Blooming Times: Shrubs, Six Of The Best
by Flo Whitaker
No garden is complete without some winter flowering shrubs. Flo Whitaker picks six of her favourites…
As frost takes a firm grip on our gardens, shrubs step into the spotlight. Many are deciduous and have ‘nude’ flowers – blooms that are borne on bare stems. These flowers may be small in stature, but they take centre stage in a wintery landscape – and they are often scented too. Winter flowers have a curious quality not usually found with their summer counterparts. Stand next to them and they seem to have little or no scent. Their perfume is best appreciated when you are several metres away and suddenly find yourself enveloped in a mysterious cloud of exotic perfume. Planting some of these wintery beauties will help shake off the blues. Remember; if winter has arrived, then spring cannot be far behind.
About now, every garden centre will be stocking ‘Dawn’ – rightly so. It will grow pretty much anywhere as long as the soil doesn’t dry out in summer and will eventually become a multi-stemmed shrub 2 – 3 metres high. Its deep pink buds open to reveal clusters of tiny perfumed blooms in white and pale pink.
‘Wintersweet’ may eventually reach 4 metres in height but can be cut back after flowering if required. Striking to look at, the yellow waxy flowers resemble miniature lanterns suspended from bare charcoal-grey stems. The flowers are super-resistant to frost damage and the whole plant, including the foliage, has a distinct cinnamon/ nutmeg aroma.
‘Christmas Box’ spends most of the year looking like a nondescript evergreen shrub. However, from December through to early spring it produces a mass of tiny white flowers with a heady honeysuckle-type scent. It will stand an occasional light trimming and can be used for ground cover or a hedging plant, (max 1 metre.)
‘Witch Hazel’ – a native to central and eastern China – is incredibly hardy and produces spidery sulphur-yellow flowers on bare branches. It will grow between 2 – 4 metres high. Flower arrangers will beat a path to your door and beg for a stem or two – a single sprig will scent an entire room.
In winter’s dressing-up box, Daphne is the nest jewel with the most hypnotic perfume imaginable. They are expensive, but if a kind soul asks what you’d like for Christmas point them in Daphne’s direction. Daphne odora, (1.5 metres max.) is widely available and if you see ‘Jacqueline Postill’, snap her up – even if you have to live on bread and cheese for a month!
We associate clematis with summer, but there are winter flowering types too. Varieties of Clematis armandii start flowering from November onwards, providing they have a sheltered spot against a south/west wall. Clematis cirrhosa ‘Jingle Bells’ has elegant cream/white cup-shaped flowers and decorative seed heads.