, and elevate the soul.”

She then launches into, well, a bit of a rant against religious bigots who attack the use of holly as a seasonal decoration. “I wish, with all my heart, that the grandsires and granddames of this generation would do something to stem that sweeping tide of religious folly, yclept the march of intellect-the progress of refinement. It is now (thought) intolerably vulgar, insupportedly childish, and popishly superstitious to deck our houses at Christmas-tide with the shining holly… I have fought many battles with my pious friends, in defence of my pertinacious adherence to this good old custom. Sorry should I be, to leave the holly uncropped, or the house unadorned with its bright honours, on that most blessed anniversary….”

And just to remind you: ‘J. C. van Tol’ (above) produces red berries without the need of a different variety as pollinator and also has no spines.