Plants with colour and form are key ingredients
in a bright, uplifting winter garden
The lyrics to “In the bleak midwinter” don’t offer the best encouragement for getting out in the garden. But with a few thoughtful planting choices you can be “Walking in a winter wonderland!”
The low golden sun shining and sparkling on frosty branches and foliage is a wonder of the season, and is something to be truly celebrated.
Although you may not want to be out in the garden that much in the depths of winter, it is still important to provide yourself with enticing views from the house.
Most important are front gardens and pathways to your doors. These are places that – in rain, sleet and snow – you’ll be passing through on a daily basis.
And it’s where you welcome your visitors. These are places you want to feel proud of, and to get great enjoyment from, in all seasons.
Clean up those secateurs for a decent
bit of winter pruning
To non gardeners it may not be obvious, but autumn can be one of the busiest times of year in the garden, and pruning is one of the most important tasks of the season.
There are many trees and shrubs that need pruning or renovating in their dormant period if they are to avoid stress and recover before growth begins again in spring.
Left unpruned, deciduous trees and shrubs can become leggy and unattractive, with soft and top fruit becoming unproductive and susceptible to disease.
When carrying out your pruning it is really important to use clean sharp tools that will not leave any jagged edges that could prove an easy entry for infection.
The honey-coloured fruiting bodies of honey fungus (Armillaria spp) (image: Wikimedia Commons)
Honey fungus or Armillaria are a group of parasitic fungi. They attack trees, shrubs and woody perennials, and are one of the most destructive fungal diseases in the UK.
They are also among some of the biggest living organisms in the world, their underground networks often covering many miles and living for up to a thousand years.
It is so successful because, unlike most parasites that rely on keeping their hosts alive in order to extract nutrients, it can kill its host and continue living on the decaying matter for many years.
The fungi spread by long reddish brown root-like rhizomorphs that live close to the surface of the soil.
They attach themselves to the root collar of woody plants, killing off the root systems leaving the host unable to absorb nutrients and water.
The wonderfully surreal topiary garden at Beckley
Park, Oxfordshire (image: Wikimedia Commons)
Shrubs trained as topiary are at home in any garden.
From a cottage setting where intriguing forms nestle casually between flowers and vegetables, to a much grander scheme where repetitive shapes are rigid and regimented, topiary can be both charming and formal.
And let’s not forget that when you trim your humble garden hedge, you’re creating (a relatively simple form of) topiary!
European topiary originated in Roman times, where the atriums that were so common in the grand houses of the day became home to geometric shapes and fantastical creatures clipped from evergreen shrubs.
The formality and grandeur often associated with topiary began in the late 15th century with the Italian Renaissance gardens.
These gardens were based on the idea of achieving beauty through order and symmetry, and the clipped forms of topiary as a design feature were used extensively.
Container-grown hedging plants are perfect for planting all year round.
Generally speaking, hedging is put in the ground over winter, using young bareroot plants when they are dormant.
However, some circumstances call for a more instant, mature hedge – which is where container-grown (or potted) hedging plants play their part.