Here in North Wales the snow has started to gently fall, covering the garden in a soft wintery blanket. At this time of year it is easy to ignore the garden in favour of a roaring log fire but even in the depths of winter there are flowers to enjoy and sure signs that spring is only just around the corner. Perhaps one of the most iconic winter flowers is the snowdrop, it’s beauty in the delicate drooping heads that bely their toughness to withstand a wintry battering.
Now is the perfect time to plan where you might like a swathe of snowdrops, so they can be ordered ‘in the green’ as they finish flowering. They definitely benefit from being planted in large groups so buy as many as you can afford. They look particularly effective around the trunk of small ornamental trees.
Another plant that has been shining brightly through the dulness of winter is the Hamamelis, more commonly referred to as Witch Hazel. Its spidery yellow flowers coat the otherwise bear stems and are often lightly fragranced. We also have the more fiery coloured ‘Jelena’ although this has very little scent. Both are situated near enough a path to enjoy the scent, as well as the colour, as you pass to and from the house. The flowers are unaffected by the cold weather and can last for up to six weeks. Planted in small groupings this can really add an explosion of colour to an otherwise drab winter border.
The hellebores are also now in full show. The leaves often hide the newly emerging flowers and can be removed, starting with any diseased growth, which can carry the hellebore leaf spot fungus.
Winter colour is not just about flowers but can also be provided by interesting foliage. Variegated hollies are tough plants that can also provide good structure by trimming them into spheres, pyramids or standards. They can also benefit from colour, in the form of the usually red berries found on female plants. The silvery outline of ‘Argentina Marginata’ looks particularly effective on a frosty morning and is my favourite of the variegated hollies.
We have many roses dotted around the garden but ‘The Generous Gardener’ has stood out as a great all round performer, clothing our pergola with delicately pink flowers in summer. Not only is it a repeat flowerer and strong climber, it also has a really good scent as well as beautiful large red rose hips that have lasted well into winter. This has provided our pergola with almost year round interest.
In the shaded driveway border the Sarcococca has been flowering well. This understated evergreen is often overlooked but is a useful plant in deeply shaded areas especially near paths. The small white flowers are highly scented and clothe the shrub for weeks from January onwards. The rest of the year the glossy foliage provides a fairly compact structure that won’t outgrow its space.
The first crocus have just begun to show their heads. Planted in containers they can brighten up an entranceway or, if space allows, large groups among grass creates a beautiful naturalised look. They will also finish and die back sooner than naturalised daffodils and therefore normal mowing can resume more promptly in spring.
Once i get a chance the next job will be to start pruning the orchard.