To achieve consistent interest in your space throughout the year, an easy method would be to incorporate variegated foliage. All year round, you will be provided with beautiful leaves, flowers as a bonus and offering a hardy canvas for bulbs, perennials and bedding.
Hebe – Hebes flower between summer and autumn – purple / blues mostly. The aspect is not particularly important although Hebes don’t like prevailing winds or exposed areas. The wind damages the foliage. The plant needs some shade but sheltered is the key. It is not a terribly hardy plant, may need a degree of protection in severe conditions. It’s suited to a container, so be moved to an insulated / coveted wall if need be. Cut back dead, diseased and damaged after frosts.
A particularly interesting Miscanthus ‘zebrinus’ (Zebra Grass) – it provides colour (green / yellow to pink and silver) throughout the year; textural qualities in winter too. The pruning is only necessary in spring, highly ornamental in all seasons. As a Miscanthus, it “whistles in the wind”, which adds a quirkiness to the garden. The new growth will start to emerge from the crown, this will indicate the grass is ready for pruning.
Aucuba japonica ‘crotonfolia’ – (Spotted Laurel). The spots, a result of a “friendly virus – “the mosaic” – it doesn’t harm the plant in any way and simply mutates its leaves. In the event of the plant reverting, cut the green out. It produces berries after the height of summer through to the next season. It is a very robust specimen. Good in all soils, aspects and conditions especially polluted air which makes it popular in urbanised areas or those with a high traffic content. No pruning, just unecessary / unwanted growth.
Other Bamboo / Sedges – Hakonechla macra / Carex variegata / Pleioblastus fortunei (Bamboo, sedges and grasses) – related but very different in habit. Most the pruning is in spring but some die back in winter. Hakonechla is mound forming, stays relatively compact but decidious. Carex everillo, Acorus is evergreen and Pleioblastus fortunei is too. There are different species, growth habits, sizes for varying purposes. These too in a variety of colours. Pennistemon (not typically recognised as a sedge/grass) are tolerant to moderate frosts and although do like full sun, can tolerate partial shade. These plants do prefer well drained soil and not in a waterlogged environment.
Euonymous fortunei – ” Emerald ‘n Gold”. A hardy staple evergreen, there is a cream variety too. ‘Silver Queen’. Good with adverse conditions. (Poor soil, light and water). These plants can be used as groundcover – an embankment or difficult location (very good as a weed suppressant). The plant does revert to its green state, you need to cut this unwanted foliage out to retain its variegation.”Colouratus” is the ground cover variety as a few others. The leaves turn a pinkish tinge if provided with full sun in autumn. The plant is very low maintenance, can cope with almost any soil without water or nutrients. It requires almost no pruning save unwanted growth.
Eleagnus ebbengeii offers the most eyecatching combination with their silver – green foliage mixed with Photinia as an evergreen hedge. The plant is tolerant of little water, a drying atmosphere – so coastal areas, salt laden winds are fine. What Eleagnus don’t tolerate is the cold, so an exposed position is ok but with a good degree of sun.