Sunday, 18 January 2015

Winter interest plants and Snow stops play

The weather has had a turn for the worse again. We've had days of rain, sleet, strong winds and now snow that has lain. We had a twelve hour power cut one day and damage to the wee greenhouse. Two of the new panes of glass smashed, so another repair job, as well as the new alpine trough covers that blew off and smashed. There has been no more gardening since I tidied the entrance ten days ago, which is so frustrating. Instead we have been hibernating and planning trips and what we hope to do during the year. Middle son went back to uni. today with a car load of his belongings, we had hoped to have a day in Glasgow once we'd dropped him off but David is under the weather with a bad cold, so we'll do that another day. So what can we do to have more colour and interest in the winter garden using trees and shrubs?

By now we are all desperate to see some signs of plant life and growth. Down south and in more sheltered lower lying parts of Scotland there will be Snowdrops and hellebores coming into flower. Up here at 750 feet above sea level and above it happens a lot later, so our winter season is much longer. This is where incorporating as much colour by way of stems and evergreens is important from a visual point of view and to make us feel better. 

One of my Spotted Hellebores

When planning a garden or a border always try to think what you can grow at every time of year and in every month. Bulbs, perennials and annuals are great from early spring right through to autumn and into winter if the weather is favourable. Look at your borders and if there is a space at any time of year, research what looks good at that time of year and fill that space. You will end up with a successive border that always has something flowering, has berries, coloured stems or foliage (think also autumn colour and evergreens). 

Winter in the back garden

In winter there are of course the obvious earliest flowerers such as Snowdrops, Aconites and Hellebores for winter interest. There are so many varieties and variants of these genera now and you can have singles, doubles, semi doubles and many, many colours of Hellebores. See these previous blogs I wrote on Snowdrops and Hellebores.  As well as flowers think about stem colour: many shrubs are great for this. Cornus, Salix, Euonymus, Betula, Sorbus, Prunus and Acer are some of the more popular and easily sourced genera and within these there are many species and cultivars to choose from, its mind boggling! My favourites include Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' and any Betula, I love them all! Prunus serrula is beautiful with its shiny, peeling bark, especially in winter sunlight and Acer griseum with its mottled bark. There is a tree or shrub with coloured stems to fit any size of garden. These will all grow well in most conditions and aspects and even at my higher elevation here in Scotland.

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' stems
Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' at Easter Mosshat

Betula utilis

Betula stems come in white, grey, pink,
beige and brown
Close up of a Betula trunk

Acer griseum
Snakebark Acers

Prunus serrula

We can also use evergreens in the garden for winter interest and indeed all year round to give gardens and borders structure, a back drop for more showy plants, a home for wildlife and something to look at in winter when everything else is dormant. Again a little bit of research and visiting other gardens and nurseries will give you an idea of what you can grow in your own garden, no matter how much or little space you have. From large Hollies, Viburnums and conifers to smaller Euonymus, Box, Hebes and Rhododendrons. There are green-leaved ones, yellow-leaved, variegated, silver, the list is endless and will fit into what ever colour palette you have in your border. Whilst some Euonymus and Hebe may struggle with very cold winters where I am, in most average winters they survive and in lower level gardens, do very well. Here are some I am growing and would recommend.

Euonymus 'Emerald and Gold'
Viburnum tinus 'Gwenillian'

Ilex pernyi

Taxus baccata Fastigiata Aurea Group

Ilex 'Blue Princess'
Rhododendrons at Crarae

Hopefully I have given you a few ideas to brighten up the garden through winter. It's about remembering colour does not have to mean flowers. There are lots of plants out there that will add colour and a new dimension to your garden and borders all through the year.

Rhododendron 'Williamsianum'

Signs of things to come, some daffodils poking through the snow in the
front garden 

Our chickens aren't keen on the snow, but when there are left over scraps
in their trough they are willing to come out

The two broken missing panes of glass
in the wee greenhouse

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