For a garden to look beautiful throughout the year, you need a mix of seasonal and non-seasonal plants i.e. the winter plants for the non-flowering season.
When visiting a plant nursery, look for or ask specifically for:
1. Winter flowering plants.
2. Plants with bright stem colour – the kind that will stand out in pale winter light.
3. Look for trees with interesting bark colours, patterns and textures.
4. Lookout for plants with interesting seed heads.
5. If the above four are difficult to come by, ask for plants with evergreen foliage.
A winter flowering plant is exotic because the flowers tend to be very fragrant and a big hit with the bumblebees and moths.
Ask for fragrant box bushes – these are easier to fit around the periphery of your garden and are especially ideal for small gardens. Fragrant box bushes generally grow to no more than 5ft tall and across and tend to be quite compact.
You can really harmonise your garden by carefully selecting colourful stemmed local dogwoods. There are acer, cherry and birch trees all of which have beautiful bark. Trees with cinnamon-coloured bark and glossy mahogany bark look best in the non-flowering season.
While at the nursery, ask for late-flowering plants and late-season flowering grasses. You would be lucky to get those. These late-flowering plants and late-season flowering grasses can grace the garden with skeletal interest and subtle hues right through winter.
One plant that would be a great addition but generally difficult to obtain in Australia, is the Miscanthus. Ask the nursery owner about it. If you are lucky to get some of these, they look wonderful from spring (when the foliage gets going), through to late summer when they get their plume-like flowers. Also, they hold up to winter wonderfully and exhibit straw-coloured foliage with faded cream flower heads. Better still, Miscanthus come in a range of sizes, shapes and colours.
Harmony during the non-flowering season can also be obtained through use of beautiful backdrops for your winter plants.
Use light foliage of grasses as a backdrop for plants with interesting winter seed heads. Some of these are the Sedum ‘Matrona’ and ‘Herbstfreude’. Both of these flower into early winter and then produce this beautiful flat, fat, umbels of dark seeds that magically come to life in the winter. Also ask for Echinacea seed heads – these beautiful winter plants have a bristly central boss during winter and it looks like it’s been rolled in icing sugar.
Plants nurseries that specialise in Pest Control Services variety might have topiary shrubs of yew, Ligustrum and box – these add excellent structural backbone to a garden and can become a real eye-catcher.
With a little planning and searching the for the right plants, you can beautifully harmonise your garden even during the non-flowering season.