There are specimens with special characteristics that will provide you with interesting flowers, foliage and colour in the warmer months. In the colder seasons they do not cease to entertain and will give a striking winter display too.
Rubus cockburnianus (White stemmed bramble) provides foliage and flowers in summer, white stems in winter. Wonderful as a backdrop. They need to be in full sun however to perform although the aspect is not important. They are good in exposed areas as well as in sheltered conditions. In a cluster ideally, this should be cut down in spring to contain the size. Any arching habit should be cut off to avoid rooting and creating a mess.
Cornus florida monrovia (Flowering dogwood) It’s habit is more of a tree though. A decidious variety, little maintenance is required, if any. No hard pruning though.
Its relative Cornus alba ‘sibirica is more of a shrub and more suited to the average border. A medium size providing cream flowers in spring and summer. It’s stems are the most vibrant in the winter months. It does need sun or at least partial. It is very hardy. Pruning should only be to take out unecessary growth and keep its habit.
Helleborus niger (Christmas/Lentern rose). This evergreen provides food for insects in the spring. It flowers through winter and into the warmer months. The foliage remains thoughout the year. A hardy specimen. It prefers drier conditions and will not tolerate being waterlogged. Partial shade is ideal.
Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens (Black mondo). A hardy black grass that is good in clusters. Small in a clump habit. A number are needed for a wave. It is not a shaded plant and needs a substantial amount of light. It prefers a moist environment but not too wet. Aside from its striking foliage, it produces flowers in summer.
Heuchera ‘Black Beauty’. It flowers in summer and after deadheading and removing spent growth, new foliage will follow. H. ‘Winter Joy’ an evergreen which will flower in summer, but will provide lime green foliage all year round. It will cope with most aspects but needs to have some sun.
Hakonlechla macra (Japanese forest grass). It flowers in late summer, but H. macra is used more for its foliage. Golden H. macra ‘Naomi’ and H. macra ‘Aureola’ provide variegated foliage in addition to the flowers in autumn. The benefit of this grass is its versatility. It tolerates all aspects and all conditions.
Miscanthus sinensis is a plant that, although not flowering at this time of year, should be left until pruning is required. This would be March – April. The spent plumes can be an important part of a winter landscape, even if by default.