By Ken & Len Lucas
The leaves that used to be on the trees are now all over the place and spring feels as far away as ever. But wait, even at this time of year and even in the depths of winter some plants will actually come into flower.
Believe it or not there is a very wide range of winter flowering plants suitable for growing in our gardens. They may not have the same wild extravagance of high summer but a much more reserved, elegant and understated sophistication and indeed amongst them are some of the most fragrant flowers that money can buy.
If you think that is overstated next time you are in a garden centre in the winter have a look for some of these and judge for yourself. Here is our personal choice for plants that bring a smile to your face when all else might be doing the opposite.
Sometimes called ‘Sweet Box’. A small compact evergreen shrub which will produce the most fragrant white flowers in late winter. It is a real gem of a plant and you could grow it in a pot near the kitchen door and you will know when it’s in flower as soon as you walk out.
This is the Algerian Iris. We have one in our front garden and it will flower at almost any time from September to April if the weather is not too cold. For most of the year it doesn’t look much at all and then all of a sudden will produce these quite short, beautiful pale lilac blue flowers. It’s an amazing site.
CHIMONANTHUS PRAECOX “WINTER SWEET”
You might have to look for this one but well worth it when it starts to flower because of the strong spicy fragrance.
A tall graceful evergreen shrub that really comes into its own at this time of year. The yellow flowers are scented and appear like a star burst at the top of the stems.
LONICERA X PURPUSII
This is a winter-flowering honeysuckle but not at all like the familiar climber. The flowers are quite small but have a strong scent and could come into flower anytime between November to March.
VIBURNAM X BODNANTENSE
The variety you will find most often is called “Dawn”. A shrub that bears its very fragrant pink flowers almost on bare stems in the winter. It can look a bit untidy when it’s not flowering but my word does it make up for that.
PRUNUS SUBHIRTELLA “AUTUMNALIS”
This is the winter-flowering cherry. It’s a small tree and we don’t have a lot of experience with this plant but when you drive past somebody’s front garden with a small tree in flower in the winter it is very likely to be this one.
Often referred to as “Tommies” this is the winter flowering crocus and can come into flower almost anytime in the winter if the weather is not too cold.
There are several varieties of this evergreen climber and worth growing just for that. It’s vigorous so needs some room but it can be cut to fit the space it’s in. We have two in the garden and will flower any time from December to February if they feel like it.
GARRYA ELLIPTICA “JAMES ROOF”
Evergreen and the attraction in winter is the long grey/green catkins. It’s the male plant that has the catkins and the variety James Roof has the best catkins. This is very likely the plant you will find in any good garden centre.