As the frost starts to bite and we settle into the last month of the year, many shut the back door and patiently wait for spring to return but there are quite a few gems we can include in our winter garden which will provide us with clouds of scent and bursts of colour, bridging the seasons and sure to keep our appetites whet.
Some of my favourite scented plants really come into their own at this time of year and without the cacophony of colour of the summer months, these gems can really stand out and pack a punch with their heady scents and ornamental barks. In my December newsletter, I have put together a medley of my favourite winter plants to give you some inspiration for your garden and maybe some that you could ask for in your stocking this year!
Sweet Box Sarcococca confusa
A welcome treat in any garden at this time of year, Sarcococca, a languid evergreen with glossy, green leaves will produce an abundance of tiny cream flowers each December emerging on the underside of the stems.
These heavily scented blossoms are accompanied by gleaming, black berries which provide great visual contrast and are a wonderful addition to a festive vase. Site near the entrance to the house or at the front of a shrub border so passers-by can enjoy the cloud of scent they produce each winter.
Wintersweet Chimonanthus praecox
This deciduous shrub, native to China is a five-star addition to any garden and should be added to your collection or included on your must-have list. Covered in waxy, yellow flowers with a rich red centre, these intriguing blooms, will fill your garden with a heady, spicy scent in the depths of winter and if you are like me will be a real treat worth looking forward to each year. Not much to write home about the rest of the year but this perfume is so addictive you will wonder where it's been all your life!
Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’
This showstopper will keep giving for months on end. A deciduous shrub, reaching 2.5m and higher will erupt in an abundance of pinkish white flowers from as early as November all the way through to March. The blousy, floral scent can be carried on the breeze, so this tall shrub can be sited at the back of the border and entice the visitor to walk around the garden and enjoy its fragrant blooms. With very little maintenance needed, this Viburnum will only ask for a light trim after flowering to provide a general tidying up.
During the winter and heading into spring, Daphne are sure to keep your garden smelling sweet for months. Some of the best-known varieties include Daphne mezereum, D. bholua and D. tanguitica but for winter interest you will not be disappointed with Daphne odora. A compact, slow-growing, evergreen shrub Daphne odora releases the most exquisite sherbet-scented perfume from the clusters of star-shaped pinkish/white blossoms. Starting in December, you can expect scent to waft around your garden for at least two months. Site this little gem near a garden path to take in the full benefit of its fragrance.
WINTER STEMS AND COLOURED BARK
Contorted Hazel Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’
An intriguing addition to the garden, the contorted hazel with its twisted stems is a must have in your deciduous tree and shrub collection. Wonderful as a cut stem for flower arranging, the contorted hazel will provide texture and movement to an otherwise quiet garden. In spring, you can look forward to the yellow male catkins covered in a dusty layer of pollen followed by the intricate female flowers only millimetres in width, with their vibrant red styles.
West Himalayan Birch Betula utilis var. jacquemontii
No garden would be complete without the dazzling, white stems of the west Himalayan birch, glowing in the winter sun. This charmer can brighten up the dullest cloudy day in the garden and provides us with delicate diamond-shaped leaves in spring alongside the pendulous male catkins around April/May. You can look forward to autumn interest too as the leaves turn a golden yellow at the end of the growing season.
Tibetan Cherry Prunus serrula
Prunus serrula is a firm favourite when it comes to interesting bark. Native to Tibet, this relative of the flowering cherry is revered for its rich, coppery-brown bark which peels into ringlets of curly tan which cling onto the stem like strands of hair. The peeling effect improves with age but you can enjoy the rich autumnal tones in the meantime.
Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’
For those short on space, the dogwoods, namely Cornus alba and C. sanguinea provide some of the best low-growing, deciduous shrubs for the much-needed burst of colour in the winter months. Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ is one of my personal favourites with yellow stems developing into fiery-red akin to a glowing flame. A real treat for the winter garden, check out the range of dogwoods available in the garden centre to add your favourite to your collection.
I hope some of these suggestions have given you food for thought and perhaps shown you that the garden is never truly asleep and even if it appears to be taking a rest there are plenty of fragrant winter flowers just waiting to perfume the air!
Wishing you all the very best this Christmas, 2017 has been a wonderful year and I am very excited for what 2018 has to bring!
As ever, Happy Gardening Everyone!