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Plants for winter interest

14 November 2017 0 Comments
  • Many plants with winter interest are scented, most are shade tolerant, and some are adaptable to life in containers so can be moved in and out of the limelight according to the season. The sight and scent of these valuable plants can cheer up a dull time of the year.


    Quick facts

    Five top plants for winter interest:

    ·         Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca 

    ·         Helleborus niger

    ·         Mahonia × media ‘Winter Sun’

    ·         Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna

    ·         Stachyurus praecox


    Interest in the winter may come from flowers, scent, berries, coloured stems or dramatic evergreen foliage. Plants with fragrance are best appreciated when planted by doorways or entrances in regular winter use. Since some are not particularly attractive during the summer months, you may find it useful to plant in containers and change plantings according to the seasons.

    Practical considerations

    Before embarking on creating your winter displays consider the following points;

    ·         Containers are a great way of growing many of these plants to provide winter interest. Use loam-based compost, such as John Innes No 2

    ·         Flowering of shrubs can be sporadic over several weeks or months, depending on the severity of the winter

    ·         If you plan to train shrubs to a wall, first ensure that a satisfactory method of support can be erected or attached to the wall

    Suitable plants

    Heights given are approximate and they may vary under differing conditions. Shrubs may take several years to reach their ultimate height. When positioning the shrubs, take into account their eventual size.

    Shrubs (deciduous)

    ·         Abeliophyllum distichum – fragrant white flowers in February. Height 2m (6½ft)

    ·         Daphne mezereum – purple-red flowers in February–April. Good in chalky soil. Height 1.5m (5ft)

    ·         Hamamelis × intermedia – several cultivars; fragrant yellow or orange flowers between December and March. Height 1.8–3m (6–10ft)

    Shrubs (evergreen)

    ·         Arbutus unedo AGM – white or tinged pink flowers between October and December. Height 4.5-6m (15-20ft)

    ·         Elaeagnus pungens 'Maculata' (v) AGM – small, silvery white flowers between October and January. Height 2.4-4.5m (8-15ft)

    ·         Mahonia × media 'Charity' AGM – yellow spikes of flowers in November and December. Height 3-4.5m (10-15ft)


    ·         Clematis cirrhosa – cream flowers from November to March. Height 4m (13ft)

    ·         Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica AGM – cream spotted red/maroon flowers from November to March. Height 4m (13ft)

    ·         Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles' AGM – cream flecked maroon/violet flowers from November to March. Height 4m (13ft)

    Herbaceous perennials

    ·         Bergenia – several species/cultivars with pink or white flowers from January to April. Height: 20-40cm (8-15in)

    ·         Helleborus niger AGM – white flowers from December to March. Height 30-45cm (1ft-18in)

    ·         Iris unguicularis AGM – lilac flowers from October to March. Height 22cm (9in)


    ·         Eranthis hyemalis AGM – yellow flowers from January to March. Height 15cm (6in)

    ·         Galanthus nivalis AGM – white flowers from January to February. Height 7–10cm (3–4in)

    ·         Scilla mischtschenkoana ‘Tubergeniana’ (syn. S. tubergeniana) AGM – pale blue flowers in February. Height: 10–15cm (4–6in)


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