A spectacular shady garden in winter relies upon the presence of plants with berries, seed heads, flowers, evergreen foliage or architectural beauty.
More winter gardening advice:
- How to plant winter cabbages (video)
- How to protect plants over winter (video)
- Sow Japanese and Chinese salad leaves for winter (video)
Take a look at seven of our favourite winter shade plants, below.
Hamamelis will happily grow in partial shade, where the bright, sweetly-scented flowers combine well with the bold stems of rubus, cornus and winter-flowering bulbs. Try growing Hamamelis ‘Savill Starlight’, for its lemon-sherbert coloured flowers.
The white stems of this scrambling bramble, Rubus biflorus, look stunning in winter light. Enhance the affect by planting the low-growing black grass, Ophiopogon, in the foreground. Hard-prune it each spring for the whitest winter stems.
Soft evergreen grasses like carex are ideal for brightening up dark areas of bare soil. Grow it in partial shade and try combining with the scorching hot stems of dogwoods like Cornus sanguinea and Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’.
Winter can be a bit drab, so brightly coloured plants are invaluable, especially in shade. Dogwoods (Cornus) do this job admirably and will enjoy growing in partial shade. Just be sure to prune them hard in spring to encourage vibrant, new stems to grow. Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ has beautiful red stems.
Hellebores are one of the first plants to flower in the year, so they’re perfect for cheering up gloomy, shady areas in winter. They’re perfectly at home in partial shade and have the benefit of being generally healthy and robust plants.
If it’s evergreen foliage that you seek, then look no further than ferns. Generally trouble-free, there are many beautiful types to grow, including the glossy hart’s tongue fern, common polypody as a groundcover or the leathery-leaved hard fern.
Not only can holly be used to create attractive Christmas decorations, but birds will thank you for the berried rewards, too. It’s happy in full shade, but bear in mind that only females will produce berries, and you’ll need a male plant nearby for this to happen.
Ornamental grasses in winter
Don’t cut back deciduous ornamental grasses in autumn – their buff colour and striking forms look beautiful during the winter months. Cut them back in early spring when new green shoots appear at the base.