Winter Wonderland

Whatever the weather, as Alan Titchmarsh used to say as he signed off each week, there is always something to enjoy in the garden… if you plant it right!

December was a rollercoaster of weather experiences with temperatures mid-month plummeting lower than -10° and then warming through Christmas.

I expect, like me, you often looked at the garden from the warmth of your house rather than the middle of your lawn, but you probably looked at it more in December than you did in November or maybe even October. Therefore, it is a really good idea to have plenty of winter-interest plants in the garden.

Last month, I had a private tour of Bressingham Gardens with Adrian Bloom – the legendary plantsman – and marveled at the combinations of plants he has put together to create one of the finest gardens in Britain, even on a cold December morning.

Highlights included the use of Cornus (dogwood) through many areas, which acted as a link between beds and borders. Cornus has amazing stems in the winter, ranging from red, through orange to yellow and green. Adrian has used Cornus Midwinter Fire to great effect, really showing off its stem that combines vivid red and yellow.

Although brilliant in the winter, Cornus can be viewed as a bit boring in the summer. BUT, they can provide a sturdy framework for dwarf clematis to climb through and flower on top of. Weigela can also be used in the same way to support dwarf flowering climbers.

Trees, whilst often majestic in size, can also be suited to small gardens. At Bressingham some of the Silver and Himalayan Birch trunks positively glowed against the backdrop of conifers and other evergreen plants. The range of Birch we sell are all suited to small and medium size gardens.

Speaking of majestic trees; there are 3 colossal redwoods in the garden that Adrian grew from seed he collected in America in the 1960s. Towering above everything else, at over 100 feet, they looked like the guardians of the garden. We have a similar sized redwood in our garden at Burford House, Tenbury Wells and we presume it would have been planted around the same time.

It is often said that planting a garden is actually for the benefit of the next generation but seeing Bressingham you realise that it is easy to create something amazing and enjoy it in your own lifetime.

Hellebores are just starting to flower in gardens and will continue to flower through to the spring. This is certainly a plant, in many varieties, that I will be introducing to my new garden. The flowers range in colour from light green through white and pink to deepest burgundy. Newer varieties show their blooms above the foliage so bring a real splash of colour through winter months.

They vary in size, with the best seller, Christmas Carol, being one of the smallest but most prolific flowerers. I will plant mine in the front garden so I see them every day as I come and go, they will be placed under Acers as they will provide interest until the Acer foliage starts to reappear.

I’m sure you have made many New Year resolutions; here is one more…. To plant something every month of the year and create a garden for all seasons!