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Make Plans and Get Planting

Winter is finally here. I sit at my desk and watch the garden birds flitter about in the gnarled old apple tree. Remnant of a time when this part of Cheltenham was orchards. The sparrows and great tits fly from branch to branch, stopping periodically at the bird feeders for a beakful of seeds.

I enjoy sitting in silence, watching the birds. It's a distraction I don't mind having. Even though I know there are other tasks I should be doing.

Garden growth slows in winter and a lot of plants that leaf and bloom in the warmer half of the year shut down and disappear underground. Waiting for the weather to warm up before bursting into new life.

This time of year gives us opportunities to plan and plant. To move and divide existing plants, to possibly add some new.

Shrubs and Trees

There is an important need, for shrubs and trees in our gardens. Shrubs and trees provide vital shelter for birds, perches for them to sit and watch the garden below. Flowering specimens provide pollen, nectar and often seeds and fruit too. The roots help to keep the soil healthy.

Shrubs and trees are amazingly versatile. They create structure and nestle in with grasses and perennials, contrasting against the softer shapes of smaller plants.

When selecting larger plants for your own garden there are a number of factors to consider:

  1. Think about the overall size of the plant. It may be sold to you small but it won't stay small. How much space will it take up in two years? Five years? Ten years? And in the case of a tree 50 to 100, often more? Specimen trees and shrubs should be planted to last and require long term planning.

  2. Positioning and soil type are important too. Where will you place your new shrub and will it be happy there? If you are unsure ask the plant nursery and also check the Royal Horticultural Society website. A quick look here will tell you what soil the plant likes and if it prefers sunshine or shade.

  3. Consider what you want from the tree or shrub. Will it provide shade for your garden? Is it being planted to encourage wildlife? Do you want something with edible fruits or leaves that you can enjoy? Does it need to provide screening? What parts of the plant appearance are important to you? Leaf shape and colour, flowers or bark, berries?

There is a lot to consider and putting the time in to choose the right plant will save you having to replace it.

I have my own favourites. For small to medium sized gardens you could try:

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)

Best for autumn colour, maples are a fantastic addition to a garden. Acer palmatum types are good for smaller spaces as they usually have more compact growth. Make sure to check that the variety you choose is the right size for your garden and position it in a sheltered area in full sun or partial shade.

Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Best for wildlife and a British native, hazel is a beautiful tree or small shrub. It provides gorgeous fluffy catkins in early spring and edible nuts in autumn. The tree itself has a lovely shape and can quite easily be kept small (with the right pruning) for more compact spaces. I coppice the small hazel in my garden to encourage long straight staves of wood which can be used to create supports for peas and beans.

Dogwood (Cornus sanguines 'Midwinter Fire')

Best for winter bark, wildlife and wreath making. This type of dogwood has pretty clusters of white flowers throughout May and June and attractive foliage which turns from green to red in the Autumn months before the leaves fall to reveal gorgeous bright red winter stems.

Easy to grow, forming a compact and upright shrub. Plant in full sun or part shade. For the best stem colour, leave the plant unpruned for the first year of planting and then cut back hard to within 5 to 10 cm from the ground.

Rosmarinus 'Miss Jessop's Upright' (rosemary)

Best edible shrub. An invaluable plant not only for its evergreen, bushy foliage and early blue flowers in spring, but also because it can be harvested all year round for use in the kitchen. Rosemary is also a useful medicinal plant. A simple tea made from fresh rosemary leaves is packed with antioxidants and is good for memory and brain function.

Plant in a sunny and open position.

Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price'

Best for winter flowers and evergreen foliage. This hardy Viburnum is a lovely addition to a planting scheme. If you are limited for space you can grow it as a half standard (Lolli popped like you would a bay tree) and keep it to the size you want. If your garden is larger you can allow this shrub to grow to its full potential, almost 3 metres high. Alternatively you can use Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price' to form a lovely evergreen hedge.

The clusters of pinkish white flowers appear in the winter months, eventually forming small, dark blue berries. The foliage is dark green and shiny. This plant is also a great addition to a wildlife friendly garden, providing habitat for birds and other garden creatures.


Do you need help choosing the right plants for your garden? Wild Edge Garden Design is here to help.


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