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Monday, 30 December 2019

Shrubs and Trees with great winter colour

Cornus under planted with nandina

Shapes and colours can look quite dramatic this time of year, frosted silver foliage in particular.

Top of my list for early winter flowers would be hellebores. They are so pretty, really good for wildlife and now we have so many new varieties.

There are lots of silver evergreens I would choose to plant for winter interest. Silver foliage can disappear in bright sunshine on summer days but it really stands out in winter. Plant and enjoy simple colourful evergreen shrubs like Silver Pittosporum and Euonymus jap.Pierrolina. Rubus thibetanus Silver Fern is a slightly more unusual shrub, well worth planting for its silver stems which look almost like frost on red stalks.

Pittosporum tenufolium
It surprised me how lovely Eucalyptus leaves appear in a mixed border. Keeping evergreen shrubs a reasonable size is important unless you want a triffid but it’s easy to trim the tops out and keep them as shrubs and most are very resilient.

Viburnum tinus is the most attractive flowering winter evergreen. Great as alarge shrub pehaps at the back of a border because it can get tall.
Viburnum Tinus

Winter bark is spectactular. Picture a misty morning and clumps of snowdrops under a copse of Silver Birch. It’s a spectacular picture. The rough silver bark of the Birch is often overlooked when planting and it is beautiful . The pendula Silver Birch Youngii is a superb tree to plant if you don’t have the space for the tall Betula Jacquemontii (Silver Birch) and it also builds character into a garden with a great winter silhouette. The contorted willows and hazels also bring similar character but lack the wonderful silver bark. To bring some of this quality into my garden I have planted two Youngii together to make a silvery archway and it is very effective. 

I should add you don’t just have birch with silver bark, there are some with amazing orange and red tones like Betula Albosinensis

To bring some warm vivid colour into the winter garden I would have to include some colourful stems. Cornus (Dog Wood pictured above) with dark red stems. Mid Winter Fire is electric orange. I love it planted with red, yellow and lime green varieties of Cornus for maximum contrast. There is a great new variety called Cornus Alba Baton Rouge, obviously a great red and well worth considering.  Cornus is a brilliant shrub as long as you remember to crop it aggressively, not allowing it to get out of hand. Otherwise it is low maintenance and very easy to grow in difficult heavy soil.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) is a brilliant early flowering shrub with bright orange, red or yellow delicately scented spidery flowers.It needs ericaceous compost (lime free.) It is stunning. Don’t plant these in a heavy wet position, allow them some drainage and lots of sun and they will reward you. If you live local to Buckingham perhap grow them in a container.

Garrier Elyptica
Equally eye catching are the red winter catkins on the purple Hazel (Corylus avellana maxima purpurea).

Corylus (Purple hazel)

Not only does it have deep coloured long catkins in late winter early spring the foliage in the summer is a magnificent deep purple. I’ve found this a very easy shrub to grow. I think it looks interesting if you plant it with green Hazel and enjoy both colours side by side. Catkins bring a bit of character to the border so why not also consider planting Pussy Willows or Garrya Elipticas. 

Rubus cockburnianus

This is known as the ghost bramble because of its ghostly white stems. It looks quite striking. This is an impressive ornamental bramble that has tremendous winter appeal. Not too difficult to keep contained in a clump but obviously prickly.

Early Flowering Clematis
Early Clematis definitely deserves an acknowledgement. Early flowering varieties like Wisley Cream, with lime green nodding flower heads and Freckles with interesting speckled spotted flowers and evergreen foliage. Macropeta varieties like the variety ‘Purple Spider’ scramble beautifully through a hedge and flower effortlessly with little maintenance each spring, providing a profusion of little alpine flowers.
Clematis Early Sensation
Suffice to say the colour is out there. There are some really good plants that are worth adding to your borders, often overlooked because they may blend in during the warmer months and be overshadowed. Winter borders can be outstandingly beautiful with subtle beauty encompassing shapes and colour and character.

Winter Bark Trees

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