Gardeners sometimes make the mistake of thinking that gardening is not a year-round pursuit. But there are things to do in a garden all year round. Now that the temperatures are beginning to drop and the nights are drawing in, you may think that the time for planting is at an end. But autumn is a good time to plant a range of winter flowering plants.
There are bulbs to plant for flowers in late winter and early spring, and you could also consider planting some bedding plants or winter flowering shrubs to fill in any late-season gaps in your growing areas. Here are ten winter flowering plants to consider:
Snowdrops are often one of the first flowers we notice early in the year. They look wonderful when naturalistically planted in drifts below trees or in a woodland or forest garden. To make the display look more natural, toss out the bulbs across the planting area and plant each one exactly where it happens to land. Usually, snowdrops are best planted in early spring, from bulbs or slightly later ‘in the green’, but you can also buy bulbs to sow at this time of year.
Plant crocus bulbs into a sunny glade or lawn in numbers for a spectacular late-winter/ early spring flowering display. These flowers also make a big impact very early in the season when there are not as many other flowers about, and are fantastic for early pollinators.
Daffodils, of many varieties, are also a popular winter flowering plant or early spring flowering plant. To maximise the impact in a winter garden, look for early blooming varieties like ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation or February Gold. Daffodils look best when planted in numbers, as a ‘host of golden daffodils’.
Another bulb that looks great planted in broad drifts is this cheery yellow flower. The golden cup-shaped flowers resemble buttercups, but pop up in the depths of winter. They thrive in moist soil and shade and so are perfect for a woodland setting, or for placing beneath trees or shrubs.
After autumn flowering cyclamens have had their day, it is time for cyclamen coum to take up the mantle. These pretty pink flowers pop up their heads as early as January, peeping up from a carpet of silver-marbled leaves. These also like moist soil and shade and are great companions for snowdrops and/or winter aconite.
Iris rhisomes need to be warmed by the sun in August and September, but there is still time to plant out these warmed bulbs in a sunny spot in well-drained soil or to place on in a pot indoors or under cover in a polytunnel to force for flowers in February. The flowers are an attractive violet, with yellow and white patterns.
Winter Flowering Pansies
One easy option for winter flowering plants is to choose bedding plants from your local garden centre or plant nursery. There are a number of different bedding plants that you could choose – but one of the most popular options is winter pansies – which come in a range of different hues.
Another easy option, with plenty of flower colours and characteristics to choose from, is the Hellebore. Oriental hybrids are particularly popular as these are so easy to grow. These are also great for adding late winter and early spring interest to your garden beds and borders. You can buy bedding plants from autumn onwards.
Winter Flowering Viburnum
If you have a larger area that you would like to fill, a winter flowering shrub could fit the bill. There are a wide range of different viburnum that you could consider. Evergreen varieties like V. tinus, V. burkwoodii and Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ could all be interesting options to consider. The last of these has brilliant bright pink flowers.
Winter Flowering Skimmia japonica
Another winter flowering shrub produces prolific panicles of creamy flowers. If you have a male and a female plant, red berries will also form on these shrubs, providing even more interesst in your garden early in the year.
These are just some of the many options for winter flowering plants that will bring some colour and interest to a winter garden. Of course there are plenty more plants that you can choose – and it is not to late to introduce a range of new plants to your garden right now to make sure your garden looks great even over the coldest months. Add your own suggestions to this list in the comments section below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.