One of things I’m obsessed about in the garden is the continuity of flowering. It simply means there must be something in flower in the garden at any time of the year, even in the coldest, darkest depths of winter.
This can be tricky as most plants will flower in spring or summer. There are plants that can flower very early – such as snowdrops in February – and other plants can keep flowering until the frosts stop them in their tracks (such as Dahlias and many bedding annuals).
There are periods of the year such as the “June Gap” where most spring plants have finished flowering, but the summer flowering hasn’t quite started and the garden finds itself in a bit of a lull. Finding plants that flower at the end of summer and into autumn also takes a little effort.
The shortest list though is one with plants that will flower over the winter months. Bridging the gap between the last flowers of the previous season, with the first spring bulbs of the next.
Our flowering season tends to finish with the annuals and Dahlias, which keep flowering until they are hit with frost and they call time on the year. This is sometime in November but is highly dependent on how harsh those first frosts are and whether it’s a one-off, or repeated frosting.
The roses will also sporadically flower into early winter along with some other plants that might try to cheekily get one final tiny flush of flowering before the year is done. After that point, we’re relying on the cyclamen flowers at the very bottom of the garden. A small patch of Cyclamen may be the only thing that is flowering in the early winter months but it’s just enough to tide over until the various shrubs of Sarcococca (Sweet Box or Christmas Box) begin to flower around the garden and fill the winter air with their deliciously sweet fragrance in December.
The Sarcococca might be joined by the Wintersweet (Chimonanthus Praecox), which was put in a couple of years ago but hasn’t flowered yet. If not, then it falls to the Sarcococca to keep flowering until the snowdrops and crocus appear in early February, at which point the whole cycle of flowering starts again.
There are flowering gaps over the winter months that I’m planning to fill in with more winer flowering plants such as Winter Flowering Honeysuckle, Daphne and Witch-hazel and perhaps even cheat a little with winter flowering pansies.
Keeping the flower show going (no matter how sparse or tenuous) is a fun challenge and helps to extend the seasonal interest in the garden so that it can look great no matter what time of year. It also tuns into an all-year-round buffet for wildlife and evens out the garden jobs a little.
While I have probably completed the challenge of continuous flowering, I won’t be satisfied until there is much more in flower over the winter months and I’m not relying on a tiny patch of Cyclamen to hold the interest. That’s why I have a large section of border planned for winter-interest plants, inspired by winter gardens we’ve previously visited. I hope to make a start on that next year, but it will be a multi-year project as it’s part of a much larger border.
In the meantime, I’ll cross fingers with the Cyclamen and hope they keep going. I can already see crocus leaves poking through the soil. If all else fails, at least I can now rely on the Strelitzia flowering over the winter. It’s indoors though and I’m not sure if that counts as cheating..?