Creating A Beautiful Winter Garden

Winter gardens can be extraordinarily beautiful. They may lack colorful beds and borders, but they often have a subtler, more satisfying attraction. There is, of course, no lack of color if you look closely. Many trees and shrubs bear vivid red, yellow or orange berries, and there are plenty of bulbs that flower in depths of winter.

Evergreen plants and conifers provide form and texture in every shade of green. It is in winter, however, that the underlying structure of the garden can be appreciated. Unclothed pergolas and trellises can be admired, while ornaments, such as terracotta urns and stone sundials, can be enjoyed for themselves.

cotoneaster

Cotoneaster

Winter gardens can easily be brightened up. When you are planning your winter garden, think about the effect that you want to achieve, not just about how the individual plant will look when it is in full bloom or leaf. There is a vast range of plants, from trees and shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen, to tiny bulbs, that can be used to provide interest all winter long.

The winter garden can be a mass of color. Early-flowering bulbs, such as Crocus sieberi and its cultivars, can be allowed to naturalize in grass to provide a carpet of color.

crocus-sieberi

Crocus sieberi

In late winter, the tiny Iris reticulata has rich purple flowers, splashed with yellow. Iris danfordiae, another early flowerer, has scented yellow blooms. Iris unguicularis might be in flower before Christmas day if there has been a long, hot summer.

Colorful berries abound on many forms of cotoneaster and holly. If they are not eaten by birds, the red berries of Cotoneaster horizontalis last until midwinter, and the yellow berries of Cotoneaster salicifolius last well into winter. If you want holly berries, make sure you plant both male and female forms or a self-fertile form.

mahonia

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’


Among the delights of a well-planned winter garden will be the subtle aromas of carefully selected shrubs and bulbs, all the more welcome for being unexpected. Particularly nice is Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ with bright yellow fragrant flowers in dense clusters from late fall to late winter. Its erect shrub has dark green leaves, sharply toothed. Look out for viburnums and daphnes – the deciduous Viburnum x bodnantense bears strongly scented white to pink flowers from fall to spring, while the evergreen Daphne odora has clusters of fragrant, purplish-pink to white flowers from midwinter to spring.

daphne-odora

Daphne odora

It is easy to overlook the attractive bark of many trees, which is often visible only in winter. Perhaps the most exciting of the trees with interesting bark is the compact Prunus serrula. It has smooth, rich red-brown bark, which peels to reveal gold-colored bands.

Tilia platyphyllus ‘Rubra’ also provides vibrant winter color. The mass of bright red, twiggy growth at the top of the tree looks sensational when the ground below is covered with snow. Among the best of the white-barked trees is the lovely birch, Betula utilis var. jacquemontii ‘Silver Shadow’. Look out, too, for shrubs with colorful shoots. One of the best is Cornus alba (red-barked dogwood), which has extraordinary, bright red new stems.

prunus-serrula

Prunus serrula

viburnum

Viburnum x bodnantense “Dawn”

cornus-alba

top left: Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’, bottom left: Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, right: Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’

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