Plant Selection – Marvellous in March

Flowering and foliage plants for March are considerably more plentiful than the previous months. I’ve gone for quite a subtle colour scheme this month. There’s good reason, March tends to see the start of spring bulbs. Swathes of bright yellow, orange and pink can appear and cause some mighty awful clashes, if you’re not careful! So this scheme will work well with whatever you happen to have going on in the garden.


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Astelia chathamica Silver Spear

As you know, I’m very found of spiky shape plants in the garden, as they break up the monotony of round and oval shaped plants. Astelia is a great, little, evergreen gem. The striking leaves are glittered silver when they catch the sun and its spiky shape makes for a striking edition to any planting border.

Magnolia stellata

This magnolia is one of the few that can cope with slightly alkaline soils, so they are much easier to grow. It’s not an evergreen variety though, and frankly it is rather dull when not in flower. So, best planted to the back or middle of a border so it can be hidden by more interesting plants in the summer. It’s showy, early spring flowers do make it well worth having though.

Helleborus foetidus

I love the acid, lime-green flowers of this hellebore. They light up dull areas in the garden and make a gorgeous combination when used with blue, white and yellow. Plant them in groups of five for full effect. They flower from January right through to April in good years. If that wasn’t enough, they are also semi-evergreen, so most winters you’ll have something to look at!

Muscari armenaicum (Grape Hyacinth)

Slight caveat with this one – if it’s really cold, they may not flower until April, but even so, they should still catch the hellebore above to create a stunning combination. As Muscari is a bulb, they will need to have been planted in the autumn, but often these days, you can buy pots of them in the garden centres. They add a dramatic splash of blue to your planting scheme.

Abelia ‘Hopley’s’

This variety of Abelia isn’t always the easiest to track down, but well worth it if you do. The striking, variegated, evergreen foliage makes a great accompaniment to the garden. The variegated leaves bring plenty of colour and make a nice backdrop for other flowering plants. It’s also evergreen in milder areas, which makes it a good all rounder. It does have white/pink flowers in the summer, but it’s the foliage that I like this plant for.

BUT do be warned, plants alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

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Plant Selection – Fabulous in February

Garden planting in February can still be quite a hard month to have the garden look good in. We are still relying heavily on those evergreen plants to save the day.


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Ilex crenata Convexed Gold

This small evergreen plant, for all intense and purposes, looks just like a ‘golden box’ shrub. It’s not though. It is actually a member of the holly family. Whilst it can be used for hedging, I prefer to plant them in groups of three, five or more, depending on the size of garden. The golden yellow leaves makes for great impact in the garden, especially in the winter months.

Phormium Pink Panther

I love spiky, architectural plants. They make a bold statement and help bring clarity to planting schemes. They do this by providing a break from the normal round or oval shape plants. I particularly love the colours in the leaves of this variety of Phormium. They add a burst of colour and drama, as well as help to show off other plants in the garden.

Choisya ternata Sundance (Golden Mexican orange blossom)

The golden, evergreen leaves of this Choisya plant offer a dramatic burst of colour, vital to cheer up the garden in the dull winter months. In early summer they also have deliciously scented flowers, which makes this plant a great all-rounder. It doesn’t like it too cold though. You also need to be a bit careful about positioning it in full sun, as the golden leaves can be prone to scorching.

Photinia ‘Red Robin’

A very popular evergreen shrub, for good reason. The bright purple foliage of the new growth and the glossy dark green mature leaves, makes this plant always interesting. In the winter, you don’t get as much red, but even so, it’s still good to look at. It makes a great contrast for other plants. Photinias can get quite large, so best situated at the back of garden borders.

Corylus avellana Contorta Red Majestic – (corkscrew hazel)

This is the only non-evergreen on this month’s list. There’s two reasons I’ve chosen this. In February and March the stems are laden with catkins hanging down. The twisted stems, also makes this an interesting plant to look at in the winter months. In the spring, soft, purple leaves burst forth, adding more colour in the garden. It’s quite slow growing, but makes an impressive display once established.

BUT do be warned, plants alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

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Plant Selection – Jolly in January

Garden planting in January can be one of the hardest months to have the garden look good in. It’s the time of year where the evergreen plants really come in to their own.

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How to make sure the plants you add look good for the whole year

I generally try to make sure that the evergreen shrubs I put in to gardens have more than one function. So for example, I will use the interesting shape leaves of the Aucuba to create a more dramatic and architectural feel to a border. I will also take into account their bold yellow leaf markings and tie that colour in with other flowering plants, for continuity.

So, always think about why you are choosing a plant. Avoid plants that only look good for the five days that they flower and pick plants that will do more for your planting scheme than the sum of their foliage or flowers, think about their colour, shape and form.

Helleborus orientalis

This great little hellebore flowers from January right through to April, in a good year. They also look wonderful alongside flowering heathers (see last month’s plant selection for more details on those). The only issue I have with hellebores is I wish they’d look up! The full beauty of the flowers can’t be seen unless you make the effort to bend down and lift up the flowers. Or, you could always plant them in raised beds, to see them properly!

Aucuba Sulphurea Marginata

I much prefer the large yellow margin on the leaf to the normal, speckled yellow, that you see everywhere. The bold leaves make an excellent backdrop for other plants and the yellow helps contrast with blue and purple flowers as well as link with yellow flowers.

Mahonia aquifolium Apollo

This Mahonia is a much lower growing variety than we featured in last month’s plant selection. The foliage isn’t quite as dramatic as the variety ‘Charity’, but it’s much better if you are limited for space. The flowers also more than make up for the slightly less impressive foliage.

Cotoneaster Cornubia

Although this Cotoneaster will have lost all its berries by now, the evergreen, arching foliage is still good to look at in the winter months. This particular variety of Cotoneaster is big, so make sure you plant it at the back of borders. It will offset other plants nicely and it shows off a glorious display of white flowers in the spring, followed by berry laden branches in the autumn.

Cornus Midwinter Beauty

This is one of my favourite dogwoods. The photo does not do this justice, at all. You need to place it in front of something with dark green foliage, to really show off the orange/red stems. This variety of Cornus is much smaller than most. They work best planted in groups of three or more. They are as dull as anything the rest of the year, with plain green leaves, but even so, well worth having, just plant a flowering perennial in front, for the summer months.

BUT do be warned, plants alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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Plant Selection – Dapper in December! And your chance to get a free garden sketch design…

December can be quite a dull time for the garden, but with a few flowering evergreens, to go along side your existing summer flowering plants, you can still have a continuation of interest. The suggestions below can be planted in with your existing plants to add a bit of colour, or you can plant the selection together in the combination below.


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Betula jacquemonti

The silver birch tree really comes into its own in the winter months. Whilst the striking white stems look great all year, they really stand out once the leaves have fallen. I like to plant silver birch with a dark green back drop behind them, to really show off the white stems. There are many varieties available these days, but I do love the brightness of Betula jacquemonti, especially when planted in groups.

Group planting creates a lot more impact than a stand alone tree. There aren’t many trees that you can plant in groups, but Betulas are well suited and look great. If you have a small garden, then choose one of the smaller forms, like Betula pendula, which has a weeping form.

Garrya eliptica ‘James Roof’

For most of the year, this is quite a dull looking shrub, but in the winter months, the long catkins, which last from November through to February, make it noteworthy. It’s a really good evergreen shrub to have at the back of borders. Its tall arching form provides the perfect backdrop for more showy flowers during the summer, and it helps keep form in the garden in the winter. It’s great when mixed with the silver birch trees as the green foliage helps show of the white stemmed birch.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’

Mahonias are often considered to be quite an old fashioned shrub, but I like them because, in the right setting, they can look modern and funky. The large rosettes of spiky, glossy, green foliage, are elegant and provide a unique structural form to the backs of plant borders. In the winter months the bright yellow flowers appear. Mahonias are evergreen, and will grow in quite deep shade, through to full sun in most soil types.

Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens

This low-mounding, evergreen grass, is one of my favourite plants. The leaves are black, yes, actual black! It has lilac flowers and grows  in full sun to partial shade in most soils. It doesn’t get that big, so it’s important to plant them in large groups for effect. They look amazing when mixed with yellow or purple leaf plants. The darkness of the foliage sets off other plants and flowers really well and the unusual colour makes it a great, eye-catching, evergreen, garden plant.

Erica carnea ‘Eva’

This winter flowering heather is a delight during the winter months. The lilac flowers look fabulous next to the dark black foliage of the Ophiopogon. They last from December through to March. Ericas prefer an acidic soil, but will tolerate some alkalinity. They will grow quite happily in full sun to partial shade.

BUT do be warned, plants alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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Garden Plant Selection – Nice in November

November can be a depressing month weather-wise, particularly in the UK, but with the right plant combinations in your garden, you can help lift the gloom of the coming winter months.


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Arbutus unedo ‘Rubra’ – Killarney strawberry tree

This evergreen shrub / small tree is great at the back of a border. It has pinkish/white flowers from September to November along with large reddish fruits that mature from the previous year’s flowers. Arbutus prefer a moist, well-drained soil that is neutral to acid but will tolerate some alkalinity. They grow best in full sun. Too much shade makes them quite leggy. They also have an attractive bark. When combined with the dwarf Pampas grass, the ‘strawberry tree’, as it’s commonly known, creates a lovely contrast.

Cornus alba Sibirica Variegata

This is one of my favourite dogwoods. The white variegated foliage provides a beautiful backdrop to flowering plants and shrubs and the red stems look amazing throughout the winter months. It prefers a bit more moisture than the average shrub, but it can tolerate quite a wide range of conditions. Combined with the dark foliage of the Arbutus and the white plumes of the Pampas grass, the red winter stems are further complimented with the red tinged leaves of the Bergenias.

Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’ (dwarf Pampas or Tussock Grass)

I’m cheating a little with this one, as November is more or less its last month of flowering. It starts to produce the showy plumes in August, looking stunning through September and October. This is a surprising choice for me because I’ve never used it in a garden (yet). I’ve always associated it with gardens of the 70’s where one giant specimen appeared in most front gardens as focal point, only to end up being dug or burnt out a few years later when it had become too enormous and difficult to maintain.

What changed my mind on this plant was a recent trip driving around the northern coast of Spain. Pampas grass are everywhere along the roadsides. To the Spanish they no doubt feel like weeds, but seeing them planted en masse made a spectacular display.  Yes, the statuesque Picos mountains and palm trees backdrop did enhance their charms, but even so I was captivated by them.

I’ve chosen a dwarf variety of Pampas grass and in larger spaces encourage you to group plant them for full effect. I still don’t like seeing them as stand alone plant, it’s the group that creates the magic with these. Be careful of the larger varieties as these can become quite invasive.

Bergenia cordifolia – Elephant’s ears

I love Bergenias. They are so versatile. They will grow in virtually any soil. They are evergreen, flower in April/May and have great autumn colour and to top it off they will grow in full sun to quite deep shade. Yet strangely enough, this is the one plant that can provoke more dislikes than any other and I’ve no idea why! I love the big bold foliage as it gives a unique structure to planting schemes. Its evergreen form makes it perfect at the front of borders and helps it be a good contrast with softer, fluffier, flowering plants or grasses.

Again, I think Bergenias work best when planted in groups. Individually they can look a bit floppy with their large leaves. In groups though, they are really eye-catching.

Heuchera Crimson Curls

These are another great, low-growing, herbaceous perennial and work well with the Bergenias for an extra hit of colour. Again, this isn’t their peak season, but just because they aren’t flowering, doesn’t mean they don’t still have a lot to offer with their foliage. They are a little pickier about their growing conditions than Bergenias, but they still tolerate quite a wide range of conditions. They prefer full sun to light shade and are semi-evergreen in milder climates.

Their flowers aren’t overly showy, so Heucheras tend to be grown more for their burgundy coloured foliage. To be completely honest, from a distance, it doesn’t really matter which purple leaf variety you have, as most of them look pretty similar. Crimson Curls is perhaps the exception, as the undersides of the leaves have an almost pink appearance, which does make it stand out.


What are you favourite plants for November?

Let me know what looks good in your part of the world in the comments boxes below – I’d love to hear how you brighten up your garden at this time of year. That includes you southern hemisphere folks, you’ve got it much easier than we do this time of year! 

BUT do be warned, plants alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

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