I’m often asked about plants to keep the garden looking alive and interesting during autumn and winter. There are trees with textured, exfoliating or coloured bark, like the Betula utilis var. jacquemontii with its beautiful chalk white bark, while others bear fruit like the Crab Apple and Rowan. Some shrubs have bright coloured stems, berries, evergreen leaves, or fragrant flowers. My favourites at ground level in bedding displays, containers and hanging baskets are autumn and winter flowering Pansies and Violas, they look wonderful with their vibrant colours, showy little faces, and fragrance.
Another interesting feature of some plants in winter is their attraction to birds like Pyracantha, also known as Firethorn. They’re thorny evergreen shrubs, excellent for a boundary fence, wall or border. The creamy white flowers in summer are followed by red, orange or yellow berries, depending on variety from autumn to winter, giving the birds a valuable food store and myself enjoyment in watching them feed. Another favourite for birds are Hollies, they look great all year round, but in winter the female or self fertile varieties look even better with there winter berries. Watch out though because there’s often confusion about gender, for instance ‘Golden King’ is a female and will bear berries if a male is present such as ‘Golden Queen’. See what I mean?
Some Dogwoods are beautifully architectural during winter showing off their bare, bright coloured stems. For example Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ has bright red stems, Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’, deep purple stems and Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’ shows off bright green-yellow stems.
The Viburnum tinus and cultivars are evergreen shrubs with fragrant white flowers from autumn, followed by black berries and Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is deciduous, and produces pretty fragrant pink flowers during the milder spells of winter into spring.
There so many more plants that I could mention, but I’m sure if you look around you will see some that I’ve missed out. I work outside most of the winter and know it can feel long, cold and gloomy at times; I appreciate these plants keeping my senses going until the warmer weather arrives.