Disguising Deciduous Plants

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Disguising Deciduous Plants

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to strive for a garden that looks good year-round versus one that shines in the spring only to fizzle out once cold temperatures arrive.

When designing your garden, the goal should be to achieve a harmonious balance between evergreens, deciduous and perennial plants.

Since I garden in mild-climate California, we have so many opportunities to incorporate plants that will stay beautiful nearly year-round, but it’s important not to forget the beauty of deciduous plants as well. I meet lots of folks who would rather have a plant that stays green 365-days a year than one that will go dormant in the winter, for fear of the gaping hole it’ll leave in their garden.

However, with a little creative placement you can avoid the ‘black hole’ syndrome by surrounding the deciduous plant with those that are evergreen.

Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) is one of my very favorite deciduous plants to use, as it adds so much to a garden. It takes a few years to grow to full size (2x2), but once it does – look out! Starting in spring, slender chartreuse blades of grass begin to quickly emerge. By the time summer arrives, it’s in its full glory at the front of a border.

The blades of grass resemble a cascading waterfall, and with each gentle breeze they gently sway in the wind adding the feeling of movement to the garden.


Once colder temperatures hit, the chartreuse color quickly turns to gold, adding much needed fall color to the garden.


When winter has firmly made its presence known, you can enjoy the brown color for awhile, however you’ll need to prune them soon before strong winds blow the blades to kingdom come, making a mess of your garden.


When pruning the grass, cut it down to about _-inch from the ground, careful not to cut any new growth that might be emerging (this plant doesn’t stay dormant for long!) One of my favorite tools to make quick work of this task is the Fiskar’s PowerGear Hedge Shear. It’s really lightweight, yet surprisingly sharp, so I’m able to finish pruning in less than 15 minutes.


Now that the grass is all tucked away for winter, you may be thinking I’d have a hole in my garden bed. However, it still looks pretty good, since I’ve surrounded the grass with plants that stay green and hold their shape year-round.

In this instance, I’ve used ferns, camellias, cranesbill geranium, senecio greyii and a large cestrum newelii to carry the garden through until spring. However, you’ll also notice I placed a willow garden tuteur to help fill in the empty spot. When the grass grows back again, I’ll move this ornament to another spot in my garden.

When using deciduous plants, if you remember to include garden ornaments, evergreen plants and even temporary artwork to help ‘fill in the blank’ during your garden’s downtime, your garden will continue to delight throughout the year.