Evergreen shrubs provide structure in a winter garden, but too much dark green can make a garden seem a bit gloomy. Never fear, many species of evergreens will turn bronze or red in winter, as a reaction to cold temperatures and sunlight. The more sunlight the plant receives, the more the colour changes. There are evergreens with tints of red, orange or burgundy to brighten up a dark day.

Nandina domestica is a low maintenance elegant shrub that looks good all year round. As the days grow colder the foliage begins to change colour. The varieties ‘Fire Power’, ‘Gulf Stream’ and ‘Obsessed’ have good autumn-winter colouring, especially if grown in full sun.

Leucothoe is a beautiful shrub whose foliage turns shades or red and purple in winter. They will grow in any soil except alkaline, but can be grown in a large pot if you have chalk soil. There are different varieties to tempt you. My favourite is ‘Curly Red’ which has lovely glossy green puckered leaves which turn a gorgeous shade of red in winter. ‘Zeblid’ turns the colour of a dark red wine. ‘Makijaz’ has a wonderful speckled appearance.

It’s not just broadleaf evergreens that can colour change in winter. Many conifers also intensify their colour in the colder months, or take on red tints. Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans’, known as the Japanese Red Cedar, transforms throughout the season. Changing from blue-green foliage in spring, to fresh green in summer, burgundy-purple in autumn and red in winter. All the while it retains that classic soft tactile appearance. Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans’ will grow to 4 metre high and 1.5 metre wide. There is a compact version available too, Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans Compacta’.

For a smaller space try Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Tuffet’. A dwarf mound forming conifer with green young foliage, golden-orange summer foliage and bronzed winter foliage. Staying under 1 metre high and wide, it won’t grow too big for its space and needs little maintenance.

With so many wonderful shrubs to choose from, banish the winter greens and invite some extra colour into your garden.

By our resident horticultural expert

Hazel Still