Category: Planting design

How to bring scent and colour to the garden in winter

The garden in winter can seem cold, drab and lifeless. But this doesn’t have to be the case as there are winter flowering shrubs that not only provide welcome colour during the darkest days, but also pump out delicious perfume as well. To cope with harsh weather at this time of year, flowers in winter tend to be small, giving them a more subtle understated charm. And to attract what few pollinating insects there are around, they’re usually highly scented too. Positioned by a front door or path, they can work wonders to lift the spirits, so here’s my recommendations of ten scented winter flowering plants.

Chimonanthus praecox (Winter sweet) – a fairly non-descript shrub in summer, so best planted with summer flowering plants, but in winter yellow bell-shaped flowers with a slight spicy fragrance adorn the bare stems. It grows best in a sunny sheltered position.

Clematis cirrhosa – an evergreen climber with scented bell-like speckled cream flowers throughout winter. It looks great over a pergola or arch where the flowers can be fully appreciated.

Coronilla valentina ssp. glauca ‘Citrina’ (Scorpion vetch) – this evergreen shrub is a member of the pea family so has distinctively shaped flowers like miniature sweet peas. The flowers are lemon yellow, sweetly scented, and bloom from late winter into spring and then again in late summer – double the value! The flowers look fabulous against the blue-grey leaves. It does need a sheltered position so does best against a south or west facing wall.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ – a small neat variegated evergreen shrub with strongly scented pale pink flowers throughout winter. The glossy dark green leaves have yellow margins. It prefers a sunny sheltered spot so is a great choice beside a south or west facing front door.

Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Grandiflora’ (Paper bush) – this deciduous shrub looks quite unusual when the large rounded heads of small tubular, bright yellow flowers appear on the ends of the bare stems in late winter. It has a clove-like scent and needs a sunny sheltered spot to grow.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ (Witch hazel) – unusual and distinctive spidery orange flowers appear throughout the winter on the bare stems of this slow growing deciduous shrub. The flowers are slightly scented. There’s also another fiery display in autumn when the leaves turn shades of red, orange and scarlet.

Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter honeysuckle) – you tend to think of honeysuckles as summer flowering climbers, but this is a semi-evergreen shrub with sweetly scented creamy white flowers that fill the air with perfume throughout winter. The flowers are followed by red berries. It flowers best in a sunny spot.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ (Oregon grape) – an architectural evergreen shrub with an upright habit and spiny pinnate leaves. Scented bright yellow flowers appear in erect clusters from late autumn through winter. It can work well as a focal point in a shady spot.

Sarcococca confusa (Sweet box) – a small, neat, rounded evergreen shrub with spidery cream flowers that have an intense fragrance throughout winter. It does best in a shady position, so it’s perfect next to a north or east facing front door.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ – Viburnum shrubs are great do-ers and this one’s no exception. As soon as the leaves fall in late autumn, clusters of intensely fragrant dark pink flowers appear on the bare upright branches. The flowers fade as they mature and last until early spring.

Unless you’re out to create a dedicated winter garden, you’ll probably only want one or two of these in your garden, especially where space is a premium. But I think the inclusion of some winter colour and scent is a most welcome addition to any garden. What’s more, all the plants I’ve recommended are pretty low maintenance, requiring minimal pruning and care, which can only be an added bonus.





Ten Top Plants for Amazing Autumn Colour

The warm fiery hues adopted by many deciduous trees and shrubs before shedding their leaves, coupled with the soft sunlight of this time of year, makes autumn a particularly evocative time. Even in the smallest garden I think it’s important to have one or more plants which provide good autumn colour.

So here’s ten of my favourite plants to light up the garden in fall:

Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) – there are hundreds of varieties of Japanese maples to choose from and most have impressive autumn tints. Their graceful forms make them ideally suited either as specimen focal points, or as a pleasing contrast when planted with other shrubs. The cultivar ‘Osakazuki’ is a particularly good choice, a small rounded tree whose rich green lobed leaves turn a brilliant scarlet red in autumn.

Amelanchier lamarckii (Snowy Mespilus) – a fantastic small tree ideal for a small garden. Trees may be either single or multi-stemmed. In spring, the bushy crown is covered in white blossom whilst in autumn the foliage turns fabulous shades of red and orange.

Betula pendula (Silver birch) – our graceful native birch tree with its weeping branch tips does not display any of the hot red autumn colours but instead turns a beautiful butter yellow, a perfect compliment to the peeling silver bark.

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry) – a dense thorny shrub whose small green leaves turn red and orange in autumn. Small pale yellow flowers in spring develop into small red ovoid berries in autumn that harmonise beautifully with the foliage.

Cotinus ‘Grace’ (Smoke bush) – this large shrub is called the smoke bush in reference to the plumes of purplish pink summer flowers. But there’s no smoke without fire, and that comes in autumn when the large wine-purple leaves turn bright orange and scarlet.

Euonymus alatus (Winged spindle tree) – for most of the year this dense spreading shrub acts solely as a green backdrop to other plants. But come autumn it takes centre stage when the leaves turn spectacular shades from deep pink through to brilliant crimson. At the same time, the reddish-purple fruits open partially to reveal orange seeds. Quite a show!

Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet gum) – a tall conical tree only suitable for larger gardens and sometimes seen as a street tree. The maple-like leaves turn through a range of colours from pale orange to deep red-purple.

Nyssa sylvatica (American tupelo) – a medium-sized tree with an upright conical habit, the leaves change to stunning shades of red, gold and yellow in autumn.

Rhus typhina (Stags horn sumac) – a beautiful low crowned tree, usually wider than it is tall. The attractive divided leaves change through shades of yellow, orange, red and purple in autumn, coupled with upright furry crimson fruit that last well into winter.

Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’ (Rowan) – a small upright tree that makes a valuable addition to any garden. The white blossom in early summer is a favourite with bees, whilst in autumn the pinnate leaves turn impressive shades of red, purple and orange. The large clusters of creamy-yellow berries turn orange-yellow when ripe, lasting well into winter, before providing a welcome winter meal for birds.

Autumn’s not only a great time to see these trees and shrubs in their full glory; it’s also a great time to plant them, either as bare root or container-grown plants in pots. So strike now while the iron’s hot!