Silvery foliage adds real drama to the garden on a winter’s day. It shines out in the pale light, lifting the garden, and looks magical when frosted. The shimmery grey tones contrast with dark, evergreen shrubs as well as rusty browns of dead seed heads and grasses. Here are my favourite evergreen plants for winter interest.  

Small shrubs

Convolvulus cneaorum

A useful and attractive evergreen shrub with shiny silvery foliage and masses of white flowers from late spring to summer. Pretty with Erigeron karvinskianus.

Lavandula angustifolia

As well as those heavenly scented summer flowers, the winter structure provided by well-pruned lavender is a huge strength. This variety with its steely-grey woolly leaves is particularly good for winter foliage. Best in full sun with well-drained soil.

Santolina chamaecyparissus

An excellent neat rounded subshrub with grey/white foliage and yellow button-like flowers in summer. Clip in spring to keep it neat. Best in a well-drained sunny site. 

Larger shrubs

Ballota pseudodictamnus.

A pretty subshrub, with woolly pale green to grey leaves. Hard prune in June and it’ll regrow within weeks and have a neat framework throughout winter. Prefers sun and well-drained soil. Looks great with spires of dark blue salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna.’

Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’ (Dunedin Group)

An easy to grow shrub with attractive silver/grey felty leaves and stems.  It also has yellow daisy-like flowers in the summer. It’s tough, unfussy and drought tolerant, and looks good with other Mediterranean plants and herbs.

Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’

This useful shrub has glossy grey-green leaves with white margins creating a pale shining effect. This is not as silvery as many of plants listed here but it’s useful if you’re looking for something bigger and it can tolerate partial shade.

Grasses and other silvery plants.

Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Shadow’

This striking silver plant has architectural pale green/silver spear shaped leaves.  It’s happy in sun it prefers partial shade so it’s great for brightening up a shady area.

Festuca glauca

A compact, evergreen grass with tufty mounds of steely blue foliage and graceful flower spires in summer. Or try the taller Helictotrichon sempervirens. Both are sun lovers and suit Mediterranean planting.

Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’ (lamb’s ear). This furry leaved silver plant makes fab ground cover, creeping along the front of a border, even in winter.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’
This semi evergreen has lovely light silvery foliage that remains into winter, though it may need a tidy up in spring. It’s gorgeous, but won’t last long if the soil isn’t free draining enough so plant with plenty of grit. A. ludoviciana ‘Silver Queen’ has long thin silvery leaves that hold on into winter.

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This article first appeared in the February issue of SE22 magazine.