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A combination of green and burgundy foliage is key to the look I want in my garden. The mix is relatively easy to achieve in the summer months, when dark foliage from deciduous, herbaceous and not-quite-hardy plants is everywhere. While there are still a few reliable performers for the cooler months I’m feeling like I may have maxed out that list, so I’ve recently been exploring another possibility. What about the plants that darken up when the weather turns chilly?

Mahonia nervosa for example. It’s been this deep purple for months now, and is just starting to turn back to green. Of course it’s location in full sun helps with the vibrant color.
Mahonia nervosa

I added a Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum ‘Hindwarf’ to the garden last year, after polling readers on my personal blog for their dark foliage favorites. I expected it to turn completely green over the summer but it surprised me by staying mostly dark.
Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Hindwarf'

Leucothoe axillaris ‘Curly Red’ was purchased a couple months back, with the promise of burgundy to red foliage in the fall and winter. The fact it stays compact is a bonus, should it perform as hoped I may be purchasing more.
Leucothoe axillaris 'Curly Red'

Staying with this theme I made a rather surprising discovery recently at a new-to-me nursery in central Oregon. At first glance I thought the dark purple yucca must be Yucca aloifolia ‘Blue Boy’ – one I already own and have mixed results with – but it’s not, meet Yucca filamentosa ‘Bronze Age’…
Yucca group A

To be honest they weren’t the most vigorous looking plants, so I wanted to know more. Time to do a little phone-research before I buy.
Yucca filamentosa 'Bronze Age' label

That’s when it all came flooding back to me.
Yucca group B

I’ve either heard, or maybe read, Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery talk about discovering this plant…“There’s nothing like flying down the highway, engaged in what we refer to as botanizing at 55…especially when you spot a black foliaged yucca out of the corner of your eye. Well, the year was 2011, and we were zooming through Macon County, Alabama, when we indeed came to a screeching halt. Upon exploring closer, we had indeed run up on a clump of Yucca filamentosa var. concava whose growth turns black during the winter months. That thrill was equaled when our cutting exhibited the same traits in our display gardens, so our find was christened Yucca ‘Bronze Age’.”

I bought one, how could I not?
Yucca filamentosa 'Bronze Age'

Parts of the leaves that have been shielded from the sun are already a little green. It will be interesting to see how its color changes through the season.
Yucca filamentosa 'Bronze Age' close-up

Do you have any favorite plants that turn shades of red, burgundy or purple in the winter? I’d love to hear about them if you do. In the meantime here are a few of my ever-dark foliage favorites in the garden…