3 Top Plants for Winter Interest

At Larch Cottage our borders are carefully designed for year-round interest. As well as the fabulous summer colours of our herbaceous borders and the stunning golds, russets and oranges of autumn, winter brings the wonderful blooms and fantastic fragrances of our favourite winter shrubs. Shrubs that perform best in the colder months are often shade tolerant and highly scented and are a welcome sight in midwinter when most plants are dormant. Here are some of our favourites.

Mahonia bealei is an upright evergreen with blue-green, divided leaves and clusters of fragrant, lemon-yellow flowers from late winter until early spring that are followed by blue-green berries. It thrives in a shady position on well-drained soil and, reaching an ultimate height of 1.5m, it adds interest and structure to the winter border.

Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ is a lovely, fragrant, evergreen shrub for shade. With long, bright green pinnate leaves in ruffs around the stems and huge terminal clusters of long yellow flower spikes between December and March, it is a fantastic winter choice.

Sarcococca confusa, also known as Sweet Box, is a bushy, evergreen shrub with glossy, deep green foliage and very sweetly-scented, pure white flowers in winter. Tolerant of shady conditions, it is ideal for a woodland border or shaded corner of the garden.

Sarcococca hookeriana ‘Winter Gem’ is a new hybrid form crossing S. hookeriana var. digyna ‘Purple Stem’ with S. hookeriana var. humilis. It has larger than average leaves, which are a rich, glossy green. Highly scented white flowers, with pink anthers, open from dark pink buds from late winter until April, followed by red berries that ripen to black. With a height and spread of 1.5m, it makes an excellent hedge as it responds well to clipping and will grow in any fertile soil in part shade.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis is a dwarf, densely branched shrub which grows to a height of 2-3 ft. It has evergreen, glossy foliage and white, fragrant flowers which bloom in Feb/March. It will grow happily in well-drained soil in sun or partial shade.

For a strong, evergreen shrub with an upright habit, choose Sarcococca orientalis. Its fragrant white flowers are tinged with pink and emerge in late winter. Growing to a height of 3-4ft, and being tolerant of shade, it is an excellent choice for the winter border.

Hamamelis intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ AGM is a large shrub with clusters of large, fragrant, yellow flowers from December through to March. This is a very hardy variety, with excellent autumn colouring, that grows to a height of 8-10ft and is a fabulous choice for acid soils in sun or part shade.

Hamamelis intermedia ‘Birgit’ is a new variety of ‘witch hazel’ with possibly the best red to date. Twisted, slightly scented and crimped petals of dark red are produced in late winter. This variety offers good autumn colour with shades of yellow and orange: new leaves are deep green with a maroon flush. Another good choice for fertile, peaty, acid soil.

With these, and many other varieties on offer, Larch Cottage is an ideal place to get inspiration for your winter borders and fill your garden with wonderful colour and scent.

(Blog post written by Jo Chamberlain)

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