Winter Flowering Shrubs
There are many winter flowering shrubs that would happily brighten the darkest of days in the garden. The winter months can be long, dark and cold not only for us but also for the plants in our garden, most of which become dormant. However, there are some plants whose characteristics can make them valuable in the winter garden. These may include features such as scent, flowers and berries. Aside from the enjoyment we may get, winter interest plants often provide resources for our wildlife too. Winter need not be a bleak season. Design with the right plants and winter can be just as colourful and interesting as any other time of year.
Shrubs offer form and structure in the garden and many flower through the winter too. Winter flowering shrubs can provide colour and sometimes fragrance when all other plants have become dormant in the garden. These are my top ten favourite winter flowering shrubs.
Pyracantha rogersiana ‘Flava’
More commonly known as the yellow Asian firethorn this large arching shrub is evergreen and thorny. Through autumn and spring it produces small bright yellow berries and clusters of creamy white flowers. It likes sun or partial shade in any but a north-facing aspect and will grow happily in any soil as long as it is moist but well drained. Expect an ultimate height and spread of 4m in 10-20 years.
Skimmia confusa ‘Kew Green’
This small evergreen shrub has a spreading habit and aromatic leaves. It bears large clusters of scented yellowish-green flowers in late winter/early spring followed by shiny red berries on fertilised female plants. Expect an ultimate height and spread of 1m x 1.5m in 10 to 20 years. It prefers chalk or loam soil in shade or partial shade. It will tolerate acid, alkaline or neutral soils in a sheltered or exposed position.
Mahonia x media ‘Charity’
Otherwise known as oregon grape ‘Charity’ this upright bushy evergreen shrub will grow to 4m in height and spread. In late autumn and winter it bears racemes of bright yellow flowers. It can be grown in any soil that is moist but well-drained, in either partial shade or full sun.
Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’
The common name for this small evergreen shrub is bastard senna ‘Citrina’. It will grow to an ultimate height and spread of 1m and bears pea-like fragrant yellow flowers in late winter and early spring. It needs a sheltered position in full sun and will grow in any soil as long as it is moist but well drained.
Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’
This medium-sized shrub also known as the beautyberry is deciduous with an upright habit. It will grow to an ultimate height and spread of 4m x 2.5m. The young leaves are purple and turn pink in autumn and it’s berries are violet-purple appearing in compact clusters. The flowers are small and lilac in summer.
Also known as wintersweet or Japan all-spice this deciduous shrub has a bushy, multi-branched habit. Its ultimate height and spread is 4m x 2.5m. It can be grown against a wall. The flowers, which are borne in winter, are highly scented and bi-coloured with the outer tepals being a yellowish-green and the inner tepals a dark reddish purple. It needs shelter and a south or east-facing aspect in full sun.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ AGM
This particular witch hazel is one of the more dense cultivars reaching an ultimate height and spread of 4m x 4m in about 20 years. The shrub is deciduous bearing a profusion of scented spidery, sulphur-yellow flowers in January and February. This shrub prefers acid to neutral soil and would do well in a shady woodland garden.
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’
This Viburnum is also known by the common name of arrowwood ‘Dawn’. It is a vigorous upright deciduous shrub growing to an ultimate height and spread of 1.5m x 2.5m in 10 to 20 years. From autumn to spring it bears clusters of red buds which bloom into highly fragrant pale pink and white flowers. It prefers to grow in full sun or partial shade and any soil as long as it is moist but well-drained.
Viburnum tinus ‘Gwenllian’
The common name for this shrub is laurustinus ‘Gwenllian’. It’s a medium-sized evergreen shrub with a bushy habit. In late winter its reddish buds bloom into compact clusters of starry white flowers followed by metallic-blue berries. It will grow to an ultimate height and spread of 2.5m in 10-20 years on any moist but well drained soil. It can be grown in full sun, partial shade or full shade and will tolerate any aspect.
Otherwise known as the cornelian cherry, this deciduous shrub’s leaves turn purple in autumn and in late winter it bears clusters of tiny yellow flowers. The flowers are followed by shiny red fruits resembling cherries. It prefers full sun or partial shade but is otherwise tolerant of all moist but well-drained soils and aspects.