I can’t believe it’s December! With the weather getting colder and the garden almost stripped back to a blank canvass, while I am ready to get excited about Christmas, I can’t seem to let my garden sleep just yet. I love planning ahead at this time of the year and planting some shrubs for colour now will really pay off all Winter long – as well as getting a head start on some lovely Spring schemes too.
While wandering in the garden centre the other day my eye was caught by a deliciously frothy shrub with yellow, starry flowers. Recognising it as the Kerria shrub I realised that at this time of the year my own garden could really have a lot more going on it it. Right then and there I made the decision to add some cheer to the Winter and early Spring border and look at some shrubs which can be planted for some Winter fire.
Not many flowering shrubs bloom at this time of the year where warm hues and sunshine-like colour would be most appreciated but the ones that do tend to have wow factor.
The Kerria is certainly one of these. Not being the biggest fan of yellow in the past, and with my garden now turned to tones of brown, the colour of this shrub seems like a wonderful solution to bringing some Winter sunshine into my space.
Kerria japonica Pleniflora, which is also known as ‘Bachelor’s buttons’ has wonderful double yellow flowers reminiscent of the sun. Soft, papery petals radiate out form the centre of the bloom in a perfect pom-pom shaped cluster. The shrub itself is perennial and fairly vigorous growing- it can reach a size of 4 metres when fully grown, but it is very easy to grow, making it a great choice for the busy gardener. I have decided to plant mine in a border set against a blue wall where the contrast of flowers to wall is like the sun against a blue sky.
It is not just the Kerria which brings Winter fire to the border. There are plenty of options out there-from the papery almost shredded blooms of the witch hazel- Hamamelis × intermedia– to the pastel, drop-shaped flowers of the sweetly scented Wintersweet- Chimonanthus praecox- there are endless options for creating some fiery excitement in the Winter garden. Here are some of my favourites.
Cheerful shrubs for fiery Winter colour
Kerria japonica Pleniflora
An easygoing shrub with gorgeous double flowering blooms. brightening up a dark corner.
Great for: the low maintenance scheme, informal footage style gardens. For sunny colour
Grow: Grows in most well drained soils and does well in sun or partial shade making it a valuable plant for shady spots or in a woodland setting.
Care: It is low in maintenance but to encourage a good shape and an abundance of flowers the shrub should be pruned after flowering. Cut back any damaged growth and prune out overlapping stems to allow stems space.
Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Jelena’
A vase-shaped, slow growing deciduous shrub with lightly scented clusters of delicate orange feathery blooms on bare twigs in January-February.
Great for: planting along walkways for scent. For cut flower stems in Winter. For fiery colour
Grow: Likes a moderately fertile, well drained, neutral to acid soil. It grows well in full sun but also light shade.
Care: Prune out any crossed or damaged growth in Spring and apply a well rotten manure or compost to the base of the plant.
Mahonia × media ‘Charity’
A handsome evergreen shrub with spiky leaves which fan out from a central stem or multi stems.
Great for: all year evergreen interest. Contemporary structure. Nectar for Winter pollinators and berries for birds, glowing yellow colour and delicious scent.
Grow: A shade loving plant which is wonderful for adding zesty, lemon colour into the garden. It likes moderately fertile, humus rich well drained or even moist soil and blooms from November to March, making it a valuable plant for the Winter garden.
Care: This one is truly next to no maintenance. The only thing it needs is a generous layer of well rotten manure or compost after you plant it to allow it to establish. So easy!
A lovely specimen shrub for the sunny border with sweetly scented flowers.
Great for: planting beside the house where the scent can be enjoyed. Flower arranging for indoor displays from December to February (it is highly valued in floristry).
Grow: this shrub may be slow to establish but once it is, the floral display is well worth the wait. The unusual sulphur-yellow blooms hang down and when you look closely you can see the stained magenta centres. Papery soft in texture the flowers have a sweet scent and grow on elegantly arching stems which make for super floral displays indoors. It likes fertile, well drained soil and enjoys full sun.
Care: It needs minimal maintenance but to encourage a good shape and an abundance of flowers the shrub should be pruned back in late Spring. Cut back any damaged growth and prune out overlapping stems to allow stems space and apply a generous layer of well rotten manure or compost.
Finally for something really unusual. The Stachyurus praecox is a pretty rare plant which many
Garden centres won’t stock so may take a bit of sourcing to find it. It’s worth the search though with the pale flowers, which almost look like catkins from a distance, look like they are dripping form the bare branches from February to April and make for striking texture.
Great for: adding interest to a border during the Winter months. A talking point plant.
Grow: If you can get your hands on this specimen -which is native to Eastern Asia and the Himalayas- then this is a great shrub for well-drained acidic soil and it likes full sun or partial shade.
Care: One this plant is established, cut the stems which have flowered back to their base and apply a generous layer of mulch in Spring. Note: it does not like too much dry wind so it’s best to find a slightly sheltered location for it.
A gorgeous compact shrub which is covered in scented, pale yellow flowers from February to April. The strong scent attracts insects and the buds have a lovely covering of delicate hairs, making them appear almost as though they are covered in frost.
Great for: smaller gardens where they have a sheltered spot. Nectar rich for early insects.
Grow: This plant is native to the woodlands of China and the Himalayas and has striking clusters of flowers which cover the shrub in late Winter. It likes a protected location in full sun or dappled shade and may need Winter protection in colder areas. It likes a well-drained, fertile soil.
Care: This plant will tolerate temperatures down as low as -5 Celsius but will need protection if it gets colder than this. Thin out any branches which cross over or any damaged ones in early Spring and applying a layer of well-rotten mulch in Autumn will give it a great start.