JUST because it’s winter, the ornamental garden need not be devoid of colour, form or texture; there are a few shrubs which can provide all three.
Aucuba, often referred to as the spotted laurel, is evergreen and the best variety for colour is a japonica variegata with its yellow-splashed foliage. This is a shrub which will grow in any situation – sun or shade, though the variegated variety is seen at its best in the former.
Cornus, also known as dogwoods, have already dropped their leaves to show their winter bonus – red or yellow stems depending on variety.
C. alba has red-barked shoots, C. stolonifera yellow ones and both require hard pruning in March so that they produce plenty of new growth.
Elaeagnus is a great evergreen shrub producing foliage splashed with yellow. The variety to look for is E. pungens Maculata.
Euonymus, yet another variegated evergreen, comes in two forms, those with green/yellow foliage and those with green/silver. In full winter sun a large bush of the former really does stand out in the ornamental garden. The yellow variety is E. japonicus, the silver one E. radicans.
Mahonia has the bonus of being able to grow in shady areas, even under trees. There are two types of this evergreen – one has yellow flowers in clusters up the stem, the other produces its yellow flowers as spikes radiating from the end of the stem. The cluster variety is M. aquifolium, the spikes one M. japonica.
Viburnum has many forms but two distinct and different varieties are valuable specimens for winter decorations.
V. tinus is an evergreen producing clusters of pink buds which, in turn, become small white flowers. However, one of the best for decoration of the winter garden is V. fragrans which produces flowers of pale pink in clusters on leafless stems, and the even better V. bodnantense, the flowers also fragrant but larger.
Of course, the most well-known shrub for winter form is the holly. The green-leaved variety with its red berries is the common type (though with mine the birds have always taken them all before Christmas).
Nearly all hollies are either male or female so more than one is needed for berries. The variegated ones are best for winter decoration.
Look for the badly-named male variety Golden Queen or the equally strange Golden King, a female variety!