Glossy evergreen European Ginger with fallen Acer foliage in early November.
I’m already missing the technicolor foliage of early November, but so it is and it’s not ALL brown out there. During this morning’s garden stroll my gaze caught sight of various shades of green, silver, and even gold…not only from conifers but from perennials with persistent foliage.
It’s good to remember there are perennials that retain handsome foliage into winter. Some are considered semi-evergreen as their leaves may finally succumb once the temperatures drop into the low teens. In order to extend their attractiveness, consider planting in a protected spot, perhaps close to the house or at the base of larger evergreens.
Of course there are the Hellebores. There is Helleborus foetidus which begins to set bud in mild December weather, and the legendary Christmas Rose (the hybrid clones ‘Jacob’ and ‘Josef Lemper’ can begin flowering by Thanksgiving). The many Helleborus orientalis clones retain their leaves but won’t set buds until March in our area.
Another shade lover is Asarum europeanum commonly called European Ginger, with its glossy dark green round foliage persists all winter. By spring it will need a cut back to welcome fresh new growth. It doesn’t increase that quickly but is hardy in zones 4-8.
Hardy Cyclamen bloom in autumn, but their attractive foliage persists through winter. They love dry shade and actually do well at the base of trees with root competition. The two species to try are C. coum and C. hederifolium, both of which are hardy in zones 6-10.
Arum italicum ‘Pamela Harper’
A walk about the garden offered Arum italicum ‘Pamela Harper’, other wise known as Lords and Ladies, which pops up in the October garden from summer dormancy and remains until late spring.
Rhodea japonica foliage in December.
Rhodea japonica (Japanese Sacred Lily) is grown for its evergreen lustrous dark green strap-like foliage . We’ve had this in the garden for 20 years, a testament to its hardiness.
Very happy Epimedium ‘Domino’ foliage.
Many Epidemium are considered semi evergreen here in southern New England. ‘Domino’ , pictured above, looks especially sturdy despite last night’s temperatures in the mid 20’s.
More shade area candidates: Disporopsis pernyi is commonly referred to as Evergreen Solomons Seal. It will form nice thicket in a shady protected bed. Of the persistent ferns, I especially like the Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn Fern).
Sedum ruprestre ‘Angelina’
Don’t forget that Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks) and a number of Sedum species keep their foliage year round. There’s golden leaved Sedum ruprestre ‘Angelina’ which takes on amber tones. Another evergreen little creeper is Sedum album ‘Coral Carpet’. Cold temperatures will bring out coral red tints to the dark green succulent leaves.
Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’
Many gardeners have a disdain for Yucca, but I celebrate its ability to put up with hot sunny dry conditions, produce bayonet stalks with white lily flowers which attract hummingbirds and pollinators, and for the their architectural form in winter. Yucca ‘Color Guard’ boasts yellow variegation that glows.
Other candidates for a sunny well drained spot are some of the Euphorbia (Spurge). Euphorbia myrsinites, above, perpetuates by self sowing in poor gravelly soil.and is hardy in zones 5-9.
I do try year after year to winter over outdoors the Euphorbia x martinii hybrids such as ‘Ascot Rainbow’ , not always with success. They are listed as being hardy in zone 6, but I stress this is only in a protected spot with great drainage. The ascending stems will bear showy flower bracts come early spring (flowers are formed on last year’s stems), but that is only if they do not get blasted by arctic winds. Plants may not die, but the top growth will need to be cut back hard. The plants will break ground with new foliage growth in the spring.
There are many evergreen Euphorbia native to the Mediterranean which are hardy to zones 7-8. We are in zone 6B (I won’t say 7 yet). I think with climate change upon us, we may soon be able to grow more Euphorbia species here in Southern New England.
Please share which persistent perennials you have in your garden.