There’s a stark beauty about winter that I love. Low light and misty mornings create a moody atmosphere in the garden while crisp, clear days are perfect for showing off coloured stems and bark.
It’s a season for structure and form with flashes of brilliant colour, be it berries hanging from trees or the jewel-like hues of cyclamen.
Scent is particularly important and fragrance carried on cold winter air is something to be savoured.
Plants that perform over winter take on a greater significance, their role that much bigger when there’s little else around. Choose carefully and site things where you can see them from the warmth of the house, or along paths that you’ll use regularly.
Here are a few things that I believe earn their place in a winter garden.
Betula pendula – it may look good all year but the silver birch stands out in winter. Its white stems have a ghostly element that is perfect for the season. Try underplanting it with dark hellebore and crocus.
Cornus alba, C. sericea, and C. sanguinea – out of fashion maybe but who can fail to be stirred by the sight of brilliant red, chartreuse or orange stems on a dull day. Get the best colour by cutting back in spring to encourage new growth.
Sarcococcoa – an unassuming shrub with memorable scent. Plant this evergreen close to a door or gate to get maximum benefit.
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ – clear pink flowers that have a wonderful sweet fragrance in the midst of winter.
Hamamelis – witch hazels have wonderful spidery flowers on bare stems that will fill your garden with scent and colour.
Stachyurus praecox – for something a little different plant this arching shrub in acid soil where you can enjoy the racemes of pale flowers in late winter.
Cornus 'Porlock' - this is a particular favourite. I love it for the creamy bracts and strawberry-like red winter fruit.