In the previous garden one of my proudest achievements was to have something in flower all year round and in such a small space that’s not easy. There are times of the year where it can be a real challenge to “fill the gap” but judicious selection of plants means that as one thing is fading, there’s always another that’s beginning to flower. The sheer range of winter flowering shrubs, plants and bulbs available mean the dreaded winter-gap is no longer so daunting to fill. Exotic plants typically flower later in the season and will happily carry on flowering until they’re hit by frosts. Hardier exotics will carry on flowering through frosts and there are some plants that just don’t know when to stop, such as the hardy annuals. They will carry on until the winter-flowering shrubs take the stage.
In this current garden, we’re well on the way to reclaiming the annual flowering crown and that’s appropriate because it’s annuals that are currently keeping the show going. The begonias planted the hanging baskets are in full flower, the sweet peas are finally finishing but the fuchsias, lobelia and pansies are carrying on for the moment. The newly planted roses haven’t stopped either and there are still buds forming and flowers opening. Even the dahlias have rebounded after recent rain, all but ignoring the cold nights.
Many of the new plants in the garden such as the lupins, delphiniums and verbena were planted late and so are only getting round to flowering now, months after they would have otherwise finished. I’ll expect them to return to “normal” flowering times but the gap left behind will be filled by the plants I am planning for an exotic border that we will be creating next season.
There’s likely to be a long gap this winter though, but I am hoping for at least a few flowers on the small Sarcococca Confusa (Sweet Box) that I grew from seed from an original plant that was left behind in the old garden. We also have a young Chimonanthus Praecox (Wintersweet) but I’m not sure whether it is mature enough to flower and we are taking a risk with having planted it out so late.
In the coming years, I’ll be planning for many more winter flowering plants such as the Witch Hazel, winter-flowering honeysuckle, Mahonia, Daphne and Cornus. If you’re wondering where I got that list from then this RHS web page:
makes for a must-have shopping list for winter interest.
In addition to all that, I’ll be planning for bulbs such as nerines, cyclamen, crocus, snowdrops, tulips, daffodils and bluebells to carry the flowering season through before the large Camellia shrubs we have burst into flower in early spring, followed by the Magnolia and Forsythia. Then we’re into spring proper and then it becomes easy again.
There are many “Winter Gardens” dotted around the UK, which will start coming into their own in a few month’s time and it’s well worth a visit to get ideas and inspiration to brighten up what otherwise could be a long, dark, dull period. Most winter flowering plants I know are also some of the most highly fragrant so while winter might be lacking in warmth, light and colour, it certainly doesn’t need to be lacking in scent.