The won­der of win­ter flow­ers

Fingal Independent - - LIFESTYLE - AN­DREW COL­LYER’S

There’s been a chill in the air of late and its be­gin­ing to feel a lot like win­ter. . But just be­cause its win­ter doesn’t mean that your gar­den has to be a bar­ren and bleak tun­dra. No gar­den should be with­out a spark of life dur­ing win­ter.

Win­ter colour can come in many guises, var­ie­gated leaves, coloured twigs, ber­ries and seed pods but it’s those plants that have the au­dac­ity to flower dur­ing the dark days of win­ter that really stand out. Many have the added bonus of be­ing highly fra­grant as well.

A trees that stands out is the win­ter cherry, Prunus sub­hirtella ‘Au­tum­nalis’ white flow­ers and ‘ Au­tum­nalis Rosea’ that has pink flow­ers. This medium sized tree blooms on and off with clus­ters of small flow­ers, com­pared to its Ja­panese coun­ter­parts, from Novem­ber to March.

An­other good win­ter tree is Aca­cia deal­bata an ferny leaved ev­er­green from Aus­trailia. It is bet­ter know as a Mi­mosa and has large clus­ters of small yel­low pom-pom type flow­ers from Jan­uary on­wards.

On walls prob­a­bly the most spec­tac­u­lar flow­erer is the win­ter Jas­mine [Jas­minium nud­i­flo­rum], which is even quite sucess­ful on a north wall. Once es­tab­lished it will cover large walls and fences with a mass of star shaped yel­low flow­ers from Novem­ber to Fe­bru­ary Its only let down is that un­like sum­mer jas­mines it is fra­grant­less.

Clema­tis cir­rhosa is a large grow­ing ferny leaved ev­er­green win­ter flow­er­ing clema­tis. ‘Wis­ley cream’ and ‘Freck­les’ are two good va­ri­eties. Clema­tis uro­phylla ‘Win­ter Beauty’ is also mostly ev­er­green with creamy white bell shaped flow­ers from De­cem­ber to Fe­bru­ary. Both these Clema­tis flower on old wood so should only be pruned if nec­es­sary im­me­di­ately af­ter flow­er­ing.

While not ac­tu­ally a climber the beau­ti­ful shrub Chi­mo­nan­thus prae­cox [ win­ter­sweet] makes a fan­tas­tic win­ter wall shrub pro­duc­ing the most heav­enly scented waxy pale yel­low flow­ers. Grow on a sunny wall or fence. This was one of the plants that got me in­ter­ested in plants as a six­teen year old.

Two win­ter flow­er­ing herba­ceous plants that stand out for me are Helle­borus niger [ Christ­mas rose] and Iris un­guic­u­laris [Al­ge­rian Iris]. I an­nu­ally marvel at both as they look so del­i­cate it would seem im­pos­si­ble that they would flower dur­ing the depths of our win­ter. Lets just be happy that they do.

Win­ter flow­er­ing shrubs are ac­tu­ally quite plen­ti­ful. Vibur­num ti­nus, far­reri, and bod­nan­tense all wor­thy plants the first is ev­er­green and the sec­ond two highly fra­grant. The genus Daphne pro­vides us with some of the most loved win­ter flow­ers. Daphnes are known to be a lit­tle tricky to get es­tab­lished but once they do Daphne bholua, odora and mez­ereum will be­come your win­ter trea­sures pro­duc­ing pink flow­ers as fra­grant and any plant spring ,sum­mer, au­tumn or win­ter.

A close ri­val for fra­grant plant of the win­ter is Sar­co­cocca con­fusa. Quite happy in a North fac­ing plant­ing po­si­tion the spi­dery white flow­ers this small ev­er­green are highly scented. It is great sit­u­ated by a fre­quently used door so you can en­joy the fra­grances as your in and out. Slightly less scented but a long win­ter flower is Coronilla glauca with yel­low blooms through­out win­ter when planted in a warm shel­tered site.

Fi­nally an­other plant that aroused my gar­den­ing in­ter­est at a young age was the witch hazels [Ha­mamelis]. If there was such a thing as plant aris­toc­racy Ha­mamelis would surely be in­cluded.

My first en­counter with a Ha­mamelis was at Knaphill, a well kown nurs­ery in Sur­rey Eng­land. It was smelt be­fore it was seen but on be­ing seen it didn’t dis­ap­point. A fully grown and clothed in fil­a­ment yel­low flow­ers Ha­mamelis ‘Pal­l­ida’

Mag­no­lia ‘Big Dude’ seed head

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