Why not take some time to have to look at the garden and see how you would like to alter things for 2017?

At this time of year some gardens are open to show how you can create a ‘Winter Garden’ e.g. Dunham Massey, Admittedly, many of these gardens are very large and contain large drifts of plants, but there’s often room for one or two evergreens or even flowering shrubs and trees which can be included in the borders in normal gardens.

Some examples of my favourite winter shrubs that we grow here are:

Viburnum Tinus. There are many cultivars of Viburnum Tinus. ‘Eve Price’ is a good one, as it is a bushy, medium-sized evergreen shrub with broadly oval, leathery dark green leaves and, from late winter, flattened clusters of deep pink buds opening to small, starry white flowers. Berries deep metallic-blue. Can get large, and is good for hedging.

Viburnum x bodnantense. Viburnum ‘Dawn’ is an excellent cultivar, being a strong-growing large deciduous shrub of upright growth, with dark green, ovate leaves and clusters of scented, light pink and white flowers opening from autumn to spring. Again the flowers this year are really good and are making a lovely show in the garden.

Mahonia japonica. M. japonica is an erect medium-sized evergreen shrub with large, spined, leathery pinnate leaves and small, fragrant light yellow flowers in spreading or drooping sprays from late autumn to early spring, followed by blue-black berries. I must say that mine are looking spectacular this year – perhaps because of the milder weather?

Prunus ‘Autumnalis’ and ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ are small deciduoustrees of spreading habit with ovate leaves turning yellow in autumn, and pale pink, semi-double flowers opening during mild weather from late autumn to early spring. I have two in the garden and they are quite erratic regarding time of flowering – anytime really from Autumn until late Spring. Luckily one is in full flower at the moment, although I’m never quite sure if the sugar pick flowers really suit the winter garden

Cornus – Dogwood. Again the dogwoods come into their own in winter, with red, orange or green stems showing through in the winter. There are lots of varieties, but be aware that many will sucker quite rapidly and are then really difficult to move – I speak from experience!

Ilex. I do love hollies, although they are fairly slow growing. There are lots to choose from but the variegated ones really stand out at this time of year. Hollies need a male and a female plant to produce berries, or you can choose a self fertile variety such as JC van Tol, or the variegated Silver van Tol.

These are just a few examples of plants that can brighten up the winter garden. Why not visit the garden centres, nurseries and open gardens such as Dunham Massey, Bodnant or Harlow Carr near Harrogate to see some of the plants that come into their own during the winter months?

Some tips to introducing winter plants

At this time of year plant shape, scent and colour can all be considered.

  1. Include at least 10 – 20 cent evergreens in any garden, or more than that if you have an area specifically for winter plants. I have about a much higher percentage of evergreens in my borders as I include a lot of hebes which have evergreen leaves and then produce lots of flowers in the summer.
  2. Keep scented plants such as sarcococcas, viburnums, witch hazel or daphnes near doors and paths where you can enjoy them without stepping on flower beds.
  3. Look at trees for winter. Magnolia soulangeana has a beautiful sinuous trunk.
  4. Betula jacquemontii and Prunus serrula have showy barks. This is also the time of year to enjoy conifers – I have two golden leaved conifers which really stand out in the Winter
  5. The shapes of plants can look as satisfying in winter as they are in summer. I love the look of the Mahonia now, fennel and also the grasses and box balls. I know that pampas grass is not so fashionable nowadays but I do have some lovely dwarf pampas grasses that looks good thoughout the winter.
  6. Choose herbaceous underplanting for winter, as well as bulbs. Hellebores, bergenias and pulmonarias will all add interest.
  7. Remember the birds: seed heads that last will attract birds which bring movement to the garden, conifers for roosting, crab apples for the blackbirds.