Sunday, 18 January 2015

Harbingers of Spring

Happy New Cheer!

Welcome to the new gardening year and a time to savor and delight in the first signs of colour re-appearing in the beds and borders. Here are some of the 'must have' plants to have in any garden. The sight yesterday of the first Snowdrops and Winter Aconites lifts the spirits and starts us looking forward to the unfolding tapestry of colours to follow throughout the year. 

The 1st snowdrop saying 'hello' yesterday. Even the narcissus (so early for the time of year) was enjoying the warmth of the winter sun. 

Above we have the invaluable Cyclamen coum (left). Available in shades of pink and often with attractive leaf markings they freely spread from seed if left to naturalize. As do the winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) and snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) the latter, being bulbous, forming large clumps which can be lifted and divided immediately after flowering.

I would never be without the winter flowering jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) on the left. A sprawling, ground covering shrub with flexible stems by nature but usually trained against a wall or fence to give flushes of flower from mid November until early spring. Excellent too as a cut flower for a small arrangement indoors. Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun' does what it says on the tin!! Large, highly fragrant spikes of sunshine yellow flowers over a long period from late November. A striking, architectural, large evergreen shrub for sun or shade.

The bright red stems of Cornus alba 'Sibirica' lend drama to the garden throughout the winter. Along with other members of the Cornus family with attractively coloured stems, these dogwoods are easy to grow in any reasonable soil in sun or shade. For the brightest winter colour remove old wood on a regular basis. To the front we have Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' (left) and Skimmia x confusa Kew Green. Slow growing. compact evergreens the heads of flower buds add interest from mid autumn until the white, highly fragrant flowers open in April. Female varieties will also carry bright red berries in autumn if pollinated by a male clone. Best in a neutral to acid soil in part shade.

Prunus x subhirtella 'Autumnalis' (left) carries sprays of small flowers in flushes from November until finishing in a magnificent cloud of white flushed pink as the leaves emerge in spring. A medium size, open tree with smallish leaves on twiggy stems. The highly fragrant 'winter sweet' (Chimonanthus fragrans) flowering now. Takes a few years to come into it's own but well worth the wait!
I hope you have enjoyed my ramble through some of the plants which add so much to the garden during winter. There are many more to be seen in the nursery including a large selection of Birches with superb bark and winter tracery. May I suggest take a visit to Anglesey Abbey and Cambridge Botanic Gardens now to see winter gardens in all their glory. I am sure they will inspire you to think of what you can achieve even on a small scale. Happy winter gardening!