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…

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Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

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