Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth.”
– John Davies, 1570-1626, Ode to the West Wind
The garden in winter can seem to be a bit of a quiet place with not much appearing to be going on, but with a little forethought and careful planning it can become quite busy.
Winter flowering shrubs such as Winter Jasmine and Mahonia Japonica provide seasonal blooms, Daphne mezereum Rubrum is particularly fragrant. The evergreen leaves of Viburnum Tinus and Ilex aquifolium Golden van Tol provide some structure along with the vivid orange red berries found on Pyracantha hybrida Mohave or even the bright turquoise blue berries found on Viburnum Davidii. Colourful stems may be found on Dogwoods such as Cornus Alba Sibirica Westonbirt and Willows such as Salix Alba vitellina, both of which may be cut back to create fresh shoots in the spring.
Hardy Cyclamen are early bloomers and Snowdrops will soon be making their presence known. In milder areas early Daffodils such as February Gold are harbingers of the approaching spring , whilst in the herbaceous border the Christmas Rose Helleborus Niger is an early flowerer.
A good starting point is to observe your garden on a reasonably bright winter’s day, walk around it and see if the general structure or any vistas may be improved, don’t forget to take into account what may be seen from indoors as well.
Do not be afraid to replace ailing plants or those that have become too vigorous and any that have otherwise disappointed you. Look out for carelessly discarded litter and items such as garden furniture that have decayed past the point of usefulness and now just look plain ugly. It is all too easy to overlook these sort of things and spoil the appearance of an otherwise beautiful garden.
Make an action plan for what you are seeking to achieve in your garden, it can be very useful to record you observations in a notebook for future reference, especially if you intend to spread your improvements over several seasons. When this is done you will be best placed to proceed to putting your plans into action.
By Tim Brayford