Walking around my garden at the weekend I couldn’t help but think how drab it was looking. The browns of dried grasses and seed heads may add interest and structure to my winter garden, but under the grey sky I found myself craving dashes of red, yellow, white and pink.
Whilst I do have evergreen shrubs such as Hebe, Vibernum tinus and Osmanthus dotted here and there with small splashes of colour coming from primulas, snowdrops and Helleborus niger, I know there is more I can add to help combat those dreary, winter days.
If you were to drive around southern France in February and March you’d be greeted by the sight and heady aroma of the gorgeous yellow flowered Mimosa. Even garden centres local to us here are bursting to the seams with them for sale at the moment. Whilst Mimosa may thrive in warmer regions of France, it certainly wouldn’t where I live, at almost 800m in the Parc Naturel de Millevaches. Here, even though we’ve reached mid February, we still have the possibility of more freezing temperatures and snow ahead, so anything I choose for my winter garden must be hardy.
Here are my top 8 flowering, hardy plants that will add a welcome dash of colour to any garden in the depths of winter.
Mahonia x media ‘Winter sun’ – A fully hardy, evergreen shrub which has spikes of vivid yellow flowers from November through to March. The flowers are followed in early spring by deep purple berries which are hugely enjoyed by birds and perfectly fill the early season feeding gap. Plant in full or partial shade and in well-drained or moist soil.
Lonicera x purpusii Winter beauty. I keep reading about this fully hardy, winter flowering honeysuckle and I really must buy one! Clusters of white, highly scented tubular flowers appear on bare branches from December to March. A real winner for the winter garden that will also provide nectar for any pollinators who venture out early in the year.
Sarcococca hookeriana var humilis. A compact, evergreen shrub which is covered in highly scented, white flowers from December to March. They prefer to be planted in partial to full shade, and will even tolerate dry shade. If planted in full sun, they need to be kept well watered. There are quite a few different varieties of Sarcococca, most of which are hardy, but I have chosen this one as it only reaches a height of about 60cm making it perfect to use as an alternative to the traditional box in the formal garden I’m creating this year. As a bonus the flowers are followed by berries for the birds to enjoy!
Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve.’ A good, old fashioned wallflower, but one that just keeps on blooming! Its masses of mauve flowers come to life in February and will keep on going until Autumn. Reaching a height of about 75cm, it’s a real winner with pollinators too.
Iris unguicularis. Algerian Iris. A beautiful, blue winter flowering Iris that will reach a height of about 30cm. It is best planted in a dry, sunny location and grows particularly well at the base of a wall. Its lovely, heavily scented flowers can open as early as December and will last until early April. A word of warning though, it’s loved by slugs!
Eranthis hyemalis, Winter aconite. Bright yellow, buttercup like flowers appear from January into February. They like full sun or partial shade and are perfect for planting under deciduous trees and shrubs. For full effect they should be planted in large drifts to create a rich carpet of sunny yellow.
Abeliophyllum distichum ‘Roseum Group’ White forsythia. Through February and March this deciduous shrub is covered in pale pink, delicately scented, star shaped flowers. It can be kept as a shrub or trained against the wall of a house. It should be planted in full sun, and well-drained soil.
Jasmine nudiflorum, Winter Jasmine. A lovely, green stemmed climber that is packed with bright yellow flowers from January to March. Suitable for full sun, or partial shade, it can be grown up trellis or just left to drape itself over low walls.
Determined to chase away the winter blues, not only for myself but for any early rising butterflies, bees and other insects in search of nectar, I’ve added these eight winter flowering plants to my wish list and popped it into my handbag. You just never know when you may stumble across a garden centre or nursery, and it is my birthday this weekend …. 😉
I’d love to know what plants you grow in your garden for winter colour, please do leave your comments in the box below.