Archive for the ‘Winter Gardening’ Category


“Making Scents…”

March 6, 2012

It may surprise you to know that there are plenty of scented flowers available for the drab winter months. Yes that’s right, even in the cold depths of winter there are some flowering gems that brave the inclement weather and there’s nothing like winter scent to entice you into the garden to lift your sprits.

Viburnums are always good value for the garden and there are several varieties to chose from, but remember that some Viburnums will grow into large shrubs. Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is studded with clusters of strong honey-fragrant pink flowers that bloom on bare leafless stems from autumn through to spring. This shrub can reach a height of up to ten feet. The Viburnum tinus is an evergreen shrub with heads of reddish buds that open into many white flowers that have a subtle fragrance from autumn onwards.

The Chimonanthus praecox ‘Grandiflorus’, Wintersweet gives off a fabulous scent from its waxy looking small yellow cup-shaped flowers. The flowers are on bare shoots throughout winter and this shrub can grow to a height of eight feet.

The Sarcococca hookeriana, also known as the Christmas Box or Sweet Box, is a four foot evergreen shrub which has sweetly scented small white flowers in winter that has the bonus of being followed by spherical blue-black berries.

There is a Winter Honeysuckle, Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ with fragrant small white flowers that bloom from winter to early spring and has a spreading habit of up to six feet.

For excellent winter interest, choose the Witch Hazel, Hamamelis. It has wonderful clusters of spidery- shaped orange fragrant flowers on bare twigs. This particular shrub has a tree-like shape and can grow up to twelve feet.

A super treat in the winter is the rich scent of the Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’. This shrub is best grown in a sheltered position and for this it will reward you with sugar pink clusters of richly fragrant flowers that bloom over a long period.

I’m a big fan of the Mahonia x media ‘Charity’, it’s big and bold with architectural evergreen foliage and has several long cylindrical spikes of tiny yellow flowers. The lovely scent is similar to that of the ‘Lilly of the Valley’.

So, the next time you see a winter flowering plant, check it out to see if it has as fragrance to lift your spirit in a winter garden.



There’s Something Astir In The Garden Already…

February 13, 2012

Early spring flowers are now awaking, starting to stir and will soon burst into bloom to give the garden some much-needed masses of colour to bring it alive. The sap is slowly starting to rise with the anticipation of a new season just around the corner and there are plenty of plants to look out for during the month of February.

Regular readers of my column will know that one of my favourite flowers is the Iris, and in February the early-flowering dwarf Iris makes its appearance. This dainty little flower grows only to a height of about six nar.jpginches and comes in a variety of colours from yellow, blue or purple and usually has pretty markings on its petals. They’re best grown in a sunny spot and perhaps in a raised bed or container so that their beauty can be admired at close hand.

One early flowing Narcissus is the Narcissus cyclamineus, the Wild Narcissus. This is also a very dainty plant and grows to six to eight inches tall and has golden yellow flowers with swept-backed petals. Grow this vigorous perennial bulb in rock or a woodland garden or alternatively you could naturalise it in your lawn.

The Crocus has been a favourite in many of our gardens and there is an early variety to start colouring up the garden this month called Crocus tommasinianus. This pretty goblet shaped flower comes in a choice of colours of white, lilac and purple.

Primrose-Polyanthus primulas are a very diverse group of winter to spring flowering perennial that come in a wide range of bright colours. They are commercially grown for bedding or containers to produce early flowering plants and they remind me of pretty small Victorian posies and are plants to look out for during this month.

One particular Clematis that’ll be coming into flower around now is thefreckles.jpg Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’. This late winter flowering Clematis has creamy-white flowers with delightful red speckles. Grow this in sun, although it will tolerate dappled shade against a wall or through a deciduous tree to give winter interest.

A very useful early flowering shrub for the garden is the Chaenomeles, or better known as the Ornamental Quince. It’s quite a versatile shrub as it can tolerate a shady site and can be grown in a shrub border or be trained against a wall. This shrub has lovely dense clusters of cup-shaped flowers which come in a variety of colours from white to various shades of pink or apricot through to more brash shades of red. This shrub provides autumn interest when it produces its small apple-like fruits, Quince.

Even in the last month of winter our gardens can produce a cheery colourful sight with early flowering plants… a sure true sign that spring is on its way.


Do You Dig It?…

February 2, 2012

wwwgardendesignercouk-19.jpgI am always glad to see the end of January as it feels such a long dreary dull month. Now we’re in February the days are getting noticeably longer and spring is thankfully just a month away.

One welcome sight I can see from my kitchen window is my evergreen Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’, which has now developed lots of new buds and will give me a mass of early slightly scented pinky-white flowers to admire.

At my local supermarket I noticed a wide selection of seeds for sale which included vegetables, flowers and easy-growing seeds for children. So why not use the time now to plan your vegetable bed and stick to your healthy eating New Year’s resolution by growing your very own organic produce?

Does your flowerbed need a bit more colour with flowers in it? Well with a bit of early forward planning and with a couple of packets of seeds you’ll soon have a blooming colourful garden by the summer.

If you feel the need to get out into the garden and get some fresh air and exercise after the long winter months, around this time you’ll find there are already jobs you can be doing and you’ll soon warm up with the exercise. Another way of sticking to your healthy New Year’s resolution!

One job that will definitely keep you warm and fit is forking compost into your soil. This will benefit it by improving the texture and also help keep it free draining.

After the winter months (if you didn’t dig over the garden in the autumn) the soil will have become compacted by the winter rains and by incorporating organic matter into it, you’ll help any new plants to establish a healthy root system. But if digging is too much like hard work, then you can simply leave the compost on top of the soil and the helpful earthworms should pull the compost down into the soil for you.

If you are planning to plant some vegetable into the garden the earlier you start planting the earlier you’ll get your harvest. If you haven’t got a greenhouse, one way to achieve is to buy a cloche, which is a mini polythene tunnel, or make one yourself with wire coat hangers bent into arches and cover with a strong clear plastic sheeting. If you do this soon enough you will ensure that the soil is warmed up and nice and ready for your early crop sowing.



Planning The Year Ahead!

January 25, 2012

flora4.jpgIt’s during this time of year that many of us plan our next summer holidays and possibly reminisce about our last summer’s break.

When I’m on my summer holidays in my favourite parts of the world, I often think how nice it must be to live in the part of the world where the sun shines most of the time, and then I realise how much I would miss what we have here…

… seasons.

It’s with the seasons that we’re lucky enough to have such a wide variety of plants.

I know that most of us hate the dreary winter months, but natural beauty can still be found in our winter gardens. A winter garden shifts its emphasis from the focus and details of leaves, flowers and colour to more of the outlines of solid and definite geometric shapes.

There’s nothing like a cold frosty morning with the garden sparkling and glistening as the sunlight shines on the plants creating a vivid winter wonderland. I think our gardens take on a completely new dimension in the winter, particularly when it snows and it all looks neat, clean, crisp and uncluttered.

If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor lighting, don’t just use it in theflora4.jpg summer nights when you’re outside with friends, turn it on in the winter evenings and enjoy your stunning night-time winter garden. The forms and structures of a garden such as deciduous trees and pergolas become striking canopies covered with frost or snow, and the winter’s low sun angle will create artistic silhouettes and shadows.

Clipped hedging and topiary create prefect shapes and I think they’re the backbone to a winter garden. A well placed statue or an decorative bench will create a focal point and add interest to dull corner and in a winter garden and will come into its own when most of the surrounding plants will have lost their softening foliage.

Certain plants look so lovely when touched by the frost such as the fine foliage or feathery plume seed heads of ornamental grasses or the frozen long pendent catkins that look like hanging Christmas tree decorations of the evergreen shrub Garrya elliptica.

It’s always interesting going abroad and seeing the native plants and even the weeds; some of which we here regard as tropical plants, however it’s always good to come home to my own garden… and of course, the British seasons.

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In The Cold Of Winter

January 12, 2012

I feel that there is always a special beauty in a winter garden, especially when the frost is glistening on the plants or if there is a blanket of snow covering the trees and shrubs. It never fails to make the garden seem all the more magical for me.

But how do plants survive when temperatures drop so low and they are covered in snow or frozen by the frost? Snow can actually act as insulation for some plants protecting them from the freezing cold.

The damage snow can do to plants is to break branches or stems with its weight, so if there is snow sitting heavily on a plant then simply brush it off. In harsh weather some plants shut down and become dormant to protect themselves. Many plants will reduce their moisture levels or water movement during the wintertime to help avoid frost damage. Most plants are not resilient to cold weather, so they develop hardiness as the light levels decrease and as the length of days shorten. So a sudden hard frost early autumn or late spring will do more damage to the plant injuring un-hardened tissues.

Underground parts of plants such as the roots, or bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes are less resistant to the cold as those parts above ground as soil temperatures do not fall as low as the air temperature. These underground parts of plants also act as storage organs for both food and water supply for the plant. The composition of the food material also helps prevent these organs for being frozen by freezing temperatures.

Some plants, such as alpine plants, have adapted well to growing in harsh cold conditions by growing low in compact or mound form as this helps them to withstand the weight of heavy snow. Plants in containers outside may need some insulation for extra protection, as there is not so much soil around it to protect it.

Slightly tender perennials or shrubs can be given extra protection form the frost with a good layer of leaf mould or a layer of straw packed around the base and steams of the plant. We may not be very busy in our gardens at the moment, but we can enjoy, appreciate and marvel at the different natural qualities our garden takes during these winter month.

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