Creating floral splendour in your beds and borders

Golden Hops, one of gardening columnist Mandy Watson's plants of the week
Golden Hops, one of gardening columnist Mandy Watson's plants of the week
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FLOWERS take centre stage in beds and borders during the summer – but what about the rest of the year?

It’s easy to forget how your garden looks all year round. Imagine if nothing bloomed – what would you be left with?

If it’s a sea of mid-green with plants and leaves of the same height and habit, you need to give your garden an overhaul.

I’m a sucker for coloured and large leaves.

Contrasting shapes and colours will provide much more interest and an exotic appearance.

One perennial plant combination around my pond has been very successful, combining to give a lush, tropical feel.

The pond’s small, but the leaves overlap the water’s edge, blurring dimensions, making it look much bigger than it is.

Here’s the plants I used:

•Gunnera (4ft high, green, primeval leaves up to 6ft across)

•Sambucus nigra Black Lace (up to 15ft, elderberry with purple, almost black, filigree leaves, pink flowers and edible berries)

•Variegated Vinca major (1ft, periwinkle, trailing cream/green leaves, blue flowers)

•Rodgersia (4ft, huge compound green/red leaves with pink flowers, pictured)

•Rheum palmatum (ornamental rhubarb, 6ft, 3ft-wide leaves, dark green/purple underneath, bizarre cream flower spikes)

•Fatsia japonica (9ft, bright green, glossy palmate shrub, cream flowers, black berries)

In spring, I add two old yuccas in pots – their spiky foliage contrasts nicely.

I perk up around the edges with annuals, merging the shadier area with Achillea mollis (lady’s mantle) and Nigella (love-in-a-mist) into the sunny, side with overwintered geraniums in terracotta pots and self-seeded Californian poppies.

Plants of the week

In keeping with this week’s leafy theme, I’ve chosen the golden hop (Humulus lupulus Aurea).

This beauty manages to grow about 15ft in a season, dying down to ground level in autumn. It’s totally undemanding and in a hot summer, it will set hops (this has happened twice for me in 20 years in North East England).

It’s marvellous for hiding eyesores – its only enemy is the wind, which can wreck the foliage.

Also avoid if you have sensitive skin – the tiny hairs on the leaves can cause irritation.

And I couldn’t mention gorgeous leaves without hostas. As long as you’ve been vigilant with slugs, they should be at their peak.