Here we are in the middle of January, Christmas has come and gone, temperatures have dropped and once again we are stuck at home. Take heart! There are plenty of positives to help us feel hopeful in the garden. The evenings are slowly drawing out again, we can almost work until 4.30pm outside before it gets dark, the bulbs of snowdrops and early daffodils are starting to push through and if you look hard enough you can find splashes of flower colour to lift your spirits. Goodness knows we could do with a bit of brightness right now so here are our top ten winter flowering plants.
1. Amarhyllis – We absolutely adore amarhyllis, especially the red ones and try to get one every Christmas. This type isn’t an outdoor garden plant as it is frost tender but it will certainly brighten up any home and if you are working from home at the moment then having something like this to look at every day is sure to make you smile. Put somewhere bright but not in direct sunlight.
2. Cyclamen coum – these hardy cyclamen are tuberous perennials that have the most wonderful bright pink flowers with attractive marbled leaves. These little beauties really stand out in the garden at this time of year and look fab when planted under shrubs and trees. Quite robust little plants, but prefer well drained soils.
3. Winter flowering Viburnums – Viburnum bodnantense and Viburnum tinus
Viburnums are quite a large group of shrubs that flower throughout the year but we’ve picked two that are flowering now. Viburnum bodnantense is probably our favourite especially a variety called ‘Dawn’. This one is deciduous with beautiful pastel pink flowers that really pop in the January low light levels. Incredibly easy to grow.
Viburnum tinus, although a very widely grown shrub and its leaves can smell a bit of cat wee it certainly does have a place in a winter garden. ‘Eve Price’ is a nice variety. Prolific white-pink flowers and glossy evergreen leaves and very robust, just look out for Viburnum beetle.
4. Witch hazels – Posh name Hamamelis. Lightly scented spider like flowers in yellow, orange and red. Most are quite undemanding, happy in full sun or partial shade, tend to be slow growing, low maintenance and don’t need too much pruning. They also have colourful leaves in the autumn.
Hamamelis intermedia ‘Pallida’ – yellow flowers
Hamamelis intermedia ‘Jelena’ – orange flowers
Hamamelis intermedia ‘Diane’ – ruby red flowers
5. Aconites – Eranthis hyemalis – Winter aconites are the earliest bulb to flower and very welcome when their little yellow flowers burst at the beginning of January. Perfect for planting under trees, shrubs and roses. They flower into February before quickly dying down again.
6. Mahonnia media ‘Charity’ – Widely available and certainly not unusual but useful nonetheless. A spikey, upright and evergreen shrub that can look quite architectural in the garden. They have clusters of highly scented small yellow flowers that can brighten up any outdoor space. Good for insects and the birds love the berries. Plant in any soil. Quite happy in shade.
7. Helleborus niger – Christmas Rose – Stunning pure white or pink-tinged white flowers. Hellebores are easy to grow. Semi-evergreen perennials happiest in partial shade in moist but well-drained soils. Undemanding.
8. Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ – Daphne odora, the winter flowering Daphne is a, compact, evergreen shrub that has very fragrant pale pink flowers. This variety has lovely variegated glossy leaves. All Daphnes need very little pruning as they are quite slow growing.
9. Camellia ‘Yuletide’ – most people have heard of camellias. They have evergreen leaves and flower in lots of vibrant colours as well as pure white. They certainly give form and structure to the garden, especially in the winter. This variety is a stunning one, a gorgeous scarlet red with a golden yellow centre. It starts flowering in December so a great one for Christmas and beyond. We planted ours in a pot so that we can bring it close to the house so that we can enjoy it through the window.
10. Sarcococca confusa – Sweet Box – The tiny white flowers from this compact and evergreen shrub really pack a punch. Probably the most highly scented winter flowering shrub there is. It’s a knockout. Perfect for a shady border, even dry shade. We’ve planted loads of these over the years, they particularly work well in woodland borders. Another one to try is Sarcococca hookeriana, less compact with pinkish white flowers but still incredibly fragrant.
A few others to try:
Iris unguicularis (Algerian Iris)
Chimonanthus praecox – soft yellow flowers with burnt honey scent
Corylopsis pauciflora (Buttercup witch hazel)
Winter flowering heathers
OK Spring won’t be here for another month or so but that doesn’t mean to say that there is nothing to look at and get inspired by in the garden right now. Before you know it the blue skies will return and with it lots of lovely spring sunshine to truly awaken your garden once again.