Lush layers of foliage will ensure that your garden looks attractive all year round. While flowers wilt and whither, foliage in all shapes and sizes packs punch.

Although seasonal gardens make a strong statement, it’s a mammoth task to replant and resow each season. A clever selection of foliage is the antidote to a high-maintenance garden, as well as a dull winter yard.

One of the most important cornerstones of a beautiful garden, an evergreen backbone will provide structure and interest from one season to the next. Here’s how:

Plan your layout

To make the most of your garden’s evergreen backbone, it’s important to introduce a diversity of colour, texture and shapes. And, as seasoned gardeners will attest to, hardy shrubs and trees are your best friend.

Add layers of interest

To create the right mix of plants, the first layer should be a dense canopy of trees that protects the middle layer, which is filled with shrubs. Closer to the “forest floor”, plant understory plants that grow in dappled light.


The canopy

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden filled with established trees, you have a ready-made garden canopy. If not, consult a tree specialist on the best trees for your garden. South Africa has a wonderful range of indigenous evergreen trees that will fill your garden with year-round colour and interest.

The middle layer should consist of tall, architectural accent plants. Opt for an ensemble of shrubs with varying leaf shapes, sizes and colour to create visual interest. To ensure the best of both worlds, keep an eye out for shrubs and small trees that have both striking foliage and blooms.

We love: Delicious monsters (Monstera deliciosa), frangipanis (Plumeria), golden aralias (Polyscias filicifolia), heleconiums, hibiscus trees, philodendrons, slender palms and tree ferns (Cyathea australis).

The middle layer

The understory

Populate this area with small groundcovers and other low-growing shrubs. For the perfect ensemble, add intermittent pops of colour to layers of foliage.

We love: Bromeliads, celosias, coleus, cordylines, Croton pseudopulchellus and vrieseas.

Additional information: Life is a Garden

Images: Karien Slabbert, Life is a Garden