Double interest flowers

Why is it that the majority of gardens look their best during spring only to turn dull and lifeless for the rest of the year? It’s partly because spring is when most gardeners buy new plants and partly because too few people consider what the plants will look like at other times of the year. Before buying a new plant think carefully about the changes the plant goes through during the year and how it will interact with the other plants in the border. Some plants, such as forsythia and camellia, produce a very spectacular display that dominates the scene, but the show is usually very short-lived - lasting just a couple of weeks, less if the weather is poor. And then for the rest of the year they look static and boring.

With gardens getting smaller, it’s never been more important to choose plants that either produce a long-lasting display or are interesting to look at during two or more seasons. In this way you can create a constantly changing border display that last’s all year using just a handful of carefully selected plants. For example, a border containing a small ornamental tree like Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’, shrubs such as Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’, Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ as well as a range of herbaceous plants (see below) and spring-flowering bulbs will combine to look great all year round.

Use your mind’s eye, to imagine the border changing with the seasons. In spring, bulbs will catch the eye while the malus is in blossom. In summer, the beautiful foliage of the variegated dogwood would be joined by various long-lasting summer-flowering herbaceous plants. In autumn, the malus will carry a crop of bright red fruit above the autumn foliage tints of many other plants. Finally, in winter the red stems of the dogwood and the attractively variegated foliage of the evergreen perennials would come to the fore.

Double-value gallery

picture of Aconitum Bergenia ‘Abendglut'

Bergenia 'Abendglut'

Vivid pink spikes of spring flowers are borne above dark-green leaves, tinged with red, that are retained throughout the year. It tolerates dry soils and heavy clay.

picture of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Magnificent, dark red-purple leaves, turn scarlet in autumn, with a bonus of fluffy, smoke-like plumes of purplish-pink flowers in July and August.

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima’

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima’

Small, creamy-white flowers in May and June and white-margined, grey-green leaves, which fall in autumn to reveal vivid red stems.

picture of Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen hederifolium

Delicately scented pink or white flowers with deep maroon tips and deep-green, appear before the gently marbled leaves. They then make an attractive groundcover that last throughout the winter.

picture of Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten'

Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten'

A beautiful, all-year-round, groundcover plant for a shady, moist site. I love the delicate, star-shaped bright-yellow spring flowers held on, wiry stems above mounds of bronze-flushed, heart-shaped leaves.

picture of Iris pallida ‘Variegata'

Iris pallida ‘Variegata'

This beautiful, variegated, bearded iris is perfect for a sunny, mixed border. Scented, soft blue flowers with yellow beards in early summer above strap-like, bright green and creamy-yellow striped leaves.

picture of Malus x zumi 'Golden Hornet’

Malus x zumi 'Golden Hornet’

Masses of cup-shaped, pink-flushed, white flowers in late spring, followed by a profusion of small, golden-yellow crab apples, and dark green leaves, which turn butter-yellow in autumn.

picture of Rodgersia pinnata

Rodgersia pinnata

Spikes of yellowish-white, pink or red, star-shaped flowers on tall, reddish-green stems in mid- and late-summer above heavily-veined, deeply-divided, dark-green leaves. Looks great alongside water features.

picture of Matteuccia struthiopteris

Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’

Snowball-like clusters of white or green-tinted white flowers in May are held above maple-like, fresh green leaves that become purple-tinted in autumn. An excellent choice for a sunny shrub or mixed border.

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