It can often feel like we put our gardens to bed over the Winter and wait huddled inside for Spring to arrive. Now whilst most plants go into hibernation over the long dark winter days there are a few plants that are worth heading outside for. So what plants would I recommend for Winter Interest?
The first of these would be the wonderful Cornus (dogwood) shrubs that may look a little unexciting during Spring and Summer but come into their own in Winter when they shed their leaves and show off their amazing stems. My favourite two are Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ with its deep red stems that bring a warmth to the Winter garden.
And the second is Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ which actually does look like a glowing fire in your garden.
My only word of caution is that these shrubs can get rather big and send suckers off so do be cautious about where you plant them. However, they are very robust plants and are very tolerant of being pruned. In fact as their colours are strongest on new wood, I would recommend that each year you cut about 1/3 of the stems right down to the ground in early Spring. That way you will keep the colours vibrant and keep its growth in check.
One of the things we often miss in Winter are flowers, especially scented ones. There are nowhere near the number of options available as there are in Spring or Summer. However, there are a few shrubs that flower in Winter, often straight from bare stems which is a sight to behold.
The one most people may have heard of is Daphne odora and as the name suggests its blossoms really are the most divinely scented flowers and can knock you off your feet from quite a distance. The downside is that these shrubs are pretty slow growing so can end up being very expensive to buy and also that they can be a bit tricky and rather temperamental about growing and flowering reliably.
For an easier and more reliable option I recommend Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’. Like most Viburnums it is easy to look after and requires little maintenance apart from a prune for shape and size after flowering has finished. It may look like nothing special during the Summer but in Winter the flowers on bare stems are a welcome sight. And whilst it isn’t as scented as a Daphne it is worth going outside for a sniff!
A quick word on bulbs…..if you wantto brighten up your pots, your borders or even your grass then there are a number of bulbs I would recommend that bring much wanted colour into your outdoor spaces during the dark days. The humble crocus is a great do-er and easy to get hold of and plant. I am not a fan of yellow normally but seeing a bright yellow crocus popping its head up through my grass will lift my spirits. I am also a huge fan of Iris reticulata, these small but gorgeous flowers have markings of such intricacy that I find them hugely fascinating, so plant them where you can stop and admire them.
And for slightly more unusual bulbs give Puschkinia and Chionodoxa a try as well –they won’t disappoint!