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Winter wonders.

BORDERS can look so lifeless at this time of year as perennials have died down while deciduous trees have shed their leaves, which is where evergreens come into their own.

Of course, some might just associate evergreens with the columnar conifers so often dotted in among other specimens in the flower border to give height, structure and some colour throughout the year, but you can also feature evergreens in rock gardens, as feature plants in the shrub border and to add vibrance to containers.

Usual evergreen suspects include azaleas, heathers and laurels, but there's a wealth of others which can provide more interest. Don't think evergreen is just green, look for flowering evergreens which can provide a splash of colour when flowers are non-existent.

Plant choisya ternata Sundance to give the border a yellow feature, or photinia fraseri Red Robin for dazzling red spring foliage.

Pepper the border with variegated specimens such as euonymus fortunei Emerald 'n' Gold, which is spotted with gold to give an eye-catching contrast to less colourful winter plants.

Aim to include both colourful evergreens and deciduous shrubs with either fine flowers or stunning autumn foliage.

In general, shrubs tend to go at the back and in the middle of the border, herbaceous perennials at the middle and in front. Aim to have around the same number of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees.

It's not only winter when evergreens can come into their own. You may have thought conifers were boring, but they can be used effectively within a hot colour scheme to produce a modern look and are ideal as a feature planting within a low maintenance gravel garden.

For a really hot combination try crocosmia Lucifer with its pendant arches of red flowers alongside the conifer thuja Rheingold. The thuja's adult foliage, a rich, deep old gold, is brilliant in winter as the cold temperature enhances the colour even more.

Add low growing berberis thunbergii Darts Red Lady with bright yellow heleniums and this will give warmth all year.

Conifers can be used to create a classy combination for a sunny position with an emphasis on contrasting colours from the cool end of the spectrum.

Use the upright columnar juniperus chinensis Pyramidalis with its prickly glaucous leaves in combination with the purple-leaved smoke bush cotinus coggygria Royal Purple.

Add the silver aromatic leaves of artemesia Powis Castle underplanted with the ground hugging persicaria affinis Darjeeling Red with its bright red flowers and large deep-green leaves.

Conifers are lowmaintenance, requiring only occasional trimming, provide shelter for wildlife all year and provide structure by adding height to delineating areas. Avoid grouping too many together.

Go for some contrasting shapes and colours. And remember that evergreen doesn't necessarily mean indestructible.

Ensure the plant is suitable for the proposed site because not all evergreen are winter hardy.

Winter garden can be perked up with evergreens. Add a bit of colourful with choisya ternata, crocosmia lucifer and helenium (inset)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 13, 2010
Words:491
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