Inspired by a trip to Hilliers last February and wanting to develop further creative ideas for Winter gardens I have planned and planted a large border high on winter impact for South Riding, the home of my troubled clients wrestling with the demands of a large garden. Would this be a solution to some of their concerns? I hoped so...
What is it about the way the low winter sun illuminates a silvery bark or coppery stem that stops you in your tracks? A reminder of warmer days perhaps or is just the simplicity of paring down nature to its barest essentials? Like a spotlight on a stage highlighting the main character. All I know is I was loving playing and positioning a fabulous collection of plants high on winter interest.
Cliched or not, there is no beating the bleached white stems of Betula utilis jacquemontii. So building upon this my winning combo is definitely Cornus alba Kesselringii , Cornus sanguinea Midwinter Fire, Cornus alba sib. Baton Rouge with their stark vertical stems in deep black, vivid red or fiery orange. Stately Miscanthus Malepartus will stand until Spring with their feathery awns catching light and mist. Close to, the bleached mop top heads of a mass grouping of Deschampsia Goldtau lend a simple low matt contrast.
My absolute favourite plant, Libertia peregrinans and Libertia Taupo Gold, lend further vertical accents and wonderful evergreen colour combinations. Then for sheer drama I have placed at the front of the border Black Ophiopogon with white hellebores behind. White snowdrops will complete the picture, peeking through in January.
Looking for a simple, under-statement at the feet of the Birches I was encouraged to try the plain green Ophiopogon planiscapus by experienced Nurseryman, David at Fromefield Nurseries. He was spot on when it came to this choice as the bright emerald green of these little fat stemmed plants gave me exactly the contrast I was looking for. Planted in a sinuating river-effect they draw the eye through the planting.
A heavy snow fall last night on this newly planted winter garden should test the theory. Meanwhile, I am confident that an exciting winter planting, coupled later next year with additional late summer perennials and grasses will really make this well-loved garden take a revitalised turn and continue to inspire its hard-working owners.