Three plants that look good together: Abies koreana Acer palmatum 'Dissectum' Rhododendron yakushimanum
Of all the terms in the gardening lexicon few can be as dull and uninspiring as "low maintenance". The small tree and two shrubs that make up this week's threesome fall easily into this unfortunate category. If you plant them well, in conditions that they like, no more will be required of you. But the effect will be anything but dull, for all of them have superb form and handsome, contrasting foliage.

The tree is the stately Korean fir, Abies koreana. Well-balanced, restrained and neat, it slowly forms a small pyramid of horizontal, buff-coloured branches covered in dark green needles, silvered on their undersides. It is attractive year round but particularly in spring, when it furnishes itself from top to toe in soft, new shoots of the brightest, freshest green.

As an added bonus the Korean fir produces striking, dark purple-blue cones, even on very young plants. They have a rubbery appearance and stand on the branches like squat candles.

The two accompanying shrubs are the Japanese maple and dwarf Rhododendron, both of which grow into perfect mounds 3ft high and 5ft wide.

The maple, Acer palmatum "Dissectum", has delicate, lacy foliage, which begins bright green in spring, becoming darker as the summer goes on. It is the only one of the three to lose its leaves, shedding them in autumn after a dazzling display in which they turn brilliant orange-red. They leave behind an attractive umbrella of branches for the winter.

Rhododendron yakushimanum, from the Japanese island of Yakushima, makes a sturdy dome of dark, glossy, green leaves, covered beneath in fine, red-brown hairs and recurved at their edges like leathery mussel shells. When young, these evergreen leaves are cinnamon-brown from a temporary covering of the same hairs that permanently coat their undersides. The contrast of colour and texture between young and old leaves is striking.

In late spring, the Rhododendron carries trusses of large, bell-shaped flowers which begin deep rose-pink in bud, open to pale apple-blossom and fade to white.

All three of these plants will appreciate good soil that is neutral to acid and does not dry out, light or dappled shade and shelter from wind and late damaging frosts. They can also all be planted in pots.

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