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Plants with attractive variegated foliage; plants with leaves that are coloured in shades of red, yellow, orange and black. These generally excite our interest. We tend to love all those colours that shout at you, colours so bright and tangy you can almost taste them! With all this eye-candy vying for our attention that colour green can seem merely dull. Green is a comfortable and accommodating colour. It is restful on the eye and can easily be ignored.

In our homes most of us don’t (successfully) combine patterned wallpaper with patterned carpets, curtains and soft furnishings. In our gardens, without a thought for the desired result, we optimistically combine all sorts of variegated leaves with many coloured flowers and wonder why it doesn’t look right. (I speak with authority, having done it myself!)

The colour green does much to resolve all these problems. Dark green makes reds and oranges appear brighter and richer in tone. Dark green is a wonderful backdrop for plants that have light variegated foliage. Green doesn’t draw the eye. Planted on a boundary it doesn’t draw attention to itself, but encourages one to focus on the plants within the garden. If you have fence panels, stain them a dark matt green to lessen their visual impact.

Many green-leaved shrubs have a period of floral interest and, if this usefully occurs before the herbaceous plants have started to flower, they provide welcome colour in the first months of the year and then graciously accept a background role.

Plants to consider:

tg1Viburnum tinus (Laurustinus) is evergreen. It can be grown as a shrub, a hedge or indeed a tree. It is in flower from January to March or so, providing white flowers.

Osmanthus delavayi is evergreen with small green leaves and has heavenly fragrant white flowers in March. It makes a large rounded shrub over time.

Ilex aquifolium ‘Laurifolia’ is a holly with, generally, spineless leaves that are a lustrous shade of green. If there is a male holly in the vicinity it delivers a good crop of red berries in autumn. This can be grown as a shrub, used as a hedge, or trained as a tree.

Garrya elliptica, the Silk tassel, is an evergreen shrub that can also be grown against a wall. It has striking, long, grey-green catkins in January and February.


Susan A. Tindall

Further details of all the plants mentioned in this article are available on our Garden for pleasure plant finder

Many of the plants mentioned are available to buy from


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