Hebes are mostly native to New Zealand though frequently grown in the British Isles, parts of western Europe and the west coast of North America. This shrub can be seen in flower in some supermarkets and garden centers in July or August – a plant for the conservatory although it can be kept in a large room for a few years. The problem is that it flowers from summer to early fall and this is the time it should spend outdoors.
The floral spikes are made up of tiny flowers which fade to white with age. Hebes are easily recognized by their bottle-brush flower spikes usually produced in large numbers. Hebes leaves are noted for their beautiful appearance throughout the year and usually come in numerous colors including silver, green, grey and red, which serve as a great attraction to butterflies, bees and other insects.
Mahonia is a small fully hardy perennial evergreen shrub native to China with yellow flowers in late winter and early spring. This plant has everything going for it: an elegant, architectural look, evergreen toughness, some drought tolerance, adaptability to substantial sun or shade, and – best of all – large sprays of the brightest, sunniest yellow flowers imaginable, appearing from late November through January.
The genus contains about 70 species of evergreen shrubs, which are rather similar to Berberis – in fact, some botanists would like to unite the genera. Most have deliciously scented flowers, but their prime use is to fill inhospitable sites. It grows well in shade and semi-shade, and prefers medium levels of water.
Garrya elliptica makes a remarkably indestructible and attractive evergreen shrub on free-draining soil. It is at its best from midwinter to early spring when it is covered by a mass of dangling grey-green catkins, 15-20 cm (6-8 in) long. If you want even longer catkins, choose ‘James Roof’.
Garrya elliptica can also be grown as a dense bushy hedge, but should only be pruned and kept in shape once the display of catkins has finished. It grows ell in seaside gardens, but does not make a windbreak because it needs a sheltered position. When exposed to a flaying wind, it suffers badly.
Calliandra is a popular plant in the U.S. but rarely grown in Great Britain. The leaves are made up of a large number of segments and the flowers are made up entirely of stamens. It blooms in winter and the ‘powder-puffs’ last for 6-8 weeks.
Calliandra inaequilatera has bright red flowers and dark green foliage. A better choice is the hardier Calliandra tweedii – the flowers are smaller and the leaves are feathery. Calliandra surinamensis has perfumed pink powder-puff and tiny, fine leaves. It’s hardy, compact rounded bush. Calliandra haematocephala has vivid pink, big powder-puff flowers from October to May. Native to Bolivia, this plant becomes a small tree with many-segmented, eight-inch leaves. Calliandra californica gets 6 ft. x 6 ft. in an open, vase-shaped shrub and red puffball flowers. Its dark green leaves are like tight miniature ferns, overshadowed by red spikey flowers.
A big display of fall berries provides a striking seasonal note and also adds a range of colors, from bright red to yellow and white. In time most, except the toxic ones, will get eaten by birds. Meantime, as the fall mists descend and then lift, they will reveal beautiful clumps of tiny colored balls high up in the trees and down on the ground, attracting extra wildlife.
The best berrying trees include ash (Sorbus), which provide a range of colored fruit and several specimens that will not grow too high. The slow-growing Sorbus x kewensis only grows 2.5m (8ft) high and 2m (6ft) wide, and its late spring flowers are replaced by bright red berries.
Camellia is a genus originating mainly from China but with a range covering a large area of South East Asia. The exact number of species is not clear but it is somewhere around 100. Camellia is an important commercial genus because of one species, Camellia sinensis, the plant from which tea is made. Most gardeners recognize two main groups of camellias, the fall flowering and the spring flowering. However, it is not quite that simple.
Camellias are evergreen and small trees up to 20 meters tall. Their leaves are alternately arranged, simple, thick, serrated, and usually glossy. There are four main camellia groups: Japonica, Reticulata, Sasanqua and Hybrid, with a number of smaller groups based around less common species, such as Camellia hiemalis, and inter-specific hybrids, such as Camellia × williamsii (Camellia japonica × Camellia saluensis).