The garden in winter can look rather bare, unwelcoming and colourless. If you have evergreen plants such as conifers, ivy and pittosporum, as I have in my garden, then there is a dominance of green. Early spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, crocuses, snowdrops provide a welcome splash of colour, but they are usually close to the ground. Finding colour and interest at a height for British winter (at least 5 months a year) necessitates other strategies.
These yellow crocuses are brightening up a dark part of the garden at the bottom of a deciduous shrub.
I have recently visited two gardens where they have used colourful stems and bark to provide really attractive features in a winter garden. They are beautiful both visually and to touch. RHS Wisley created their winter garden a couple of years ago and it is now beginning to look really good. The other garden was at Down House near Alresford, Hampshire where I expected to just see snowdrops. These were growing splendidly, however the owner had also used dogwood, willow and silver birch to provide a stunning contrast of colour.
These silver birch with the dogwood in the background were real stars of the show. They add structure and interest at different level to the garden. The strong vertical snow white lines of the birches contrast with the fiery more naturalistic planting of the dogwood. The Silver Birch often used to create this effect is Betula utilis var jacquemonti and the dogwood popularly purchased is Cornus sanguinea Midwinter Fire. There are however plenty of other choices. The effect could be recreated in a smaller garden with just one tree surrounded by the dogwood.
Plants grown for the effect of their bark and stems also tend to be low maintenance. I cut back my dogwood in early March every year to just above the ground and no more work is needed throughout the year. I am also supplied with a bumper crop which can be used for weaving (like willow) and indoor flower arrangin.g
The gleaming white of the bare upper stems against a winter blue sky immediately draw your eye into the garden.
This Acer Pensylvanicum ‘Erythroladum’ add another colour to the pallet of a winter garden.
Fragrant Witch Hazel.
These plants will be in garden centres now. They are worth investing in.