"Winter colour echoes"

Some plant combinations bring joy in winter.
Sunday, 04 July 2021     

Haemanthus albi-flos with variegated honesty and Iris japonica

I have previously written about good-looking leaves in winter, as well as my love of white winter flowers. This week I have been admiring some attractive, silver- and white-variegated foliage plants that are echoing some of my white winter blooms or nearby solid-coloured leaves. I have always enjoyed creating such colour echoes in the garden. There is something incredibly satisfying in these combinations, though it is hard to articulate exactly why! The pairings I found in my garden today were all growing in shaded areas, so the leaves were also brightening up gloomy spots as well.

I have been enjoying for some weeks now the fresh foliage of the white-variegated annual/biennial honesty (Lunaria annua var. albiflora 'Alba Variegata') with the cute white blooms of Haemanthus albiflos, sometimes known as the shaving brush plant (pictured at the start of the blog). This year, the blooms were obscured by the fleshy leaves of the bulbs, so I cut them off and have been pleased I did that. Nearby, some fans of the white-variegated form of Iris japonica add their crisp lines to the scene, and there are also several clumps of icy white-belled snowflakes in this bed. In the same bed is a large specimen on Camellia japonica 'Lovelight' with gorgeous large semi-double flowers of pure white, with a thicket of stamens in their centres rather like the form of the Haemanthus and I enjoy seeing the fallen blooms nearby the bulbs!

In a nearby shady area of my garden, I am appreciating the white-edged foliage of Plectranthus forsteri 'Marginatus', a rambling groundcover that is nestled amongst some plants of the indefatigable Euphorbia hypericifolia 'Diamond Frost', which seems to produce its tiny white blooms in sun or shade. Nearby is the silvery-foliaged shrub Strobilanthes gossypina (sometimes called the pewter bush), a member of the Acanthaceae family that, like most of the tribe, is shade tolerant. I enjoy the combination of silver leaves with white-variegated ones, plus white flowers.

There are few Begonia flowers now that we are in the depths of winter, but those with decorative leaves continue to shine. In another shaded corner of my garden, the attractive foliage of shrubby Begonia 'Little Brother Montgomery' combines with the rhizomatous Begonia 'Silver Jewel' - the silvery-white variegations of both plants are echoed by the ghostly foliage of a miniature Syngonium podophyllum behind them and the metallic leaves of Kalanchoe pumila to one side. In the same bed, a white-flowered Daphne odora is beginning to bloom, extending the colour echoes! The colourful and patterned leaves of rhizomatous Begonia lend themselves to many possible echoes in the winter garden, as the wide range of hues on the leaves of the many cultivars includes brown, gold, lime, pink, purplish brown to near black.

The silvery-white Syngonium near the Begonia plants is also used in another shady area nearby - in this case teamed with an unusual Liriope muscari cultivar called 'Okina', which has superb white leaves in spring, that become variegated with green over summer, but still remaining very striking even in winter, as if they have been brushed with paint.

In some cases, I juxtapose plain green leaves with variegated foliage, so the echo is for the green part of the leaves! In one part of my garden, where a curving path disappears around a corner, with the sunny side of the path being planted with Agapanthus and the shady side with the old-fashioned green-and-white-striped spider plant (Chlorophytym comosum 'Ocean'). In summer, the white flowers of the Agapanthus do form an echo with the spider plants' variegated foliage but even in the dead of winter, this simple, low-maintenance planting is one of my favourite spots for some reason!

Adding some of these plants to your garden can provide some attractive winter vignettes! I'd love to hear of your favourite winter plant combination.

 Reader Comments

1/5  Zenda - 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 July 2021

Hi Deirdre Thank you so much for the inspiring blogs. You lead me to planting a greater variety of plants. My favourite at the moment is the Iresine herbstii in my backyard with sunlight coming through it. Z I agree that sight of the iresine backlit by the winter sun is one of the highlights of the season! Deirdre

2/5  Sue - 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 July 2021

Nice blog in mid winter - the leaves still give the garden interest. I am going down the back to see if my paintbrush is up. Thanks for the name of the begonias of which I have the same placed the same but in pots! Do like the Honesty it's a worthwhile plant must track it down again, seems to have disappeared over the years. thanks Deirdre. I do admire leaves in winter. i think honesty is worth growing; I especially like the variegated form. Not all seedlings come up true to type but the variegation is easy to see early on so I just pull up the plain green ones. Deirdre

3/5  Valerie - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 July 2021

Lovely photos for this time of year in the low light. I especially appreciate the spider plant edging as I've done a similar thing. Some of them received too much water this summer and seemed to rot off but now they've sprung back. Thanks for your blog. It is always interesting.I do think the spider plant is quite drought tolerant so too much water could be detrimental. it does fill in a very difficult dry, shady area in my garden and I am fond of it as it was the first plant I ever grew! Deirdre

4/5  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 07 July 2021

You have so many plants on show, congratulations! Some of my favourites are the white haemanthus, this year with much shorter stems, than in previous years. I delight in the snowflakes, whose delicate flowers make you feel happy. Many begonias still with flowers, the plant, 'Lady Clare', a shrub-like, has lovely lacy, white flowers, above their green leaves. That begonia is gorgeous - and flowers for so long! Deirdre

5/5  Bren - 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 07 July 2021

I like how my Reinwardtia indica's pure yellow flowers seem to shine out of a shady dark green background at this time of year. Such a tough plant too. I also have Phymosia (plant of the week), another hardy, fast growing plant with an attractive colored flower. That Reinwardtia is a great winter flower and so good for shady spots. I am enjoying the Phymosia - it's in full bloom at the moment and has formed a nicely sized shrub. Deirdre

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