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Colourful plants for winter


by Kate Bradbury

The garden is looking miserable. The lawn is patchy and damp, the plants are starting to shrivel, the borders are becoming bare.


The garden is looking miserable. The lawn is patchy and damp, the plants are starting to shrivel, the borders are becoming bare. Even the honeysuckle, which is still in flower, is looking tired (as it would - it’s December). When walking around I can spot signs of spring – the first daffodil stems poking through the soil, a rogue hellebore and the odd dog violet, but nothing jumps out.

Like many gardeners I’m sure, I focus my attentions on late spring and summer. The garden looks great in May, June and July, passable between August and October, and horrendous from November onwards. In short, I need some plants for winter colour.

One of my favourite plants for winter colour is the beauty berry, Callicarpa bodinieri. My mum has a huge callicarpa planted outside her kitchen, so your eye is drawn to it in autumn and winter every time you look out of the window. The berries have been fantastic this year, and for the first time my mum has noticed birds eating them. I suspect these are blackcaps. A recent British Trust for Ornithology news release suggests blackcaps are quite fond of callicarpa berries, while other birds ignore them. Do birds eat your callicarpa berries?

Another shrub for winter colour is the dogwood Cornus sanguinea. When pruned hard in spring, its young stems look amazing the following winter, particularly if set against a dark background such as a fence or wall. C. sanguinea also produces berries, which attract a number of different garden birds.

I’m also fond of rainbow chard. Not normally grown as an ornamental plant, it has wonderfully colourful stems that can last right through winter. Every autumn my friend Naomi transplants her chard from the vegetable patch to a pot outside her back door, where it looks wonderful. This is so simple and clever, creating a display out of something that would otherwise end up on the compost.

Sadly, all of these plants require full sun to look their best in winter, so I’ll have to contend myself with the rogue hellebores and dog violets, until the first of the spring flowers starts to brighten these dull, winter days. It can’t be long now.

What’s looking good in your garden now?



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Talkback: Colourful plants for winter
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oldchippy 10/12/2013 at 14:24

is it right you have to prune Callicarpa hard to get berries on new wood.

punkdoc 10/12/2013 at 17:20

No it is not right. Mine has byried beautifully for a few years now, and it only gets a bit of a tidy up. i do find that it needs a bit of fertiliser to perform [bit like the rest of us I suppose ]

happymarion 14/12/2013 at 21:27

My evergreen ferns are a joy in the fernery and large pots. I have lots of varieties of cotoneaster with so many berries you have a job to distinguish the leaves which are also red now. The Jasmine nudiflorum is covered in its yellow flowers and the white heather is breaking its buds. Grasses like Stipa tenuissima, golden oats and Miscanthus zebrina are still looking great. The bamboos make the garden look exotic. The pink heather will soon join the merry throng

Verdun 15/12/2013 at 09:08

Sounds lovely happymarion. Agree about the grasses still looking good.  Miscanthus varieties ESP stand up well to gales etc.

Mahonia Charity is looking superb right now with solanum album flowering behind.  Dogwoods shining too.  

specflow 24/06/2014 at 10:52

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