Clumber Gardener: Hardy plants will give your garden winter colour

Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park
Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park
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Hardy outdoor plants which produce their flowers during the winter are real value for money plants.

They earn their keep in the garden by bringing interest and lifting our spirits during the short, cold day of winter.

If those flowers are scented, their value is even greater.

There are many shrubs which can be relied on to produce strongly scented flowers, and most do so, regardless of what the weather brings.

Scented winter flowers are best appreciated close up, so it makes sense to plant shrubs next to paths or towards the front of a bed or border.

It’s also worth thinking about what to grow next to them.

Ideally, their neighbours should bring interest at other times of the year, so summer flowering herbaceous perennials, such as dahlias and day lilies, or spring flowering bulbs, would make ideal partners.

Several plants are reliable for winter scent.

Winter sweet, Chimonanthus praecox , produces waxy pale yellow flowers with purple centres which are sweetly scented.

Plants are best grown against a sunny wall and pruned immediately after flowering.

Christmas box Sarcococca make low growing shrubs with shiny evergreen leaves.

Their small white flowers open during late winter.

Some varieties produce purple or black berries.

Many viburnums produce scented flowers.

The best for winter colour is Viburnum x bodnantense.

It will start flowering in November and continue into February.

Frost-resistant flowers are pale pink and gloriously scented.

Hybrids of the witch hazels, Hamamelis, bear yellow, orange or red flowers between December and March.

Many also produce rich autumn foliage colour.

The pale yellow pallida and the orange-red jelena are two of the best.

The forms of winter flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera, all produce creamy white lemon scented flowers in late winter and spring, usually followed by dark red or black berries.

The aptly-named sweetest honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima can be trained against a south or west facing wall.

Final choice is the evergreen Daphne odora Aureomarginata which has creamy white edges to its foliage.

The mauve flowers are exceptionally fragrant.

To add to the winter display, winter flowering bulbs, like snowdrops and winter aconites can be planted around the base of these shrubs.

We are now into December and if the soil isn’t water-logged or frozen, plant bare-root trees, shrubs and fruit bushes into prepared ground that has been dug and had well-rotted manure or garden compost added to it.

Continue harvesting in the vegetable garden where leeks, parsnips, winter cabbages, Savoy cabbages and, of course, Brussels sprouts are all in season.

Continue inspecting cannas, corms and dahlia tubers being stored over winter and remove any which are showing signs of rotting.

Keep indoor pot plants looking good by keeping them cool and the air around them moist by standing the pots on trays with moistened gravel.

Cyclamen and azaleas especially benefit from this.