Winter has its ups and downs, whilst we’re treated with festive cheer and an excuse to eat all the food we can stomach, we must also suffer cold weather and darkened days. The flower garden too can produce a surprising number of blooms during the winter months, with everything from jasmine to aconites around to provide a splash of colour during the colder months. But, while the sun may be dimmed, winter gardens have never been brighter and here are ten reasons why:
1. Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’
Otherwise known as Red-barked Dogwood, no pun intended, this cultivar has been granted the esteemed honour of Award of Garden Merit, based on its beauty and hardiness despite a very low level of maintenance. Deciduous garden shrubs and more rarely small trees with four-petaled flowers in early spring. Grown in full sun it will yield bright red bark and need only be trimmed once every spring to provide best results.
There are several types of Ivy – German Ivy, Swedish Ivy, Ground Ivy etc. Here we are dealing with the ‘True’ Ivies plants which are all varieties of Hedera. These Ivies thoroughly deserve their good reputation as decorative plants, and have long been a basic feature of Pot Groups. As climbers they can quickly clothe bare surroundings, provided you choose a vigorous Hedera helix variety.The stems bear aerial roots which cling to wallpaper, woodwork etc. The larger leaved, slower growing Canary Island Ivy does not possess these clinging aerial roots, so adequate support is necessary.
Ivies are not only climbers. They are just as useful as trailers in hanging baskets or as ground cover plants between larger plants, and it is here that the smaller bushy varieties come into their own. Examples of suitable types are Eva, Glacier and Needlepoint Ivy.
Grasses in your garden have four good seasons of interest: in spring, when the bright new shoots start emerging, in summer, when they are at their peak and flower in your garden , in autumn, when many turn yellow and reddish, and in winter, because they should be left standing, so that their shapes add interest until being cut down at the end of the season.
Festuca – The genus contains about 300 perennial grasses, which produce attractive tufts of foliage. They are ideal for placing at the front of borders or among rock garden plants. Festuca glauca, blue or grey fescue, is one of the most popular grasses. It is an evergreen species, which makes tufts of steely-blue leaves that are still evident in winter garden. The summer flowers are an added bonus. It can also be grown in containers. Festuca prefers moderately fertile, dry, well-drained soil in full sun.
Acacias are useful garden shrubs where space is not a problem, but they have never been popular house plants. The spreading branches bear feathery leaves or spiny false leaves known as phylloclades, and in winter or spring the characteristic yellow flower-heads appear.
These are clusters of small powder-puffs which are much more popular in flower arrangements than in house plant collections. Keep the plant under control by cutting back straggly and unwanted growth once flowering has finished, and keep it robust by feeding and watering regularly during the growing season. If you can, place the pot outside in a sheltered spot in garden once summer arrives. Bring plant back indoors in fall.
Most perennial winter plants are dormant in winter and start shooting out of the ground in spring, so the ones that do flower in winter are eye-catching. The following provide an exciting glimpse of what can be grown in the winter garden, when many plants are resting.
Helleborus – This is an important genus from the gardener’s point of view, with many desirable plants, all with nodding flowers and handsome, more or less evergreen leaves. They are indispensable in the winter garden. All Hellebores thrive in the shade of deciduous trees and shrubs and will even tolerate heavy shade next to a wall. They are easy to grow in any fertile, well-drained soil in sun or shade. All are poisonous.
The Aeonium is a succulent, subtropical garden plant of the genus Aeonium and family Crassulaceae, native to the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean region of North Africa. If a plant looks like a hens and chickens on top of a thick stalk it is possibly an aeonium. They look very much like the sempervivums of Europe and the echeverias of Mexico and Central America.
Aeonium has light yellow flowers that form long clusters. In most cases the plant dies after flowering when the seed matures. Don’t be too hasty in composting the plant, though, new rosettes sometimes appear lower down on the stems.