As leaves depart and a starkness pervades the winter garden, plants that offer welcome colourful relief really make their presence felt.
While evergreens, and particularly those enlivened by variegation, lighten the scene, the selection of perennials below boost their leaf colour as temperatures fall, taking on vibrant reds and yellow tones which can be used to dramatic effect.
The fact they can also be used as ground cover makes them especially valuable, used in drifts around other shrubs, perennials or winter-flowering bulbs, such as snowdrops, crocus and scillas. They’re also useful for winter pots.
Clump-forming wood sedge Luzula sylvatica ‘Hohe Tatra’ is easy to grow, yet so adaptable, growing in shade as well as more open conditions as long as the soil isn’t too dry.
In winter the foliage turns bright yellow, fading to green as the season progresses.
Shade-loving tiarella ‘Jeepers Creepers’ doesn’t spread as quickly as other tiarellas, but still forms a weed-smothering carpet if grown en masse. Its jagged foliage sports a dark central blotch, which intensifies as the foliage also turns shades of red and pink in cooler temperatures. Slender wands of white flowers appear in May.
Bergenia ‘Overture’ also thrives in shade, but the intensity of its beetroot-red winter livery is better when it grows out in the sun.
It soon forms stout clumps of rounded, leathery leaves and stems topped with magenta flowers in spring.
For full sun and well-drained soil, Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Frosted Flame’ comes into its own in winter, when attractive irregularly variegated foliage becomes infused with red. Yellow-green flowers appear from late spring on tall stems.
ONES TO TRY
**Euphorbia amygdaloides****‘Frosted Flame’:**Variegated foliage becomes red flushed in winter. Yellow-green flowers in May and June. H/S: 45cm (1½ft.)
Tiarella ‘Jeepers Creepers’: Dark blotched leaves, and red toned in winter. White flowers in spring. H/S: 30cm (1ft).
Bergenia ‘Overture’: Leathery leaves turn red in winter. Tall magenta flowers in spring. H: 45cm (1½ft), S: 30cm (1ft).
Luzula sylvatica ‘Hohe Tatra’: Slow-spreading, shade-tolerant wood sedge. Yellow winter leaves. H/S: 30cm (1ft).