Our Favourite Winter Plants

Favourite Winter Plants

Here are some of our favourite winter plants, chosen for their kaleidoscope of colour from berries, bark, leaves and flowers.

1. The Fashionable Flower - Helleborus ‘Snow Dance’

It is hard to believe that two decades ago hellebores were grown only by real enthusiasts – today they are the height of fashion, prized for their elegant flowers which will light up a shady area of the garden. ‘Snow Dance’ is a delightful new variety, with unusual red stems and dusky pink buds that open to reveal cream flowers, later ageing to a shade of pinky yellow.

Planting position: Partial shade.
Height: 45cm, with a spread of 45cm.
Care: Keep well watered during dry spells, and add leaf mould or other organic matter in spring and autumn.

2. The Scent Sensation - Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

If you are walking through a park in winter and are stopped in your tracks by a heady fragrance, the chances are that you are close to this superb viburnum. Its bare stems carry dense clusters of small pink flowers that release one of winter’s best scents.

Planting position: Grow it near the house where you can fully appreciate it; this shrub will do well in sun or dappled shade.
Height: 2.5m, with a spread of 1.5m.
Care: It can be pruned hard if you want to keep the plant compact.

3. The Tough Customer - Viburnum tinus ‘Lisarose’

This tough evergreen shrub has red buds that, from December to March, open to reveal charming clusters of fragrant white flowers. If you plant several Viburnum tinus together, they will make a pretty flowering hedge.

Planting position: It is tolerant of all types of soil, apart from very dry conditions, and will do well in sun or shade.
Height: 2.5m, with a spread of 2.5m.
Care: Remove any overlong shoots in early summer.

4. The Winter Wonder - Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Carol’

Members of the buttercup family, hellebores are among the most eagerly awaited and resilient of winter flowers, as they will bloom through anything – snow, ice or rain. From December to February, ‘Christmas Carol’ produces clusters of pure white flowers with golden yellow stamens, then the flowers take on a tinge of pink as they age.

Planting position: Partial shade.
Height: 30cm, with a spread of 45cm.
Care: To show off the blooms to their best effect, cut back the leaves in winter as the flower buds start to emerge.

5. The Colourful All-Rounder - Cornus alba ‘Baton Rouge’

This popular dogwood offers a wealth of colour right through the year. The leaves turn orange or red in autumn, followed by white flowers and bluish-white berries in summer. But most striking of all is the winter colour: dramatic crimson stems that look dazzling on a crisp, cold day. For an even more vibrant display, underplant with primroses or hellebores.

Planting position: Full sun.
Height: 2.5m, with a spread of 2.5m.
Care: For the best winter colour, cut the stems back hard in early spring – although that does mean sacrificing the flowers and berries.

6. The Curly Charmer - Leucothoe ‘Curly Red’

If you are looking for a hardy, evergreen shrub with lots of personality, this could be the one for you. Ideal for either a large container or a border, it has shiny, unusually crinkled leaves that turn a beautiful red during autumn and winter.

Planting position: Grow in full sun or partial shade.
Height: 60cm, with a spread of 180cm.
Care: Leucothoe needs an acidic soil to thrive, the same type as that loved by camellias and rhododendrons – so if you are planting it in a pot, be sure to use ericaceous (acidic) compost.

7. The Effortlessly Elegant One - Buxus pyramid

Box – Buxus sempervirens – is one of those plants that simply oozes style. Evergreen box can be topiarised into dozens of different shapes, but one of the most popular choices is a pyramid, a tapering form that draws the eye and adds a touch of class to any outside space. Plant a pair of box pyramids in terracotta containers on either side of your front door to create an elegant entry, or position one as a focal point on your patio.

Planting position: Sun or shade.
Height: From 30cm to over 1.5m, depending on how you keep it trimmed; spread from 40cm.
Care: Trim regularly to maintain the crisp lines of the pyramid, or neaten whatever shape you prefer.


Credit: Constance Craig Smith