Seasonal Garden Colour

My aim here is to show that you can enjoy colour from plants all through the year. Why so many gardens are devoid of colour in winter I do not know, for there are many suitable plants to choose from. Indeed, the en-tire list represents only a fraction of those available for each season of the year. But they have been chosen on their merits – they are among the very best garden plants available.

The list has been divided into spring, summer, autumn and winter, and each season contains a selection of perennials, shrubs and trees. Some are noted for flowers, others for coloured foliage, coloured stems, berries or autumn leaf colour.




(Pig-squeak) Dwarf perennials, all worth growing for their early blooms in shades of red, pink or white, which show up well against the large, leathery. Shiny leaves. Ideal plants for shady spots and moist soil, although highly adaptable to other sites.

Dicentra spectabilis

(Bleeding heart) A dwarf perennial for shade and moist soil, producing sprays of rosy-red flowers with white hips in late spring and early summer. The ferny foliage is attractive, too. A delightful white-flowered form is also available and well worth searching for.


(Leopard’s bane) An indispensable dwarf perennial with yellow daisy flowers. Good varieties are ‘Miss Mason’ and the deep yellow, fully double-flowered ‘Spring Beauty’. Provide good drainage and sun. but otherwise this little plant is very easygoing.

Euphorbia epithymoides

(Spurge) Another excellent dwarf perennial for early blooms, which are acid yellow. It likes sun and moist yet well-drained soil.

Primula denticulata

(Drumstick primrose) My favourite primula, very easily grown in moist soil and shade or partial shade. It produces globular mauve (or white) flower heads on 30cm (1ft) high stems, grows vigorously and increases rapidly.

Shrubs and trees

Berberis darwinii

(Barberry) A medium-sized evergreen shrub with small holly-like leaves, this is one of the most popular barberries, with deep golden flowers in spring. Full sun and well-drained soil needed for best results.

Chaenomeles superba

‘Firedance’ (Ornamental quince) A medium-sized shrub grown for its glowing red single rose-like flowers. It needs good drainage and a position in sun or partial shade.

Several euphorbias or spurges flower in spring or early summer. Here’s an attractive combination of a lime-green spurge with E. griffithii ‘Fireglow’.

Choisya ternata

(Mexican orange blossom) A medium-sized evergreen shrub noted for its masses of scented white flowers over a very long period. Provide sun, good drainage and shelter from cold winds.


‘Lynwood’ (Golden bells) No garden is complete without forsythia, which makes a magnificent show of bright yellow blooms. ‘Lynwood’ is undoubtedly the best, with masses of large blooms. A medium-sized shrub; likes sun and good drainage.

Pieris formosa forrestii

A large evergreen shrub for acid soils and partial shade, which is grown as much for its brilliant red young leaves as for its long trusses of scented white spring flowers. A good form is ‘Wakehurst’ with brilliant red young foliage.


‘Amanogawa’ (Ornamental cherry) Ornamental cherries are the very essence of spring, but most are too large for many gardens. Not so ‘Amanogawa’ which forms a slim column, clothed with pink blossoms. Needs a sunny, well-drained spot.

Viburnum tinus

(Laurustinus) An extremely useful medium to large shrub, with deep green evergreen leaves and masses of white flowers in the late winter or spring. An excellent variety is ‘Eve Price’ with carmine flower buds. Grows in full sun or partial shade and any well-drained soil. A good choice on chalk.



Campanula lactiflora

(Bellflower) A 90cm (3ft) high perennial with lavender-blue bell-shaped blooms, ideal for a ‘blue border’. Grows in sun or partial shade and any moist but well-drained soil.

Festuca glauca

(Fescue grass) A dwarf blue-grey grass which has many uses as a foliage plant. It is evergreen, needs good drainage, and a sunny position for best colour.


(Day lily) The day lilies are invaluable for their exceedingly long season of flowering – continuing well into autumn. The grassy foliage is attractive, too. There are dozens of varieties in many colours – something for all colour schemes. Provide well-drained yet moist soil, and a position in sun or partial shade.

Hosta sieboldiana

‘Elegans’ (Plantain lily) The hostas are low-growing foliage plants, though they do produce lilac or white blooms in summer. Some have variegated foliage, others golden, yet others greyish or bluish, like ‘Elegans’, with very large bluish leaves. Hostas need moist soil and are ideal for cool shady spots.

Phlox paniculata

Border phlox) Like the day lilies, the phloxes are indispensable border plants, flowering for a long period. Rhere are many colours to choose from so they can be incorporated into any colour scheme. They are of medium height, like good drainage yet moist soil, and thrive in sun or partial shade.

Shrubs and trees

Acer negundo

‘Variegatum’ (Box elder) A medium-sized deciduous foliage tree with light green leaves boldly edged white, giving overall a very light effect. Very adaptable, for sun or partial shade.

Buddleia davidii

(Butterfly bush) Medium-sized shrub grown for its long spikes of flowers in various colours. ‘Royal Red’ is very popular, with red-purple blooms. Grows in any soil but likes full sun.

Cotinus coggygria

‘Royal Purple’ (Smoke tree) Distinguished for its lovely, plume-like in-florescences and one of the best purple-leaved shrubs, it makes a large, freely-branching specimen but can be kept smaller by careful pruning. Grows in any well-drained soil and either in full sun or partial shade.


Small or medium-sized evergreen shrubs grown for their flowers, in shades of red, pink or white carried over a long period. Any of the ‘Donard’ varieties are well worth growing. Any well-drained soil in full sun is suitable.

Gleditsia triacanthos

‘Sunburst’ (Honey locust) One of the best medium-sized golden trees, with bright yellow young foliage. Give it a site in full sun for the best colour and a well-drained soil. An excellent choice for town gardens.


(Mock orange) Popular small or medium-sized shrubs with white flowers in early summer often heavily scented. Well-known varieties are ‘Beauclerk’, ‘Belle Etoile’ and ‘Virginal’. Provide full sun but any soil is suitable.

Philadelphus coronarius

‘Aureus’ (Golden mock orange) One of the most popular golden-foliage shrubs for a position in full sun. A medium-sized shrub.

Pyrus salicifolia

‘Pendula’ (Willow-leaved pear) A small weeping tree with silvery grey willow-like leaves. Makes a beautiful lawn specimen, or a background for brightly coloured flowers. Good drainage and sun needed.

Robinio pseudoacacia

‘Frisia’ (False acacia) A small to medium-sized tree with deep golden foliage, the colour lasting well right through to autumn. Full sun and good drainage.



Anemone x hybrida

(Japanese anemone) Late-flowering short to medium perennial, which blooms for a long period. Colours are white or shades of pink. Among the best varieties are ‘Bressingham Glow’ (rose-pink) and ‘September Charm’ (soft pink). Takes partial shade. Good on chalk soils.

Aster novi-belgii varieties

(Michaelmas daisies) These dwarf to medium-height perennials represent the very essence of autumn. There are many varieties in shades of red, pink, blue, purple and so on. Full sun and good drainage.

Nerine bowdenii

A bulbous plant which produces pink flowers in late autumn up to 60cm (24in) high. Plant in full sun in a sheltered, well-drained spot.

Schizostylis coccinea

(Kaffir lily) Growing about 60cm (2ft) high, this perennial has grassy foliage and deep red flowers in variety ‘Major’ and clear pink in the well-known ‘Mrs Hegarty’. Needs full sun, very good, sharp drainage and a well sheltered spot.

Sedum spectabile

(Stonecrop) Dwarf perennial with flat heads of flowers over a long period, light pink in the species, and salmon-pink in variety ‘Autumn Joy’. Provide full sun and well-drained soil.

Shrubs and trees

Acer palmatum

(Japanese maple) Marvellous small, medium or large shrubs, depending on variety, for autumn leaf colour. Provide a sheltered spot and partial shade. The Dissectum varieties have ferny leaves, while the Heptalobum group has deeply lobed leaves. One of the best is ‘Heptalobum Osakazuki’ whose leaves turn a brilliant flame colour in autumn.


‘Pirate King’ (Barberry) Many barberries have colourful autumn berries, but this is one of the best with orange-red berries in profusion. It’s a small, very adaptable shrub, taking partial shade.

Cotinus coggygria

‘Flame’ (Smoke tree) The best variety of the smoke tree for autumn leaf colour – its foliage turns brilliant orange. It makes a large shrub but can be pruned back. Grow in sun and well-drained soil.


‘Cornubia’ This is one of the best for autumn berries. It makes a large evergreen shrub loaded down with large red berries. Adaptable and good for chalk soils.


‘Golden Hornet’ (Ornamental crab apple) A small tree with bright yellow (edible) fruits which hang on the tree for a very long time. Very adaptable but best in a sunny well-drained spot. Makes a good lawn specimen.

Malus tschonoskii

(Ornamental crab apple) A medium-sized tree grown for its autumn leaf colour – brilliant reddish orange. It has white flowers, followed by yellow-green fruits, and a compact conical habit.


‘Orange Glow’ (Firethorn) A large evergreen shrub laden in autumn with brilliant orange-red berries. Very adaptable as regards soils and situation, taking shade as well as full sun. The berries last well into winter.

Rhus typhina

(Stag’s-horn sumach) A large suckering shrub with compound leaves which turn brilliant shades of orange, red, scarlet and yellow in autumn. Very adaptable but need plenty of sun for best results.


‘Joseph Rock’ (Mountain ash) A small tree of upright, compact habit at its best in autumn when it carries yellow berries and has bright red and orange leaf colour. Makes an excellent lawn specimen.



Helleborus niger

Christmas rose) Dwarf evergreen perennial with large white single-rose-like flowers – one always hopes at Christmas time, though they may appear later. ‘Potter’s Wheel’ is a good variety. Takes partial shade and likes a moist rich soil.

Helleborus orientalis

(Lenten rose) Dwarf evergreen perennial flowering in late winter, over a very long period. Many named forms available with flowers in red, pink, purple, cream or white shades. Suited to partial or dappled shade and moist soil.

Iris unguicilaris

(Winter-flowering iris) A dwarf perennial with grassy evergreen foliage and a long succession of lavender-blue flowers. Variety ‘Mrs Barnard’ has larger blooms, more freely produced. Needs a warm spot and very good drainage.

Shrubs and trees

Acer davidii

(Snake-bark maple) A small tree with green and white striated bark. Autumn leaf tints are a bonus. An ideal tree for light woodland, shrub border or lawn.

Acer griseum

(Paperbark maple) Same uses as A. davidii, but totally different in habit. Its papery reddish-brown bark peels off, revealing bright reddish brown underbark. The autumn leaf colour is superb. A small, compact tree.

Betula jacquemontii (Birch)

A medium-sized tree and certainly one of the best birches for stem colour. The bark is brilliant white and peels off. Superb lawn specimen also ideal for light woodland or a shrub border. Suited to moist soils.

Calluna vulgaris

‘Gold Haze’ The golden-leaved heathers really come into their own in winter. Good ground cover, needing acid soil and full sun.

Chaemaecyparis lawsoniana

‘Lanei’ (Lawson cypress) Many conifers have golden foliage, but this one is very highly rated. The golden-yellow foliage is carried in feathery sprays. A medium-sized cone-shaped tree for full sun and moist, yet well-drained soil.

Chaemaecyparis pisifera

‘Boulevard’ (Sawara cypress) One of the dwarf conifers — must be the most popular of those with grey-blue foliage. Forms a neat broad cone shape. Best in slightly acid soil, and full sun or partial shade.


‘Sibirica’ (Westonbirt dogwood) The best of the red-stemmed, shrubby dogwoods, with bright crimson bark. Cut the plant almost to ground level in early spring each year to encourage plenty of new shoots. Ideal for moist soil and especially recommended for poolside planting.

Cornus mas

(Cornelian cherry) A large shrub with yellow flowers on bare twigs. The foliage colours quite well in autumn. Sun or semi-shade.

Elaeagnus pungens

‘Maculata’ A medium-sized evergreen shrub with large leaves conspicuously splashed in the centre with gold. Adaptable but will not grow too well in shallow chalky soils. Needs plenty of sun.

Erica herbacea (E. carnea)

(Winter-flowering heather). Many varieties of Erica herbacea make colourful ground cover around large shrubs and flower for an exceedingly long time. Many to choose from, like ‘Myretoun Ruby’ (deep pink), ‘Springwood Pink’ (clear pink), ‘Springwood White’ (white), and ‘Vivellii’ (carmine). Will grow in chalky soils. Open sunny position.

Hamamelis mollis

‘Pallida’ (Witch hazel) A large spreading shrub producing sulphur-yellow blooms with strap-shaped petals on bare twigs. Bonus of autumn leaf colour. Moist peaty soil, partial or dappled shade. Ideal for a shrub border or woodland garden.

Ilex x altaclarensis

‘Golden King’ (Holly) One of the best golden hollies, with almost spineless leaves, broadly edged with brilliant gold. A female variety which will produce berries. Adaptable to various soils and takes partial shade. Grows into a large shrub.

Jasminum nudiflorum

(Winter jasmine) Generally grown as a wall shrub. Produces a succession of bright yellow flowers. Adaptable and suitable for shady walls.

Prunus subhirtella

‘Autumnalis’ (Autumn cherry) A small tree, flowering between late autumn and early spring. Its semi-double flowers are white, but there’s also a pale pink form called ‘Autumnal is Rosea’. Choose an open position with well-drained soil.

Salix alba

‘Chermesina’ (Scarlet willow) The young stems are brilliant orange-scarlet, showing up well in winter. Prune hard in early spring each year to encourage a thicket of young stems. Can be pruned as low as 30cm (1ft) from the ground. Suitable for moist soils: best in sunny spot.

Thuja occidentalis

‘Rheingold’ (Arborvitae) A very popular dwarf conifer with deep golden foliage, darkening in the winter. Forms a broad cone shape. Full sun and well-drained soil.

Viburnum farreri

A medium-sized deciduous shrub valued for its scented white flowers which come from pink buds. Needs a moist yet well-drained soil, and will take partial or dappled shade. Ideal for a shrub border or woodland garden, where its winter flowers bring a welcome touch of colour.

15. October 2013 by admin
Categories: Garden Colour, Top Tips | Tags: , | Comments Off on Seasonal Garden Colour


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