The festive season has been and gone, but instead of thinking about jetting off to the sun, I look forward to the crisp clear days for long walks in the countryside and watching the garden for emerging snowdrops, Cyclamen and hellebores showing me that spring is on the way.
Here is my guide to the types of plants that can keep your garden interesting in late winter.
Evergreen shrubs not only add structure to the garden in winter, they also come in a myriad of colours, leaf textures, flowers and scents. Some examples are:
- Eleagnus ‘Gilt Edge’ has yellow/green glossy leaves which light up an area.
- Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’ adds a spiky leaf texture.
- Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ – a beautifully scented shrub with pink flowers, beautifully scented.
- Nandina domestica – Attractive foliage topped with red berries
- Mahonia x media ‘Charity’- Attractive spiked foliage with yellow scented flowers.
- Garrya elliptica – interesting grey/green foliage with long flower tassles in late winter. This one can be grown as a free-standing shrub but is best trained against a wall.
Some Cornus(Dogwood) and Salix (Willow) shrubs are invaluable in providing winter interest through the colour of their stems. Two of my favourites are:
• Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ – the leaves have a coppery tone in the summer and fall to reveal bright fiery-orange stems.
• Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ – this one has pretty variegated foliage in the summer with red stems in the winter. For even redder stems choose Corunus alba ‘Sibirica’.
Some perennials start to emerge in January depending on the weather. They can add that little splash of colour so needed after mid-winter. Some examples are:
• Helleborus x hybridus – lovely clusters of saucer-shaped flowers in many colours.
• Primula vulgaris – a native plant that is great for attracting bees and butterflies with clusters of pale lemon flowers. They self-seed readily and look good with dwarf Narcissi.
Whilst herbaceous perennials lose their leaves in winter, the varieties with reasonably stiff stems such as Rudbeckias and Asters, can be left standing for added structure and look wonderful with a layer of frost on a cold morning.
Evergreen ferns add structure and look lovely traced with frost. Some examples are:
• Polystichum spp.
• Asplenium scolopendrium
Evergreen grasses clearly will have a presence in winter, often in shades of bronze, but deciduous grasses, unless the site is particularly windy and wet, should also stand until spring. Some examples are:
- Stipa arundinacea – an evergreen grass with plumes of flower heads in late summer. Self seed readily and good in dry shade.
- Miscanthus ‘Yakushima Dwarf’ – a short deciduous grass that keeps its form right through winter before it is cut right to the ground in spring.
- Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ – A lovely arching deciduous grass that turns bronze and creates a soft mound in autumn and through winter.
Spring bulbs are the jewels of the season. Some of the earliest are:
• Galanthus (Snowdrops)
• Eranthis hyemalis (Winter aconite)