Rich green foliage for autumn

When the flowers are fading, and autumn foliage is falling, green foliage begins to glow, lifting the spirits on the first really cold mornings. The essential shrub, whether in a container or garden, is sarcococca because it will also provide winter fragrance. S. confusa is the most elegant with pendent clusters of ivory stamens supported by high-gloss green leaves. It avoids the metallic glints of other sarcococca foliage. Some hardy ferns also persist through winter and they include the orange-bristled forms of Polystichum setiferum, the soft-shield fern. ‘Herrenhausen’ has neatly arranged fronds that persist well in winter, with silk crocheted buds in April. The fussier, almost mossy Plumosomultilobum Group has 3D leaves, each one a miniature fir tree. Or, if you have somewhere dank and wet, opt for a ‘scolly’ or hart’s tongue fern - Asplenium scolopendrium. The linear leaves grow in the darkest place and there’s a frilly-topped from called ‘Crispum Cristalum Group’.

Shiny periwinkles can also be used in wilder areas. The shorter Vinca minor comes in several forms, but the runners form a network of roots so this needs careful placing. V. minor f. alba 'Gertrude Jekyll’ is a pure-white single. ‘La Grave’ a lavender-blue and ‘Atropurpurea’ a dusky damson. The taller V. major also produces runners on long stems and is excellent against a wall. The star is the early-flowering V. difformis, with more whirligig flowers in light-blue.