I often hear people talk about putting the garden to bed for the winter. I'm never entirely happy with this phrase as I don't think the garden stops doing its thing simply because it's cold. Regardless of what time of year, there are still a myriad of important processes taking place in the garden. The hedgehogs may be hibernating, but the birds are usually out and about in search of food to keep them going through the winter months, and there are millions of tiny life forms that go about their day to day business unnoticed by us, playing a vital role in our local ecosystems.
And while there may be less to do in the garden (the weeds certainly slow down a little bit), there are still a few star plants that like to put on a bit of fuss. Perhaps these are the really clever plants – shining when there is less competition so they are sure to stand out. I've listed three of my favourites below:
Helleborus niger (the Christmas rose)
I know that this little plant has been done to death over the last few years (and last year I heard someone, I can't remember who, refer to them as 'Helle-boring'!), but I can't help but love them. What's not to like about a compact plant with shiny green, lobed, leathery foliage that looks good throughout the year with bright white flowers emerging in January and February?
It is always lovely to see a plant cheerily flowering in the darkest months of the year.
Easy to grow, hardy and happiest in a partially shaded border, I would recommend planting Hellebores at the front of a border in small groups where they can be seen and will be noticed in the winter months (perhaps along a front garden pathway?). Pair with an evergreen grass, such as Carex testacea.
This hardy, winter flowering Viburnum, is a lovely addition to any garden. If you are limited for space you can grow it as a half standard (lollipopped 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.
An evergreen Viburnum with pretty clusters of pinkish white flowers that appear in the winter months, eventually forming small, dark blue berries. The foliage is dark green and shiny and this plant is a great addition to a wildlife friendly garden as it provides habitat for birds and other garden creatures and is an early source of forage for birds and other insects.
Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty' (winter honeysuckle)
This honeysuckle doesn't look like much in the summer months, but really comes into its own in the middle of winter when white, tube shaped flowers appear, lasting until February. Not only do the flowers add a much needed splash of colour (pure white with yellow anthers) but they are also gloriously scented. and so should be planted near a doorway or well-used path, where they can be appreciated.
For best results, plant this honeysuckle in full sun in a moist but well-drained soil. Site near a doorway or along a well-used path, where the scent can be appreciated.
As with all honeysuckles, this climber is an excellent addition to a wildlife friendly garden as it provides a source of nectar for bees and other pollinators.
For advice on what to plant when, get in touch with Wild Edge Garden Design.