Midwinter is mainly a time for indoor gardening jobs including ordering seeds and plants for the upcoming spring, writing labels and designing improvements for the year ahead. These are not unimportant gardening tasks, and by attending to them in good time you are more likely to make the right decision and have everything ready for late winter and early spring when gardening begins in earnest.
In small pots sow seeds for summer flowers – spread them thinly and as evenly as possible. Take chrysanthemum cuttings from a clump of roots that has been overwintered in a greenhouse or cold frame. Choose shoots coming directly from the base of the plant. Space the chrysanthemum cuttings evenly around the edge of a pot containing a potting mixture that is suitable for cuttings.
Creating space has much to do with movement around the garden. The way in which different areas are linked together, by paths, pergolas, bridges, steps or terraces, can enormously increase their apparent size and interest.
However, it is equally true that a linking element positioned carelessly and without proper regard to its surroundings, or the random placing of too many elements together, can confuse the eye and appear to diminish, rather than expand the available space in the garden.
Many elements in the garden encourage movement: entrances and exits, a disappearing path, a covered walk, a focal point, a pierced screen; or something as mundane as the washing line, dustbin or greenhouse.
Sarcococca (Christmas box or sweet box) is excellent plant for the winter garden and has small but highly scented flowers among the shiny evergreen leaves. Use it with snowdrops, Arum italicum subsp. italicum ‘Marmoratun’ and early hellebores. they make excellent ground cover under deciduous trees, and flowering stems can be cut for use in winter flower arrangements. Sarcococca looks great when trimmed into a ball shape, and grows well in a shady position.
Sarcococca confusa is a low-growing shrub with glossy, dark green leaves. In winter it produces clusters of fragrant white flowers, and these are followed by glossy black fruits.
You will find Breynia plant in a number of garden centers and department stores but in very few textbooks. It is basically a greenhouse plant which was introduced as a house plant in the 1980s. This native of the southern Pacific islands may also be grown as a tender perennial. Under glass it will grow into a shrub; in the living room Breynia is grown as a small bush, with slender branches densely clothed with colorful leaves.
Breynia nivosa (Snowbush, Hawaiian Snow Bush) has green leaves marbled with white. The variety B. roseopicta is the usual choice. The pink, white and green variegated leaves have a flower-like appearance – hence the common name.