The Scottish Winter Garden

We often think of winter here in Scotland, especially January and February, as dull, cold, dreich months with nothing growing and little interest out side. But delve below the fallen leaves and last years plant debris and there are winter gems waiting to be found. Even high up in the hills here in the Scottish borders there is life and colour. It's one of the great things about doing the winter tidy up after new year, finding all those evergreens and spots of colour in the borders, oh and the garden looks so much tidier and ready for the coming year too of course.

I went searching in my own garden this week for winter colour and interest
and this is what I found

Tellima grandiflora Rubra group and
Polystichium setiferum

Apart from the obvious evergreen shrubs and conifers, there are ferns, perennials and grasses that will give you colour through winter. Plant them in borders and tubs that you can see from the house, so even on the coldest dullest day you can still benefit from that winter colour when gazing out the window wishing the sun would shine. I talked quite a lot about stem and bark winter interest in a previous blog which is listed at the end of this blog. These give you the structure to then under plant with perennials, ferns and early bulbs. I am hoping to create a winter border in the nursery opposite the cafe, so even in the depths of winter, customers can be inspired by some colour.

Buxus sempervirens or common box

Use Box either as hedging or topiary to give you evergreen form as a back ground for other plants or on their own in the border or pots. They can be quite structural and with a coating of frost bring an ethereal look to the garden.

Cyclamen hederifolium

Under trees and shrubs plant Cyclamen hederifolium, although small they cover them selves in white or pink flowers and even when not flowering the foliage has distinct silver markings which really stand out. When I buy them I make sure I buy plants with well marked leaves, meaning I now have some interesting seedlings growing.

Hedera hibernica 'Rona'

Don't just think trees and shrubs when you want to go upwards. Ivies will give you evergreen foliage in many different patterns of green, gold and silver. There are winter flowering clematis but I've never had any success with them in our high up gardens here.

Lamium maculatum 'Beacon Silver' and
 Heucherella 'Brass Lanterns'

Polypodium x mantoniae

Evergreen ferns are well worth growing in shady places, especially Polypodium which make good ground cover and cope with dry shady conditions and shallow soil. Asplenium scolopendrum 'Angustatum', Blechnum spicant, Dryopteris erythrosora and Polystichiums will give a varied and interesting display all year.

Sequoia sempervirens

If you have the space some grand conifers will add height and interest, give them room to grow to their natural shape and you can have year round interest. Dotted about in a mixed border they add height and act as a back drop for perennials and bulbs.

Taxus baccata Fastigiata Aurea Group

Vinca minor and it's cultivars make good
ground cover in most conditions
 and flower from spring onward

Euphorbia characias subsp. Wulfenii

Up in the hills here a sheltered corner will help Euphorbia characias subsp. Wulfenii escape the worst of the winter. This one at home is going into it's third year and is growing very well and is infact still flowering even in winter. It is evergreen and doesn't die back as some Euphorbias do, just cut out the old stems once they die back.

Flowers of Euphorbia characias subsp. Wulfenii

Euonymus 'Emerald and Gold', great for winter colour, this one brightens
 up a dark corner, even when covered in snow

Bergenia 'Claire Maxine'

If you are going to grow Bergenia, make sure you plant a variety that has great colour in autumn and winter and get more year round value for your money. There are several varieties that are especially colourful in winter including Bergenia 'Claire Maxine' and Bergenia 'WIntermarchen'

Heuchera, nature makes the best hearts

So there we are, a wee round up of what can brighten up the garden at this time of year, especially here in Scotland and in the Scottish borders hills in both my nursery and own garden. Hopefully I've given you some inspiration to create an all year round garden or even a border or containers. A lot of plants are available in the nursery from the beginning of March when we re-open for 2017.

Previous blogs about winter colour in the garden

Winter Interest Plants

Keeping the garden interesting through winter

Have a great weekend.


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  1. Foliage is king in the winter garden. I will see mine again soon but we are snow covered at the moment. I enjoyed your photographs! Happy GBBD!

    1. Thank you for commenting, it's something I'm really keen on is maintaining colour all year round in the garden, even here in Scotland. Happy GBBD too :)


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