1 Algerian Iris
A welcome surprise in the winter garden is the Algerian iris which has purple, mauve or blue scented flowers.
Depending on the variety, buds can appear in time for Christmas. Some even unfurl from pointed buds in November. Another really good thing about it is that it enjoys poor soil and thrives on neglect.
2 Chimonanthus Praecox
This fully hardy shrub, also known as wintersweet, has small, scented, sulphur-yellow flowers, purple on the inside, which bloom throughout the winter. It might take a few years to flower but the wait is worth it. The frost-resistant waxy flowers are borne on bare stems. You can cut these for a display indoors.
Plant this shrub along the path to your door. Take the flowers into your house where two or three sprigs will fill your room with a sweet perfume. The most popular variety, Daphne odora Aureomarginata, has clusters of white flowers edged with reddish purple and glossy, evergreen yellow-edged leaves.
Red twig dogwood is a deciduous shrub which has flowers in spring, berries in summer and red, orange or yellow leaves in autumn. It is most spectacular when its leaves have fallen and the red stems glow in the winter sunlight. Admire dogwood too against the whiteness of snow or reflected in water.
The Christmas rose, or helleborus niger, is a traditional cottage garden perennial which produces pure white flowers, often turning pink, in the depths of winter. It blooms for two to three months and can be planted in a container or in a group at the front of a mixed border.
Light up the dull, dark months of winter with the mahonia. This showy shrub produces fragrant, soft yellow flowers contrasted against shiny, dark green leaves in late November with the flowers lasting until spring. The mahonia loves dry shade so use it in shady corners and north-facing sites.
Growing sarcococca, also known as Christmas box, is easy. It loves partial shade or sun, grows in any soil and doesn’t need pruning. It has powerfully scented flowers. Prolific, small and white, sometimes with pink or reddish tips, they are almost hidden under dark shiny leaves, and are followed by red, purple or black berries.
8 Winter honeysuckle
The best honeysuckles for winter fragrance are Lonicera fragrantissima and Winter Beauty. Semi-evergreen or deciduous bushy shrubs, they produce fragrant flowers on almost leafless branches. Fragrantissima has small, creamy white flowers tinged with pink with a delicious lemony scent. Winter Beauty has masses of small creamy-white, sweetly scented flowers on red stems by Christmas.
Jobs for December & January
- Raise containers of winter displays off the ground using feet, bricks or pieces of tile. Top with gravel.
- Plant winter-flowering viburnum in borders or containers close to doors and windows.
- Remove leaves from your lawn and mow with raised blades if December is mild and the grass is still growing. Don’t walk on it if it is frosty.
- December is a good time to move evergreens and large shrubs.
- Protect climbers if it is frosty. If any leaves are damaged leave them until early spring to protect undamaged shoots.
- Check your variegated shrubs and trees to make sure that the leaves haven’t become one colour. Prune out the solid colours.
- You can plant bare-rooted rose bushes in December but not where old ones have been in order to avoid disease.
- Prune wisteria, Virginia creeper and Boston ivy in January.
- When snowdrops, scillas and muscari begin to emerge carefully clear away leaves and debris from around them.
- By the end of January cut back perennials to make way for new shoots but leave your penstemons until April.