By Karen Chapman of Le jardinet

For a garden to look good year round it needs to have a strong backbone of gorgeous foliage, at least one third of which should be evergreen.  To many homeowners that may suggest turning to the traditional palette of rhododendrons, boxwood and laurel, all of which can quickly become overdone and result in a boring mélange of mid-green leaves. Yet there are so many more exciting options to consider and one of the easiest to incorporate are the newer cultivars of heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) that can introduce shades of red, coral pink and lime as well as multiple nuanced tones of green to enliven your garden design and bring it into the twenty first century.

One of the best for rich color has to be Obsession™ Nandina, a new and distinctive selection of Gulf Stream which has been the designers ‘go to’ shrub for some time. Like its parent, Obsession has a tidy mounding habit, avoiding the ‘bare ankles and knees’ of some of its taller cousins, yet the vivid red foliage sets this apart. Team this with a blue conifer such as the dwarf, ground-hugging Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star) and add a splash of sunny yellow with Color Guard yucca (Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’) for a waterwise, sun-loving trio that takes ‘evergreen’ to whole new level.

  

If your design calls for something a little shorter Flirt™ Nandina may be the perfect choice, reaching just 2’ tall and wide. The low cascading branches brings shades of deep blue-green, wine red and burgundy, the colors changing with the season but always eye catching. In a partial shade garden this would make a striking companion to the finely textured EverColor® ‘Everillo’ Carex with tall blue hosta such as Halcyon adding seasonal height.

 

For gardeners that prefer to avoid the color red seek out the new 'Lemon Lime' Nandina which opens chartreuse before maturing to a soft green that will stand out well against darker green conifers, camellias and boxwood. At 3-4’ tall and wide this will make a statement in the garden and is easy to pair with the dramatic Black Adder Phormium for high contrast in full sun or for something softer in the shade garden select the evergreen perennial Blondie coral bells (Heuchera ‘Blondie’) with its warm caramel colored ruffled leaves and spikes of pale ginger flowers.

There is no reason to have a boring green on green garden anymore, even in winter.