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Winter Wonderland

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

Winter is fast approaching and with it comes cold crisp days, cosy nights by the fire and delicious hot chocolate topped with toasted marshmallows. Oh it’s so glorious - unless you’ve not looked at social media that day and you’re in the real world instead; freezing your socks off, soaked to the skin and up to your knees in mud.

You look out of the window and the garden is a desolate wasteland, resembling the set of Mad Max and that gorgeous little French Lavender you planted in the summer has all but suffocated in your heavy clay soil and is threatening to move back to Provence. But don’t despair – help is on hand.

So, what can be done to brighten up the garden on even the most dismal of days? Well, what you need is some colour, scent and glorious berries to feed the birds.

There are loads of evergreen shrubs to fit the bill – but for now I’ll concentrate on three as the choice can be overwhelming and I’m in the middle of making a pot of soup and I’m at a crucial point in the seasoning.

So in no particular order….

SKIMMIA: You can never have enough of these little beauties in the garden. There are several varieties to choose from and they won’t grow too tall. My particular favourite is Skimmia Kew Green. It’s slow growing with glossy green leaves & deliciously scented flowers which bloom from late winter/early spring. It can get a bit leggy, so underplant with creamy Hellebores & Bergenias. Skimmia Japonica has similar glossy leaves but with fabulous white or red berries. They also work well in pots and love a shady spot. Although not technically an ericaceous (acid loving) plant, Skimmias do tend to like their soil a bit on the nippy side. So, if yours is looking pale and wabbit just scatter some loose tea leaves along the base for a few weeks and give it a good feed. It’ll be right as rain.

Next we’ll come on to…

Viburnum Tinus ‘Eve Price’. Oh be still be Girlish Heart. I bloody love this shrub. There are several varieties, but the V. Tinus Eve Price is evergreen, ridiculously easy to care for (plant it, look at it and say ‘oh wow’ when it flowers in the winter), with elliptical, dark green leaves and the most gloriously fragrant white flowers from November to April. But it’s the iridescent dark blue berries that are the show stoppers. They’re stunningly gorgeous and actually look fake they’re so perfect. The Viburnum Tinus can grow to 3m if you don’t clip it – but then so would lots of things. To be honest it could take decades to get anywhere near that height, by which time you’ll have fallen so deeply in love with those berries you’ll refuse to let anyone take more than a nail clipper to it.

And finally let's hear it for...

Camellia: Every garden should have one of these beauties. A large evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves which will reward you with early flowers from January through to early summer depending on the cultivar. The blooms can range from purest white to the deepest red. It’ll tolerate sun and partial shade but doesn’t like morning sun so best not planted in an east facing garden. The wee flower buds can be damaged by the early winter sun. It prefers an ericaceous/acid soil so it’s super for containers where you can control the environment.

So there you have it, three fabulous reasons why your garden should be looking grand all year round.

Join me next week (it might be next month; apparently I’m very easily distracted) for top tips on creating a fabulous woodland garden crammed with colour.

Bye for now…


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