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Eggleston Hall Gardens

Eggleston Hall Gardens Journal

Winter Flowering Shrubs

5th March, 2013

There are few more delights in the winter garden than the Cornelian Cherry Dogwood 'Cornus mas' with its abundance of sulphur yellow flowers borne from late February, through March and well into April.

I am always asked to recommend plants for winter colour in the garden, and in truth there are not that many. Perhaps one should get used to the idea of winter being a time of rest and recuperation, even in the garden!

However, for those days when the weather lets up enough to enjoy a potter there are one or two. Firstly, I will be brutally honest; Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) and winter honeysuckles (Loniceras, fragrantissima, standishii, & purpusii) I would not give a moments thought, especially in an average sized garden where space was limited, in fact I wouldn't bother with them if my garden was half of Durham.

I would select from the various Hamamelis varieties such as Arnold Promise, Jelena, or Diane, they are expensive but if I've got to look at the bugger for the rest of my life I want more than a few intermittent paltry looking blooms and a mass of boring green all summer, and hamamelis give structure, texture, shape, flower in winter, scent in most cases, plus fantastic autumn foliage colour. So save up, be patient, and invest in something worthwhile.

Also on my list would be viburnums bodnantense, farreri, and perhaps at a push one of the 'tinus' varieties. Added to this I would add a Garrya of some sort, the lovely scented wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) which is best grown against a wall....incidentally, you'll see the Latin word 'praecox' after a lot of early flowering shrubs...It simply means pre-cock, or before the cock crows, I get a lot of smutty mileage out of that translation during garden talks.

One more contender for late summer would be any of the sarcococca (Christmas box) species which are beautifully pungent to an eye-watering degree in enclosed places or if brought into the house.

Getting back to Cornus mas, it is worth considering the two grafted varieties 'variegata' and 'aurea'....the former having white variegation all summer, the latter golden leaves all summer, it's my own particular favourite along with Hamamelis Jelena.

Having said all that there's a lot to be said for putting another log on the fire and warming your arse till the gentle velvety kiss of spring starts your sap rising!