Imagine the garden filled with deliciously scented flowers throughout the darkest winter months. Such pleasures are easily realised by growing some of the winter-flowering shrubs. Positioned plants close to an outside door, or along a much frequented path where the fragrant flowers can easily and often be appreciated, these shrubs will be a source of enjoyment for weeks on end.
Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ – heavily scented, spidery flowers bloom on bare branches of the Chinese witch hazel in the first weeks of the year. This is a shrub deserving of space and patience, for it is very slow growing and will taken many years to reach its ultimate height and spread. 5m x 6m (16’ x 20’).
Sarcocca hookeriana var. Digyna – Edge a path with this Christmas box to enjoy the sweetness of its small white flowers all winter long. 1 x 1m (3’ x 3’).
Chimonanthus praecox – aptly named wintersweet, produces fragrant flowers from winter to early spring. 2.4 x 3m (8’ x 10’).
Lonicera fragrantissima – heavily perfumed flowers in winter. Later somewhat dull foliage can be enlivened with a mid-season clematis. 3 x 3m (10’ x 10).
Daphne odora – nothing can compare with the sweet, delicate perfume of the daphne. Lovely, slow-growing shrubs ideally suited to small gardens. 1.5 x 1.5m (5’ x 5’).
Viburnum bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ – a vigorous shrub with dark purple shoots bearing terminal clusters of scented, pink flowers. Oval bronze-tinted leaves become dark green by summer. 1.5-2.5m x 1-1.5m (5’- 8’)
Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ – an upright evergreen shrub, with fragrant racemes of yellow flowers up to 35cm long in late autumn and winter. 2.5-4m x 2.5-4m (8’x 15’)
Spectacular Hellebore flowers in the midst of winter.
Hellebores (sometimes known as the Christmas or Lenten rose) are perennial garden plants with elegant flowers, perfect for brightening up shady areas during late winter and early spring. Some species are grown for their striking evergreen architectural foliage. The Christmas or Lentern rose is a hardy and very long-lived perennial that flowers in the winter and early spring. If planted in the right spot this perennial can live for decades, increasing its beauty and fascination year after year.
Over the years, The Lentern rose form free-flowering clumps that catch the eye in any garden. They prefer a position in partial shade and rich, limy soil that is not prone to water-logging. The Lentern rose can be planted out in open soil, even in winter. The old leaves may be removed completely in the winter before the flower stems start to elongate, to prevent their tatty appearance detracting from the blooms and avoid disease. The plant will produce a sufficient amount of new leaves after flowering,
Where growth is unsatisfactory, apply a general-purpose fertiliser, such as Growmore or fish, blood & bone, in spring at 50-70g per square metre (1½-2 oz per square yard). Container grown specimens can be fed with balanced liquid fertiliser, or with a high potassium fertiliser such as tomato feed, to encourage blooms. Mulch around plants 2.5cm – 5cm (1”-2”) deep in July or August and again in December.
Large clumps of named cultivars and most species, can be increased by division in early spring. Although many professional growers prefer to divide Oriental hybrids (Helleborus × hybridus) in September. For the best results, ensure that clumps are split into several pieces of a reasonable size, with at least one growth point, and water well until they are established in the soil. The new divisions may be slow to establish, due to the lack of fine roots, and flowering may be poor in the following year, but they are likely to settle in given time. Helleborus foetidus and Helleborus argutifolius are not suitable for division, but can be raised by sowing fresh seed early in the year. It may take two to three years before plants reach flowering size.
Our Top 5 Hellebores
Helleborus niger ‘Potter’s Wheel’ – is an upright, evergreen plant; fully hardy with many white, bowl-shaped flowers up to 10cm (4”) across. Prefers moist soil in full sun or partial shade. It will benefit the plant to mulch around the roots every year with compost and water in dry weather. Flowers from December – March, height 30cm (12”), spread 45cm (18”).
Heleborus niger ‘Mini Blanc’ – is a new dwarf variety with masses of large white flowers with golden stems, and contrasting dark evergreen, leathery foliage and marbled stems. Is ideal for pots, mixed borders and as ground cover under deciduous shrubs and trees. Does best in full sun or partial shade, in fertile, moist, but well-drained soil. Height and spread 30cm (18”).
Helleborus ‘Walberton’s Rosemary’ – has open pale pink flowers from mid-January and slowly deepen in colour to a rich pinky-red over many weeks. The large 8cm (3”) flowers have been especially bred to look upwards, unlike many other drooping hellebores. Perfect for lightly shaded borders or under deciduous trees. They are hardy and perennial for many years; height 35cm (14”) x 35cm (14”).
Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ – a stunning new hybrid that combines late winter flowers over many weeks with handsome, marbled evergreen leaves. Perfect for lightly shaded, mixed spring borders; height 40cm (14”) x spread 60cm (24”).
Helleborus ‘Pink Frost’ – is an evergreen hybrid with light rose flowers that turn a dark red while maturing. They show from the beginning of February. It is similar to the Christmas rose, Niger, being a close relative. A hardy plant that looks good in pots or bowls on the patio. In the garden it can grow up to 1m in diameter, the flower stems growing up to 40cms.
- Prune acers, birches and vines before Christmas to avoid bleeding.
- Greenhouse – check bubble wrap is secure, open ventilation on warm days.
- Check greenhouse heaters are working.
- Insulate outdoor taps and prevent ponds from freezing by floating a ball in the water.
- Prune top fruit trees i.e. apples and pears (but not those trained against walls).
- Plant and transplant deciduous trees and shrubs.
- Apply winter wash to fruit trees.
- Give wisteria a winter prune.
- Prune fruit bushes – currants, gooseberries and blueberries.
- Cut autumn fruiting raspberries to the ground.
- Mulch fruit beds after pruning.
- Renewel pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs – be careful not to remove flower buds.
- Check stored fruit and vegetables, remove anything rotten.
- Start broad bean seeds and garlic cloves in modules.
- Sow sweet pea seed indeep pots or root trainers.
- Keep tools and machinery in good working order.
- Cut back deciduous grasses before new growth appears.
- Trim winter heathers once they’ve finished flowering, to keep them compact.
- Cut late-flowering clematis to the ground. In spring new stems will sprout from the base.
- Prune bush, climbing and modern shrub roses, tying in new growth on climbers.
- Remove weeds, apply organic fertiliser, and mulch beds and borders to conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.
- Protect new shoots and seedlings from slugs.
- Plant summer-fruiting raspberry canes in free-draining slightly acidic soil. Space 30cm-60cm apart, mulch generously and provide a permanent support system.
- Plant rhubarb crowns in unfrozen ground. Improve the soil with well-rotted manure and plant crowns with just the tips showing above ground.
- Plant lily bulbs in 30cm pots, 5cm apart and cover with 10cm of compost. Keep in a frost free place.
- Tidy up overwintering pelagoniums and fuchsias.