Best of the bunch: Mahonia
These evergreen flowering shrubs bring a burst of sunshine to the border in winter, with their pretty spikes of fragrant yellow flowers above rich, glossy leaves, followed by purple or black berries.
They are tough and sucker freely, so keep them in check if you don’t want them invading the space of others.
There are many varieties of mahonia, which range in height from 90cm-2.4m (3ft-8ft), so choose carefully. Recommended hybrid groups include M. media ‘Charity’, which bears lovely yellow spikes in winter, while glossy, wavy-edged foliage is produced by M. wagneri ‘Undulata’. For a real contrast, try M. aquifolium ‘Atropurpurea’, which has purple leaves in winter.
Most mahonias grow in any reasonable soil and will even survive in shady spots.