Flowers to brighten your winter garden, from Mike Burks of The Gardens Group
For gardeners, it can be a delight to find plants in their finest hour when most of the garden is looking pretty poor. One great example is Lonicera fragrantissima, a shrubby form of Honeysuckle. In the winter, small white flowers with a powerful, sweet honeysuckle scent appear on the bare branches.
Another medium to large shrub is the Viburnum fragrans, which also flowers on bare stems. It’s an upright growing shrub with pleasant summer foliage, bronze when young, which turns red-purple in the autumn. The flowers are clusters of heavily scented white-tinged-pink and tubular in shape. An alternative is Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn, which is very similar, but the flowers are much pinker.
There are even winter flowering trees, and one such is Prunus autumnalis, the Autumn Flowering Cherry, also sometimes known as the Winter Cherry. Prunus autumnalis, again, has good autumn colours and then, after the leaves fall, the flowers are white, scented and dotted along the bare branches. There is also a pink form, P. autumnalis Rosea. Both are small trees and are a delight in the winter.
There are one or two climbers that have a go in the winter, or at least late winter/early spring. These include the Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, with its mass of yellow flowers; a joy at a very dull time of year.
More detailed are the Clematis cirrhosa types, which are evergreen and also have dainty nodding flowers towards the end of the winter. My favourite variety is ‘Freckles’, which has pink-brown blotches on creamy flowers. It lasts a long time, and the ferny foliage is also attractive. The larger Clematis armandii – a very vigorous plant – also flowers in the late winter and has a fragrance too, with masses of white flowers.
On a smaller scale, there are, of course, herbaceous plants such as Helleborus niger, the Christmas Rose. There are a number of improved forms of this plant now, and it’s worth looking out for the ‘Harvington Hybrids’ and ‘Wintergold’. Also take a look at the darker, December-flowering varieties Helleborus Penny’s Pink and Anna’s Red.
My favourite winter flower, however, has to be the Sarcococca or Christmas Box. These small shrubs are evergreen and then, as the autumn comes along, so they bud up and the flowers open, white and tiny, but with a huge scent. They also do very well in our local soils.
For year-round hints and tips and to find out more about The Gardens Group, visit thegardensgroup.co.uk