This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", 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.
There are now so many plants which are quite hardy, used for effect in summer bedding, that it is worth while to consider how they may be so combined with the tender plants in summer that they may occupy the same positions throughout the ensuing winter without removal. Of this nature are many of the Saxifrages, and the coloured hardy Sedums, such as Corsicum, glaucum, lucidum, rupestris, and others; then there is Golden Feather pyrethrum, Festuca glauca, Golden Thyme, Sempervivums of various sorts, Violas of sorts, Anten-naria tomentosa. The larger and denser green Saxifrages are very useful in this way for summer and winter, for edging and dividing lines. When the tender things have all been either killed out or removed, it will then be seen what is wanted to fill up, as regards height and colour, and in doing so the effect in spring should be taken into account as well as the covering of the ground in winter. For pure winter bedding there is nothing to be compared to dwarf shrubs, of which there is an abundance, and new varieties still make their appearance.
The common Laurel is one of the best plants for making up masses in the middle of large beds; when dwarf bushy plants are used it makes a bright-green carpet, and moves like a weed; it has the further advantage of being easily bought, or propagated at home. The round leaved (so called) variety, rotundifolia, is even more handsome and robust, resembling a Magnolia in general appearance. The Portugal Laurel contrasts well with the above with its bronzy-green colour; it is not, however, so accommodating to removal.
The Retinosporas in their young state are particularly graceful and appropriate for winter bedding. They are cheap, easily moved about, - that is, stand frequent removal perfectly, and are easily propagated by cuttings, layers, or in some instances by offsets.
R. pisifera is a bright green, and exceedingly graceful in a young and healthy state. R. pisifera aurea is a model plant for winter bedding: it is dwarf and spreading, and of a bright yellow colour all over the tips of the branchlets. Thuja semperaurescens promises to be even a better plant in the same way in some parts of the country. Retin-ospora leptoclada is a favourite plant; is also cheap and very neat in habit, of a bronzy-green above and glaucous-green in the shade. R. ericoides is indispensable for winter bedding, is very easily propagated by cuttings or branches stripped off the sides: small plants are admirably suited, from its squat habit, for edging, and plants 12 to 24 inches are cheap enough, and fine for the centres of clumps; indeed it looks its best at about 15 inches high.
Euonymus japonicus, either the green or variegated, are very desirable, the latter especially so; its foliage a fine dark showy green, and the variegated either yellow or white makes it always look showy; it is a clean-looking plant. It is easily propagated by cuttings in a shady place under hand-lights in the autumn. Euonymus radicans variegatus also strikes easily under hand-lights in sandy peat or fresh sandy loam; it is another model bedding plant, grows low and bushy, and the fine shiny foliage is always clean and fresh looking: it is a wonder this plant is not more planted to grow up walls like Ivy: it makes much larger foliage and stronger shoots when clinging to a wall after the manner of the Ivy itself. The small Silver Qaeen Ivy is a plant after the style of this pretty Euonymus, of a beautiful white variegation, but rather dear.
Skimmia japonica and oblata are chiefly striking from their berries, the foliage being broad and Rhododendron-like. Of all winter bedding plants the richest are the Gold and Silver Queen Hollies: they have a particularly bright and clean appearance, bear shifting with impunity when they get used to it, when once they get a mop of fibrous roots with frequent removal; they are of course impatient of removal if they have stood long in one place; but the same remark applies to most plants; we moved several hundreds last April and they scarcely lost a leaf. One drawback to their extensive use is their high price, but a few good plants give more effect than double the quantity of other things at the same cost. Waterer's Holly is also good, but for bedding purposes second to the two Queens. Aucuba japonica can now be bought for 4s. per dozen, stocky little plants for winter bedding: it requires no recommendation, as it is indispensable, especially in moist parts of the country: it is easily propagated by cuttings in sandy soil, in a shaded position behind an east wall - a north wall is too cold: the position must be naturally sheltered and moist; under these circumstances it strikes as readily as a common Laurel. Berberis aquifolia, though not a striking plant except when in bloom, still is a cheap plant for covering the ground.
Dwarf healthy plants of Rhododendron Ponticum are special favourites on a sandy soil for winter work. They are very cheap, and are always fresh-looking throughout the winter.
Plants, however, must be had from country nurseries; indeed we prefer all those Dwarf shrubs from country nurseries where they have been grown a long way from the influence of coal smoke from town collieries or works: plants raised in a clean pure atmosphere are much better coloured, fresher, and healthier; we have had the opportunity of comparing them, and the town plants are often miserable-looking objects compared with those from the country of the same age.
Cupressus Lawsoniana and its variety nana, Cupressus Thyoides, and Thyoides variegata, Abies pygmea, are all good additions to the list. Cupressus Nutksensis must not be forgotten, a special favourite, so hardy, green, and graceful.
With respect to arrangements, the last-named plant makes a good centre mass with a band of Retinospora ericoides edged with R. pisifera aurea or Euonymus radicans variegatus. Dwarf plants of Laurestinus in bloom, where they do well - they are this year covered with bloom just opening - make grand centres, banded with Aucuba and edged with R. ericoides. With a view to spring effect, if the shrubs be not too thickly planted, such things as Anemones, Wallflowers, especially the Belvoir Yellow, Forget-me-Nots, can be planted among them with good effect: now is the time to plant. Of course beds of Wall-flowers by themselves look as well as many shrubs in winter, with the advantage of the flowers in spring, always supposing there is no game to destroy them.
Large beds may have their centres filled up with the shrubs and then banded round with Myosotis, Alyssums, Arabis, Aubrietias, Daisies, etc. We are now filling in beds with winter and spring things, part of the design having stood all the summer and will be retained, with Myosotis dissitiflora and alpestris, Silene pendula, and Arabis; part will also be filled with bulbs.
A bed in which was a mass of Calceolaria in summer will be filled with Retinospora pisifera aurea; a band of Viola cornuta Perfection exists and will remain; Hyacinths will be inserted where a band of white-leaved Geraniums was killed out; next a band of Festuca glauca remains, and a strip of Tulips will be inserted between the Festuca and the edging of Sedum glaucum. Iberis sempervirens and one we have called Tenoreana are excellent shrub-like plants for edging beds of dwarf shrubs, especially the latter, and are sheets of white and pinkish white in early spring.
A pink form of the native Lamium album maculatum is a beautiful addition to the winter and spring garden: the purple is well enough known and also the white form, but this is of the same shade as Saponaria, which with its variegated leaves makes it a very striking plant in early spring. It may possibly be met with in many places in the hedgerows. It associates well with Myosotis and Arabis, or between lines of Myosotis and Aubrietia: but we are sliding into spring gardening, when we meant to confine ourselves mainly to winter bedding. The Squire's Gardener.