This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
I have been much pleased with your article on "Hardy Winter Gardening" in 'The Gardener' for December and as I have been for some years creeping on on the same lines, I think some of my experience may interest you.
For some years I took great pains to fill my beds, after the Pelargoniums, etc, were removed in October, with plants destined to bloom in spring, such as Nemophila, Silene, and other early annuals; and as they came in too late, and lasted so short a time, I subsequently adopted the new Violas, which made a brilliant show, but had to be removed just when in greatest beauty. The centres of the beds were occupied by permanent patterns in the form of dwarf hedges of the Golden Holly, Silver Holly, Golden Yew; and latterly the Golden Euonymus latifolius occupied a good space in the winter, but was removed to the kitchen-garden in the summer. I plant largely and permanently the Euonymus radicans as borders: but the latifolius albo-marginatus, of which I had a large quantity, was apt to die, and even if it lived, to turn green it is therefore discarded. I have now thrown aside all idea of a movable garden, which, in most places where it exists, is filled up with branches of Firs, Hollies, etc, and has the disagreeable effect produced by all shams. I have continued the marking out of the centres of scrolls and round beds with the Euonymus latifolius aureus; Thuja elegantissima, which is of a brilliant yellow all spring and summer; and Retinospora aurea, which always retains a deep gold colour.
The Golden Yew looks very pale, except in summer; but I think Barron's variety Elvastonensis will be an acquisition.
I have all the Cupressus Lawsoniani you mention, and one more, the Pigrucea, which makes a fine dark spot in the midst of white Pelargoniums such as Bridal Wreath.
Now, my idea has long been that masses of scarlet, white, and pink Pelargoniums in this climate, although brilliant objects when the weather is fine, are too easily blackened and thrown about by a heavy shower to be depended upon, and that a few dozens of good plants in small clumps amid the tracery of permanent shrubs, if not so dazzling from any one point of view, would contribute more interest and pleasure to the garden. The only plants in your list that I have not are Hedera arborea, yellow and white.
The Violas have been transferred to a garden entirely for themselves, and were beautiful last summer up to September, when the beds were re-made for spring; and I have come to the conclusion that a summer and spring garden cannot well coexist. C.