Nothing is more depressing than looking out over a mud coloured garden under the grim winter half-light. Here are seven magnificent plant ideas to cut through the winter gloom...
Every gardener worth his mustard should find space for this hot dog.
Mid-autumn will see its glossy green leaves turn orange before dropping in the winter to reveal glorious fiery stems.
Leave the plant un-pruned for the first year after planting, but then cut the stems back hard to within 5cms from the ground before the buds burst through in March.
Mulch copiously with well rotted compost.
One to try: Cornus Midwinter Fire
Dogwood varieties come in a range of vibrantly coloured stems, ranging from purples to deep reds, but Midwinter Fire is dogwood at its flaming best, with striking stems of orange and red tipped with mustard yellow.
We prefer our bushes bearing edible berries that we can plunge into booze, but the ghost bramble—when allowed to ramble—can provide bone white winter contrast for borders and hedges.
One to try: Rubus cockburnianus Goldenvale
This spiky bush is a speedy grower and will reach heights of up to two metres. Prune its white skeletal stems in March to within two or three buds from the base, remembering to wear your thickest, thorn-proof gloves.
The cyclamen is a delicate, ground-hugging plant that throws out vibrant flowers in the depths of winter.
There are 19 species of this hardy perennial, but the ones to plump for are the frost-hardy varieties.
Cyclamens often grow wild in woodlands and copses, so if you are thinking about introducing them into your own garden you'll want to stick them somewhere shady.
One to try: Cyclamen coum sowbread
A fully hardy variety that will display pink or white flowers from February through to March. Mix them up with ferns in a shady border to highlight their jewel-like qualities.
Providing flowerage from midwinter to mid spring, hellebores bear dinky, rose-like flowers that range in colour from whites, pinks, purples and greens.
They prefer moist, nutrient rich soils and tend to grow best in partial shade.
One to try: Helleborus × hybridus Harvington Shades of the Night
A gothic beauty that produces deep purple flowers which emerge from mid February onwards. Hellebores will benefit from an annual autumnal mulch, so give them plenty of love in October.
Snowdrops are one of the first flowers in the garden to lift their heads in search of winter sun, and are an ever-hopeful sign that winter is but fleeting and spring is just around the corner. All gardens need snowdrops.
One to try: Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno'
As you’d expect, snowdrops come in white only, but this pear-shaped variety bears delicate china-white flower heads with green-flecked inner petals.
In spring the Bergenia (often known as “elephants ears”) churns out flowers in whites, pinks, purples and reds. But come the colder climes, its large leathery leaves will take on the appearance of giant wilting pak choi, with its edges turning a deep shade of crimson.
One to try: Bergenia overture
An easy-to-grow variety that hosts magnificent magenta flowers.
Grow in a moist and well-drained soil, and cut back the faded blooms after flowering in spring.
Pack your borders with grasses for late summer structure, and don’t be too hasty to cut them down when the cold starts to bite. Instead, leave them to sway in the winter winds and bask in their golden glow.
For those wanting to see how it’s done, head on down to the Piet Oudolf garden at Bruton's Hauser & Wirth art gallery/posh eatery. This nurtured swathe of reclaimed farmland looks amazing all year round, but during the winter months it turns into an absolute grass-terpiece.
One to try: Sporobolus heterolepis
Plant like Piet and plump for this stumpy prairie grass that turns from light pink in spring through to a silvery sheen in the summer months. Winter will see it shimmering gold.
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