Interesting Plants for the December Garden
Plants can be so attractive in the frost. The bright stems of dogwoods, underplanted with a winter creeper, such as Cornus Alba ‘Siberica’ and Euonymus fortune ‘Silver Queen’, give a festive glow to the garden, especially in the low, early sunshine. Although colour is rare in the garden at this time of year, it’s not completely bleak. Plants such as the winter flowering heathers Jasminium nudiflorum and Hamamelis mollis should be in flower throughout the month. As an added bonus, most plants that flower in the winter are heavily scented to attract the fewer insects, so make the most of that and place them near an entrance to enjoy their perfume more easily. Take a few shoots from winter flowering shrubs, such as Virburnum x bodnantense and Prunus xsubhittella ‘Autumnlis’ and put in water in a cool place indoors. Soon the buds will open and the beautifully scented flowers can be added to the Christmas decorations.
There’s nothing quite as alluring as scent. It is something no garden should be without, particularly in the darkest depths of winter when the whiff of a fragrant flower can truly lift the spirits. If you have a small garden, you couldn’t do much better than Daphne bholua, a shade-loving, tiny, evergreen shrub with highly fragrant, delicate white or pink blooms. Sarcococca hookeriana is another excellent candidate for smaller, shady spots, producing a jasmine-like scent so powerful you will almost certainly smell it before you see it. Another strong contender for the best winter scent is wintersweet, or Chimonanthus praecox, which lives an unassuming life all year with plain green leaves that are easily overlooked. But very soon its bare branches will erupt into waxy yellow flowers with a spicy, sweet scent that can stop you dead in your tracks.
Much maligned as typical ‘car park plants’, mahonias are worth giving a go in a domestic setting. In a shady spot, Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ will create towering rosettes of sulphur-yellow spiked flowers from November to March, rewarding you with a fragrance reminiscent of lily-of-the-valley and flowers that glow bright in wintry sunlight.
To enjoy any of these fragrant wintery treasures, plant them somewhere that you will walk past frequently, perhaps at the entrance to your house, creating a wonderful welcome for visitors to your home over the festive season.
A very merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all at Oxford Garden Design.