5 of the best winter flowering shrubs

Flowering shrubs are perhaps no more welcome than in the winter months, with its bleak, short days and long nights, and when many plants are resting and bare.  They command our attention and brighten our view, particularly when planted where their flowers are easily seen against a darker background such as a fence or evergreen hedge.  If the blooms have attractive fragrance as well, this makes them all the more desirable, especially to the blind or partially sighted.

Winter heathers (Erica carnea)

These wonderful often fragrant shrublets have sadly been somewhat out of fashion in recent years, after a boom in the 60’s and 70’s.  But I’m glad to say they are beginning to make a comeback, and rightly so, for their compact habit and valuable winter flowers make for a very useful and attractive plant.  Being small, they make great winter pot and basket plants, where the extra height makes the scent all the more accessible when we breeze past.  They also make good ground cover in acidic soils, and can cope with shade.  The key to keeping them looking good and flowering well is a good trim all over in the spring after they have flowered. Take off about 1.5 – 2.5 cm of foliage.

Viburnum

Viburnum are a popular shrub in the UK thanks to their tough, hardy, resilient behaviour in almost any garden situation. The deciduous Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ gives excellent winter colour with pretty pink, heavily scented flowers, borne on the bare stems from November to March. It also makes good cut stems to enjoy in a vase indoors.  Alternatively, for an evergreen winter flowering viburnum, try V. tinus;  ‘Eve Price’, ‘Gwenllian’, and ‘French White’ are all good varieties for the garden.

Hamamalis

Hamamelis is a beautiful larger winter-flowering shrub, commonly known as witch hazel. Its spicy fragrance and spidery flowers on bare stems in yellow, orange and reds make it a must for the winter garden.  Try Hamamalis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ for one of the best yellows.  It also happens to have the added bonus of good autumn colour.

Daphne

Oh Daphne, one of my most favourite plants.  It’s a tricky customer, but get it right and you will be rewarded with the most amazing heady fragrance from its clusters of white, pink tinged flowers atop evergreen foliage on most species. They need a sheltered position in light shade.  Try Daphne odora ‘aureomarginata’, or if you come across the rarer Daphne bholua var. glacialis ‘Gurkha’ – deciduous back of the border plant with amazing sweet scent.

Chimonanthus praecox

Aka wintersweet, in its summer clothes, Chimonanthus praecox is an unassuming shrub with long droopy leaves. Come winter, though, the leaves are gone and the bare branches throw out clusters of dangly, yellow star-shaped flowers that pack a perfumed punch.  They are prized by flower arrangers who use their stems to fill the house with scent.  Try ‘Grandiflorus’ which has pale yellow flowers with a purple heart.

Series: 20 ways to make your garden a sanctuary

20 ways to make your garden a sanctuary

Welcome to this new series which will showcase 20 ways you can make your garden more enriching, engaging and enlivening for you and all the family.  Over the course of 12 months, you will discover tips, tricks and techniques to help you create your own sanctuary, just like we do for our ‘good causes’ here at Project Nurture.  .

Creating a garden is about more than just a few shrubs, mowing the lawn in summer, and a place to grow some veggies.  Your garden could and should be a place of relaxation, restoration, and revival; a special place which is a joy to be in and to use.  These 9 top tips will help you to think about how to make your garden your sanctuary.

  1. Wonder at wildlife

Choose nectar rich flowers such as sedums, buddleia, chives and asters, and you’ll enjoy an impressive show of helpful insects including butterflies, bees, hoverflies and lacewings.  It’s a perfect relationship – we provide food and nourishment, they eat pests and enrich our garden with movement, colour and life.  Make sure to provide a bird bath too, the birds will be very grateful and reward you with their cheerful twitterings and playful activity.

Hungry goldfinch!

Hungry goldfinch!

  1. Light the way

Create a restful atmosphere in the evening with subdued lighting.  And the good news is that you don’t have to call out an electrician.  Candlelight is a quick and easy way to give you style on a budget.  It’s also a great way to try out different lighting effects and how you might want to illuminate the garden more permanently in the future with electric lights.  Another option is solar lights.  These can often be picked up fairly cheaply at the beginning of the summer in shops and supermarkets.  You can also get solar fairy lights which look delightful all year round strung around a favourite tree.  Lighting is a great way to extend your enjoyment of the garden in the evenings and shorter days.  Another idea is to use mirrors – they are a great way to bounce light around, and create a sense of space and intrigue at the same time.