Stems, Scent & Snowdrops

IMG_2208A view of Ruth’s garden on Empress Avenue in Aldersbrook

Ruth Martin, Chair of the Aldersbrook Horticultural Society, will be talking about winter gardens at the group’s January meeting. Here, she offers tips for keeping your garden interesting in the bleaker months.

At January’s meeting of the Aldersbrook Horticultural Society, I will be speaking about gardening for winter interest, using my training  as a garden designer and my Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) qualifications to explain how to make sure the garden is as interesting in December, January and February as it is in June, July and August.

For me, this has become even more important in my retirement, because now I look out on to my garden every day and not just at the weekends – the only time I used to be at home during daylight hours!

At the event, I will look at using evergreen shrubs to create a framework in a bed or border, using as examples, shrubs which flourish in my own garden and in local gardens such as yew, choisya, fatsia japonica and sarcococca, as well as shapely conifers. I will also show how herbaceous perennials, which are evergreen or semi-evergreen, can be used in the border to avoid the all brown look of the winter garden, for example, penstemon, acanthus and vinca.

Using examples from the winter gardens at RHS Wisley, the Saville Garden in Windsor Great Park and at Anglesey Abbey, I will show how plants with coloured stems can really light up a winter garden, especially if they are planted with an eye to colour and contrast.

In my own garden, I have planted cornus, using their orange stems to contrast with the silver trunk of birch trees and red stems against a backdrop of brachyglottis, a low-growing evergreen shrub.

Shrubs that flower in the winter have a very strong perfume to attract the lone bees that will still be flying at that time. My favourite is the Daphne, which has a heavenly scent, but there are plenty of others like sarcococca, mahonia and hamamelis. As well as talking about the above, I will also be looking at the tiny delicate bulbs that grow in winter – snowdrops, aconites and Iris reticulata. These can be planted in pots, tubs and window boxes as well as in borders in the garden. They provide a dash of colour, sometimes peeping through the snow in January and February, a time of the year which can be bleak.

We also hope to organise a members’ visit to the winter gardens at Anglesey Abbey in the middle of January – please contact me if you are interested.

Ruth’s talk will take place at Aldersbrook Bowls Club, 34 Aldersbrook Road, on 14 January from 7.30pm (visitors: £5). For more information, visit wnstd.com/ahs or email eruthmartin1954@gmail.com