Add the wow factor to your winter garden with striking plants that look their best right now. Whether you’d like to fill your borders with hardy shrubs covered with fragrant flowers, clad a fence or archway with colour, or plant a small flowering tree to create a focal point, you’ll find a great range of seasonal stunners in garden centres this month.
While a coating of frost or snow creates temporary magical moments, unifying our gardens with its icy frosting, the excitement really starts when it melts away to reveal winter displays full of colour, character and charm.
A choice selection of the very hardiest plants put on their best show in the depths of winter, providing a bright outlook from the comfort of your armchair, and an even warmer welcome when you step outside.
Gold blooms really shine out on gloomy days, so look out for dramatic Witch Hazels that produce clusters of small fragrant flowers with petals like dainty ribbons, transforming the otherwise naked stems of this hardy shrub.
Evergreen mahonias are equally impressive, with golden sprays of flowers forming at the tip of each shoot. There are several varieties to choose from with different sizes and forms, and flowers on most are followed by the formation of grape-like berries in spring, giving these shrubs their common name of Oregon Grape.
For great garden performance it’s always worth looking out for varieties that have been given the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by the Royal Horticultural Society, and this is often indicated by a trophy symbol on the plant label or in catalogues. At the Chelsea Flower Show in 2013 the RHS chose Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ as its Plant of the Year, so if you’re looking for something different check out this new variety too.
In addition to their welcome colour, fragrance is another valuable characteristic of many winter flowering shrubs. For long-lasting displays it’s hard to beat varieties of Viburnum x bodnantense that produce a succession of flowers from October until spring.
And for a shady site take a look at the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger, a low-growing and compact perennial whose simple white cup-shaped flowers can be picked and floated on water in a glass bowl to provide seasonal table decorations.
Winter brings out the best in many plants. While flowers are an essential part of this seasonal spotlight, many other characteristics provide winter interest too. A wide range of conifers and evergreen shrubs provide bold forms and fancy foliage. Also look out for plants with colourful wand-like stems, dainty tassel-like catkins, and the tactile barks of many ornamental trees.
So don’t shut-up shop for winter, but welcome in the New Year in style with garden displays that provide colour, fragrance, foliage and form. Visit your local garden centre now to discover the best plants to create your very own winter wonderland!
TOP FOUR PLANTS FOR WINTER FLOWERS
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis varieties)
Unusual fragrant flowers in clusters of tiny ribbons develop along the entire length of stems. Popular AGM varieties include ‘Pallida’ (sulphur-yellow), ‘Jelena’ (coppery-orange) and ‘Diane’ (red).
Oregon Grape (Mahonia varieties)
Choose from a range of robust and reliable Mahonias to provide evergreen foliage and golden seasonal flower, followed by black grape-like berries in spring. Good AGM varieties include ‘Winter Sun’, ‘Apollo’ and ‘Charity’ among many others.
Winter Flowering Viburnum (Viburnum x bodnantense)
A majestic shrub producing deliciously fragrant pink/white flowers.
Popular AGM varieties include ‘Dawn’, ‘Deben’ and ‘Charles Lamont’.
Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger)
This compact perennial is perfect for a slightly shady position, producing clusters of flowers through winter and into spring. Also look out for the many wonderful Hellebore hybrids now available.
TOP TIPS FOR EXTRA WINTER COLOUR
- Choose your planting sites carefully. Ensure new plants are positioned in full view from a window or prime position by patio doors so you can enjoy them every time you look outside on dull days.
- Add winter colour to your front garden to welcome you home and cheer-up your local neighbourhood.
- Fill patio pots and baskets with hardy winter bedding plants, like pansies and violas with cheerful faces in a kaleidoscope of colours.
- Cover the ground under trees or shrubs with a carpet of Winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis). Although dry tubers are only available for autumn planting they’ll establish better from growing plants, and small pots of flowering aconites are available to buy during winter. Get ready to buy snowdrops too!
- Plant clumps of winter flowering Iris unguicularis to brighten a dry, sunny spot at the base of a wall or fence, and use blooms as cut flowers to bring indoors.
OTHER FAVOURITE PLANTS OF THE MOMENT
Create striking winter displays by choosing some of the following for your planting combinations:
- Aucuba varieties
- Clematis cirrhosa and its variety ‘Freckles’
- Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas)
- Coronilla ‘Citrina’
- Daphne ‘Jacqueline Postill’.
- Dogwoods (Cornus varieties)
- Elaeagnus varieties
- Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’
- Rosebud Cherry (Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’)
- Skimmia varieties
- Sweet box (Sarcococca)
- Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)
- Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox)
- Delightful deciduous shrubs producing scented flowers. Ideal to cut and bring indoors! Popular AGM varieties include ‘Grandiflorus’ and ‘Luteus’.