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Wednesday 3 January 2024

Creating A Good Winter Garden

Grumbles about winter gardens are not justified. The fault lies firstly with us and our fair weathered nature. We shop when its warm and buy what we see in flower in May and June and miss the winter flowers. I am generalising. Go shopping on a mid winters day and you will then appreciate we have colour all winter.

The second responsibility for this travesty is Monty Don and the Beechgrove team as they stop broadcasting in October, thus implying the garden is closed until spring.

Structure and frost

Tall stemmed perennials, attractive seed heads, plants with interesting texture like grasses, coloured stems, berries, bark, catkins, garden structures, shapely trees, reflective water and evergreens. These are the bones you are left with when winter settles on the garden. Don't be down hearted as these may not be abundant with flowery buds but they can have an ethereal beauty all of their own.

Viburnum tinus in December
A frosty morning is a beautiful morning and against a strong blue sky a haw frost has to be one of the most beautiful sites all year.
Stuctured shubs look beautiful coated in frost.

Corylus contorta
Perennials With A Structured Shape
Choosing to leave your more structured perennials unchopped until spring will allow them to form the icy silhouette shapes that freeze so beautifully. Its also good cover for wildlife.

Perennials like this Aster frikartii Monch above or achillias and eupatorium have great sturdy stems that deserve a good haw frost experience. Adorn your garden with spikes and seed heads like these. I have heard them described as plants that look good in death. Hydrangeas fall into this category as they look fabulous dead.

Colourful Stems
Cornus stems are so colourful. Seen here against a yellow thuja conifer it positively glows its so bright. Chose from dark red to lime green or orange or even perhaps plant together and mix them up. Oranges and red are electric in winter.
Look closely at the stems of your shrubs and many will surprise you. Some of the macrophylla hydrangeas have hidden red stems and shrubs like physocarpus can also have rich red stems these can all provide good winter interest. 

Add to the bare bones of your garden with some great shaped trees like my small Betula pendula Yongii with fabulous silver bark and gnarled figure or my favourite Prunus serrula with glowing red bark. Consider some of the salix with amazing coloured stems, bark and shape. Pollarded, topiary cloud prune and bonzai. These also make great winter silhouette shapes.

Winter Bedding
If you need flowers there are plenty out there even in winter. Easy bedding colour can be found in instant violas, pansies, bellis and primroses. When planting hardy containers slip in additional winter interest with small evergreen shrubs, heathers, ferns, grasses all bringing both colour and texture. Also add a few bulbs for late winter early spring.

Shrubs and Perennials
Abelia, sedum and pittosporum are every day plants, here together they look so winter colourful. Both abelia and pittosporum pictured are evergreen and the sedum (perennial) look great in death making great seed heads to catch a twinkling frost.

Winter Berries
These deserve a page to themselves but don't miss out on the amazing purple callicarpia berries or the festive skimmias (pictured up top) and the varied gaultheria and pernettya in red, white and pink. 

Winter Cyclamen Corms, Winter heather, evergreen ferns and grasses are secret weapon of interest. Perfect for a winter garden.

Early bulbs in particular the snowdrops, crocus, winter aconites, narcissus and iris reticulata.

Winter Flowering Shrubs, Perennials, Trees and bulbs
Heavenly hellebores, sweetly scented saraccoca , Viburnum tinus (pictured up above) and flowering viburnum bonantense, mahonia and hamamelis or witch hazel are all fantastic winter flowering plants and in addition the the trees flowering winter cherry tree and a mass of spring bulbs together make any grumbles about a lack of winter flowers are totally inexcusable!