As the fall temperatures bring down the perennials in the garden one by one, I’m enjoying the plants that are evergreen, or at least keep their leaves until the deeper frosts. Here is a garden border that still looks good at the end of October. The Helleborus will keep its foliage until spring, but the Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss) will lose its leaves when we have colder weather. We had our first frosts back in mid-September, so the stoic Brunnera have provided long interest in the garden. I took the above photo this weekend, just before the snow hit.
In the picture above, the Brunnera macrophylla ‘Looking Glass’ plants are at the front of the photo in a light-toned silver colour. In the middle are the wonderful leaves of Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’, which just keep going year round. Then at the back of the picture are the etched leaves of Brunnera macrophlla ‘Jack Frost’. The ferns on the right of the shot have mostly died back now.
The Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ foliage is still in pristine condition, preserving its dark green with a slightly marbled effect. On the upper left of the picture, you can see some have even retained the yellow flower bracts since April. If you can count them as a flower, then these are definitely my longest blooming perennials. :) I wonder if they will still be on when the new flowers emerge next April? Because we have good snow coverage in winter, the Helleborus leaves are still in good shape in spring, with just a few that need tidying up.
‘Jack Frost’ is a most photogenic plant. Above is a closeup of a ‘Jack Frost’ leaf, showing the fabulous patterns created by the green veins running through the light silver leaf. The stained glass effect created by the green and silver is fascinating on an individual leaf, and very showy on a group of plants. These Brunnera have conserved their leaves through a number of frosts down to -4º C (25º F).
‘Looking Glass’ has a more overall silver colour, with much narrower green lines through the leaf, and a green rim. The silver grey colour reflects a lot of light, so it stands out in the shadowy areas. As your eyes follow along a shady garden bed, they stop to rest on the brightness of ‘Looking Glass’.
Here is a nice contrast between the dark green hellebore leaves and the light-toned Brunnera leaves. This is another Helleborus that still has kept some of the yellow flower bracts from six months ago. All of these perennials are planted at the base of a willow tree, and thrive in this location.
As many perennials retreat underground to survive the winter, those that keep their leaves through the first frosts are invaluable in the late fall garden. Tonight the temperatures are supposed to drop to -10º C (14º F) so even the tolerant perennials like Brunnera will most likely die back finally. However, the Helleborus will still be green when the weather warms up next weekend, and the snow melts. I’m still enjoying gardening, and I’m not ready to retreat inside and look out the windows at conifers and decorative sticks yet, so I really esteem the Helleborus, Asarum, Heuchera, Tiarella and other semi-evergreen perennials that beautify the shade garden still.