Keeping a garden interesting gets more difficult as autumn slips into winter. The climate here is not warm enough to have nearly as wide a choice of material for winter display as for summer, nor is it cold enough to force me to shut up shop altogether. I have a choice, I can give up until spring comes around or I can take on the elements and struggle against adversity. I choose the latter.
Here are a few pictures I just took between showers, on 27th November. We have had no significant frost yet.
This picture was taken through the front window. The white blooms are Camellia sasanqua ‘Paradise Little Liane’, the pink is C. sasanqua ‘Navajo’. They are growing three feet from the south facing, white painted front wall of the house. They are really only visible from the window, from the other side they are hidden behind the Chamaerops palm. I don’t spend much time in the front garden and when they flower in October, November and December, I am very happy to enjoy them from indoors. When they’re not flowering they are rather dull but they’re hidden at the back.
You’ll have to take my word for it but there are seven more Camellias visible in this picture, still fulfilling their summer role of being the background for everything else. The fuchsias left of centre at the front and the hydrangea below the bird feeder still have a few blooms, the evergreen Euphorbia mellifera has autumn tints on its older leaves and there are berries and autumn tints on a grass in the background.
The Euphorbia is an evergreen that has leaves that look like they’d be deciduous, i.e. not dark green and glossy. The fuchsias will keep their leaves until we get a significant frost. I’d welcome them going bare as there are Cyclamen coum just beginning to bloom under the Camellias. By the time the Camellias are flowering there will be very little greenery in front of them and they will be the centre of attention.
The evergreen tree is Ligustrum lucidum ‘Excelsum Superbum’. The variegated leaf makes it lighter but because it’s all overhead the actual variegation largely goes unnoticed. The camellia below it, C. japonica ‘Bob Hope’, is very dark; it is this effect that I want to avoid too much of in the garden. Ferns, Diplarena, Hellebores and Omphalodes provide ground level greenery. The Begonia luxurians in front of ‘Bob Hope’ was planted as exotic summer bedding, I have several potted up plants under cover so this one can go on contributing until frost takes it down. The berries are on Skimmia ‘Bowles Dwarf’
When it comes to colour at this time of year my collection of Hakonechloa macra sweeps the board. Hedychium ‘Assam Orange’ is competing for now but will collapse in a week or so while the Hakonechloa will go on for another two months at least. The one on the left here is Hak. mac. ‘Albostriata’, which produces the best colour and lasts the longest of all the varieties I have. The Plectranthus zuluensis (blue flowers) will need to be brought under cover when frost threatens or it will die. Above them all is Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’, light in colour and texture in spite of being evergreen.
Pull back out and I don’t think my little patch looks too shabby for the end of November. There isn’t much bare ground and what there is should be filling with emerging bulbs by January. There is quite a bit of ever-greenery but in tone, shape and texture it is about as varied as is possible within a single colour. Finally, there are colours other than green and brown with the golden tones of grasses, mainly Hakonechloa, standing out vividly in the bluish light of a dull autumn day.