Keep your garden looking great all year

By following a few basic principles you can make a garden that gives 12 months of pleasure

As gardens become smaller and new technologies make outdoor living easier, increasingly people see their gardens as an integral part of their living space. And why wouldn't you want to benefit from a beautiful garden every day of the year? Luckily, there are many ways to do this.

Combine different textures and colours of evergreen plants

Evergreen doesn’t just mean sombre dark green – evergreens come in a range of bright colours, including:

  • Gold: Carex ‘Evergold’, Choisya Sundance
  • Silver: astelia, Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’, stachys (Lamb's ears)
  • Blue: Festuca glauca, eucalyptus
  • Variegated or patterned: phormiums, ivy 'Midas Touch', Acorus ‘Ogon’
  • Bright green: Fatsia japonica, griselinia
  • Red and orange: Photinia ‘Red Robin’, phormiums, heucheras

These shine out all the more against a dark background such as a holly hedge or a conifer like Thuja ‘Brabant’. Mixing coloured-leaf evergreens can create vibrant and long lasting displays, as bright as any flowers.

Use strong structural elements like pots, sculptures or topiary

Structural elements such as hedges, sculptures, large pots and topiary can form the 'bones' of a garden. They look good all year round; in summer giving background to the fullness of growth, then in winter they come into their own as the focus of attention.

Consider a punch of colour

Colour theming can work really well. This garden from the 2018 RHS Malvern Spring Festival, (Outside no. 39) shows how colour from man-made accents – the coffee pot, the chair legs and cushions – can then be picked up by seasonal planting. Here it’s ruby chard and salad leaves, but in the autumn and early winter it could just as easily be a potted cyclamen, or dwarf red tulips in springtime.

Pick plants with more than one season of interest

Many plants have multi-season interest. Amelanchiers have lovely spring blossom, wildlife-friendly (and edible) berries in summer, and fantastic autumn colour. The Tibetan cherry, Prunus serrula, is another good bet, featuring lovely shiny bark that looks good all year (although it really shines out in winter) along with white flowers in spring and beautiful buttery yellow autumn leaves.

Install some garden lighting

There’s more low-voltage and solar-powered garden lighting available now than ever before, which means it’s easier and cheaper to install yourself. Garden lighting makes a massive difference to the amount of time you can appreciate your garden, and not just on warm summer evenings. Even on cold dark winter nights, a few discreetly-placed lights can mean the garden can be appreciated from indoors – especially if you can see them from the kitchen window or through French doors.


See also

10 reasons to get gardening

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.