Top 5 plants for winter interest
January and February are considered to be the drabbest months of the year in the garden. The days are short, it’s often dull and wet. However, there are some plants that are at their best at this time of year, bringing colour and fragrance to the garden. This is our top 5.
The photographs were taken at RHS Gardens at Harlow Carr, Harrogate. The winter borders are a great source of inspiration
1.Daphnae odora - has an attractive shape and foliage but it is the beautiful and very fragrant deep pink and white blossom that sets it apart at this time of year. Plant it in a south or west facing sheltered spot, next to a path or door, or at the front of the border to enjoy the exquisite scent and afterwards, red berries. Grows to 1 -1.5 m, the leaves are evergreen.
2. Cornus ‘Mid-Winter Fire’
There are many varieties of Cornus, or ‘Dogwood’ as it is commonly known. All bear white flowers in the summer and some have variegated leaves but they are really grown for the stem colour which is at it’s brightest in winter. Colours include green, yellow, orange and red but this particular variety has stems which start as a rich yellow near the base darkening to orange and red at the top - it really does look like a flame - especially in the last rays of a low winter sun!
Grows to 2m. In the second or third spring after planting (late March - mid-April) cut back the stems to 5- 7.5cm from the ground to encourage vigorous re-growth and the best stem colour. Cut back annually or every 2 - 3 years to the same stubs.
3. Hamamelis intermedia ‘Pallida’
Hamamelis, or ‘Witch Hazels’ are large deciduous shrubs (lose their leaves in winter). This particular variety can grow to 1.8 x 2 m but if you have the space, the delicate and deliciously scented sulphur yellow blossoms are wonderful. Grows in full sun or partial shade.
4. Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’
At this time of year, the upright branches of this large deciduous shrub bear clusters of deliciously scented pale pink flowers. Growing to 1.5 to 2.5m it tolerates shade but flowers best in full sun.
5. Helleborus argutifolius
This variety with it’s shapely, shiny evergreen leaves and beautiful and long lasting apple green flowers can bring a welcome brightness to your garden and a smile to your face on the darkest of days. Only growing up to 60 cm high and tolerant of full or partial shade this plant would look good growing at the base of the larger shrubs above.
(Note of caution: all parts of 1. Daphnae and 5. Helleborus are toxic and may cause sickness if eaten. Sap may cause skin irritation).