This article was originally posted on the website of the Black Pear Gardening Club by club member Julie Munn. With its seasonal interest, especially now we all have our Christmas garden gift vouchers to spend, I invited Julie as guest publisher for this post.
Fragrant Flowering Shrubs for Winter Interest.
Winter Flowering Shrubs can add that much-needed cheer & interest to our gardens when the days are so long & dark after Christmas. As Gardeners, we are always working ahead & planning for the Spring, Summer & Autumn but Winter often gets forgotten & inspiration can be slow to come to mind when the borders look bare & uninteresting. In this article I aim to introduce some plants that can bridge the gap before Spring takes a hold & the welcome Snowdrops, Narcissi & Hellebores make an appearance. The plants which follow are all fragrant which is a bonus to the often, delicate flowers, as well as providing an enticement into our gardens when it’s cold & frosty. Winter Flowering Shrubs also provide nectar for any early foraging insects & provide a refuge for birds during harsh weather. Here are a few of my favourites.
Hamamelis or Witch Hazel are deciduous shrubs which have very fragrant, spidery, yellow, orange or red flowers in late Winter. They grow best in acid-neutral, well-drained soil in sun or part shade. Their growth is slow, but they need space to achieve their natural, vase-like, spreading habit. Hamamelis can be planted in a mixed border or as specimens in a lawn or Woodland Garden. They also have excellent Autumn colour. Several varieties are available.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’
When planting Hamamelis, improve soil by adding well-rotted manure or garden compost especially if you have clay soil. Planting on a slight mound can aid drainage & ensure the grafting union is not buried.
Mahonia are large, evergreen shrubs &
are available in many varieties & sizes.
Their evergreen foliage provides excellent
contrast against other plants & leaves are
usually spiny. Fragrant, clusters of flowers
are a welcome sight from late Autumn
through Winter & early Spring, followed
by black or purple berries. Mahonia
provide good architectural structure in a
Mixed Border or Woodland Garden &
they tolerate part or full shade. Grow
Mahonia in any moist but well-drained
Mahonia x media ‘Lionel Fortescue’
Sarcococca are evergreen shrubs whose flowers have an intense, sweet fragrance in Winter & are an excellent addition to any garden. Sarcococca confusa is the most well-known variety with its small, creamy white flowers which are almost hidden by the foliage. They grow best in any humus rich, moist but well drained soil & prefer to be positioned in full or part shade. Their flowers are followed by shiny, black berries. Sarcococca can be positioned in Mixed Borders & Woodland Gardens but to enjoy the fragrance at its best, place near to an entrance door or pathway where its scent can be enjoyed. They make excellent additions to Winter Pots & Containers.
I grow S. hookeriana var. digyna which gives a pink tinge to its flowers.
Chimonanthus praecox, often known as Wintersweet, is a deciduous shrub with a multi-branched, bushy habit & is best for the back of a border or against a wall or fence, where they can enjoy some protection. The highly fragrant, yellow-greenish flowers appear along the previous year’s stems in Winter & early Spring & often have a reddish-purple inner petal. Their flowers can be easily missed until you smell the fragrance & then the hunt for its source takes over. The flowers are followed by fruits, capsule shaped which contain the seeds.
Chimonanthus praecox Mar 2015
They grow best in any well-drained soil in a sheltered position & enjoy full sun.
Daphne can be deciduous or evergreen shrubs & are available in a variety of growth habits. D. bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is one of my favourite Daphne’s & its perfume is a welcome fragrance in the Winter Garden. Position this Daphne near to a pathway, entrance or in an enclosed garden area, to fully appreciate the scent. The clustered flowers are purplish-pink & white & highly scented, followed by black berries. Plant in any moist but well-drained soil in full sun or part shade & it benefits from having a sheltered position.
Daphne can be placed in a Mixed or Shrub Border but choose the spot carefully as Daphne can resent transplanting.
Grevillea rosmarinifolia is an evergreen shrub which grows to approximately 2 metres & has a loosely arching habit. Its branches of rosemary-like foliage with each rigid leaf having a prickly tip. The flowers appear in clusters at the end of branch tip & are a deep red in colour & unusual in form.
Although the flowers are not scented, I couldn’t resist bringing this plant to the fore for its long flowering period. Flowering starts from late Winter & lasts through to late Summer. Grows in acid-neutral, moist but well drained soil in full sun. I planted my Grevillea behind a wall for some shelter at its base, but it now enjoys full sun & has achieved 2 metres in height.
Somewhat prickly to work around but tolerant of pruning & shaping. Fits well into any Shrub or Mixed Border.
These are only a few of the many Shrubs which add Winter Interest to our gardens. So, be inspired & once all your herbaceous borders have died back, look at your garden areas & fill in the gaps with some of these lovely plants.
Julie Munn – 14th November 2019 All photos my own
Gardening & Plants have always been my passion, my Grandad was a keen Gardener & I have a vivid memory of watching his large fingers pricking out tiny Antirrhinum seedlings into meticulously, straight rows in seed trays. This sparked my interest & I was hooked, as well as eating the warm, ripe tomatoes he offered when I turned up at his greenhouse door. My Parents are also keen Gardeners & Allotment holders & have always encouraged me in the garden & with Nature in general while growing up.
After working in the NHS & in my husbands’ engineering business, my son no longer required my attentions, so it was now my time to do something I enjoyed. I enrolled on an RHS Course at Pershore College & little did I know it was to be my home for the next 31/2 years. I passed the RHS Diploma in Horticulture, level 2 & also volunteered at Spetchley Park Gardens which gave me some hands-on experience. The staff at Pershore College encouraged me to continue my learning, so I stayed on for a further 2 years to obtain the Pershore Diploma in Garden Design, Level 4, which I passed with distinction. I have always enjoyed Art & the design element fed my creative juices. While at College, I started my own Garden Maintenance business & have now been self-employed for nearly 6 years. Mainly working in large gardens in the counties of Hereford & Worcester, carrying out Plant & Border Maintenance, all types of Pruning, Soil improvement, Propagation, the Control of Pests & Diseases & of course Weeding. I worked for 3 years in a Garden which was open to the public during the Spring & Summer months, helping with charity open events like NGS days as well as giving guided garden tours to groups & clubs, which I really enjoyed. I have had several Planting Design commissions & Garden Designs including a design completed on the Island of Jersey which was a real pleasure. I have a real passion for unusual plants & enjoy designing planting plans that provide interest all year round. I am now growing my Garden Design business as I really enjoy working with clients to help them achieve not only a lovely garden but one which they can enjoy & confidently manage successfully for themselves, with perhaps a little help from me, from time to time.
Julie Munn Garden Services
I caught sight of this Vinca flower in the spring border. Vinca difformis is similar to Vinca major, differing most significantly in its habit of flowering right from Autumn, through mild Winter spells to Spring.
Such a welcome cheering sight to find in the garden at this time of year, especially after all the rain and dull days of this autumn and early winter months.
I have long held the view that autumn is the beginning of the gardening year, preparing the garden and the plants for their winter rest before the explosion of spring and summer glory.
The main autumn project, this year, has been to move plants into their correct positions!
I am sure many of you can relate to the gardener’s curse of initially positioning plants in the wrong place.
Two of the first candidates for moving were the Cytisus, ‘Golden Cascade’ and Albus. While they produced wonderful spring colours and scent, they had become far too tall, even with some pruning.
I did not want to completely lose them, following a hard prune, I have moved them to the rear of the borders and hope with generous watering they will successfully establish. This has freed an area, which has been planted with Lupins and Foxgloves to flower in June for the open gardens. The lupins will be treated as annuals, in the Great Dixter way. Colourful exotics such as Dahlias and Cannas will follow.
I have for some time had a yearning for a Cornus Kousa ‘Miss Satomi’. After ordering one two years ago, I planted it in the garden. Sadly it died during the winter. The nursery that supplied it kept promising to replace it. When visiting Pershore College plant centre, they had some very reasonably priced Cornus Kousa ‘China Girl’. One was purchased, then planted in ‘Miss Satomi’s allocated position. Soon afterwards the nursery rang to say they had a replacement for me, although they could only obtain ‘Milky Way’. I decided this would have to live in a large pot, on the patio by the entrance to the oriental garden, while I decided where it was going to live permanently.
This turned out to be an ideal position, we could see it from the dining room windows. Three slabs were consequently lifted from the edge of the patio to provide a permanent home. Ironically the flower colours are more like ‘Miss Satomi’ than ‘Milky Way’, The nursery has not returned my email asking if there could have been an identification error!
Several years ago I was given a Rhus hirta Staghorn sumac. Because of its reputation for suckering, it has been residing in a pot on the patio where we could enjoy its beautiful autumn colour.
Last year we inexplicably lost a five year old Snake-bark Acer from the middle of the blue border. This completely unbalanced the border, there is an Acer griseum on the opposite side. Not wishing to risk another reasonably sized, quite expensive tree, I decided to plant the Rhus there, after seeing one looking stunning with it’s autumn colours, in a Piet Oldoulf garden.
I may pot up any suckers to sell on our open days. I think it looks very colourful in its new home among the Asters and grasses.
Moving the plant theatre in project one, freed up an area. This provided a space to plant a Greengage tree that I had purchased as a young bare root tree two years ago. It had been growing on in a pot, now it is planted along with the rhubarb, emptying more large pots.
Having admired large pots packed full of colourful exotics and annuals in other gardens, all these freed up pots will provide an opportunity to do the same.
Now to plan filling these!