Flowering Interlude

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..?

6 Comments


  1. Morning Sunil!
    Like you I like to have colour year round…. and My Daphne is even now breaking buds and I can’t wait for the smell. I just do not know which one I have; I’ve looked and looked….. I thought it was Daphne Praecox…. but can’t find any pics of mine which has dak reddish leaves around now, (green formerly) and the leaves have regular creases, like a pleated skirt. Anyway, whatever it is if you can find it I recommend it. I can also Viburnum Tinus which always gives me a good show over Christmas which is the worst time for flowers on anything! Planted from a pot around 10 years ago it is now about 12 feet high and 8 feet across, so time for some serious top pruning next spring.

    Have you got things doing “the wrong thing” in your garden this year? We have a Ceanothis Victoria which is in flower right now… Totally wrong! In the end the frost will have the flowers, but they shouldn’t be there!

    When the hardy geraniums are over, their leaves turn wonderful shades of red. Also my Purple Smoke Tree – Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ has been a gorgeous red rather than purple this autumn….. another bonus of that hot spell I think.

    I am not a “winter” gardener, but I like to look out and see colour, like you. I never thought about autumn crocus before until I saw your comment about crocus leaves poking through – I know yours are for the new year, but I was thinking a bit further ahead.

    Enjoy WWW-ing for other plants to find this coming winter!

    Reply

    1. Hello Mrs Mac, a Daphne (or wtwo) is on the shopping list, along with a winter flowering honeysuckle. We did used to have Viburnum Tinus but it was so affected by beetle that I ended up taking them out, they just looked awful. Our plants are well behaved and they’re not doing anything unusual, by now they are rapidly going dormant. I may have missed bulb planting season (again) because of the winter clear-up starting late and planting the Landing Pad (finally) now that the hot dry weather is over and there is some moisture in the new soil in that border.

      Reply

  2. I also like a flowering season that is as long as possible – though our winters impose limitations. But then there are always flowers indoors!

    Reply

    1. Hello Jason, given the winters you have, I think I can forgive you not having too much (or anything) in flower over the winter months. I have less of an excuse but can now count on the Strelitzia flowering indoors over the winter, as well as impromptu winter bedding by the front door.

      Reply

  3. Sunil, I am at loss as to why I have never tried Cyclamen. Winter flowering shrubs are good to fall back on. I like Hamamelis, Mahonia Charity, Viburnum Eve Price and some of the early flowering Camellias. Primulas often show in Winter, a lot of gardeners think they are too garish but it is easy to choose more subtle shades.

    Reply

    1. Hello Alistair, I have some small patches of Cyclamen in the most difficult areas of the garden and they seem to thrive so I am planning on having a whole lot more. Mahonia and Witch Hazel are also on the list for winter plants. There is a Wintersweet that I might have to move for it to flower (it’s a bit congested), that will be particularly stunning to have once it matures, unfortunately, it is known to take its time. I did think of Camellias but we have several large shrubs already and the flowers spoil easily of they’re frosted so I might leave those off.

      Reply

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