The 12 plants of Christmas
12:36 16 December 2014
Winter is a quiet time in the garden, but Philippa Pearson suggests a dozen plants to brighten up the 12 days of Christmas and beyond
There are plenty of choices for something interesting in the garden at this quiet time of the year. Many winter plants thrive in cold conditions and ooze charm, colour and interest with their shape, flowers and bark. They also provide unusual decorations at Christmas in the form of twigs, foliage and flowers for displays inside the house. These are some of my favourite winter plants to enjoy over the season.
Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’
Lovely upright arrow-shaped marbled leaves are perfect for flower arrangements, while in early summer, greenish-white flowers are followed by spikes of orange-red berries.
Bergenia ‘Bressingham White’
Hardy evergreen leaves, good for arrangements, with upright spikes of white bell-shaped flowers from mid-winter. Bergenia is best planted by paths or in clumps under trees.
Betula utilis var. jacquemontii
The Himalayan birch has stunning white bark which makes a focal point in gardens year-round. Bring some small branches inside at Christmas and decorate with baubles and lights.
Cornus alba ‘Siberica’
Dogwoods are useful shrubs to have in the garden to add year-round interest. White flowers in summer are followed by berries and good autumn foliage colour. The stems are the real treasure; Siberica has the deepest red ones while others are green or black. Cut stems for displays or put in a big vase without water and wrap some Christmas lights around them.
The Christmas Rose with its pure white flowers blooms for a couple of months early in the year. Plant in groups in borders or pot-up in a container for a colourful welcome by your front door.
Winter jasmine brings loads of winter cheer with its bright yellow flowers borne on leafless arching stems. After flowering, the dark green leaves make a good backdrop for fences or walls, but you’ll need to tie them into a trellis or wire supports.
We usually associate honeysuckle with summer, but this species flowers in winter and has the sweetest fragrance. Small creamy-white flowers appear on leafless branches from late December through to February and are lovely near a pathway – or cut stems to bring in to the house.
The Tibetan cherry has beautiful peeling mahogany bark. Plant so you can appreciate it from the house and where the sun will light up the shining bark. It is particularly pretty with snowdrops planted underneath. Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis‘
A cherry tree that flowers in autumn and winter is a must-have for every garden. Pretty clusters of pink or white flowers adorn the plant from November to March – delightful in the depths of winter.
Pulmonaria is a fabulous ground-cover plant for shady borders and under trees. Unusual blotches and patterns on the leaves bring year-round interest while early flowers, from late December, make this is a versatile plant. It’s one of my favourites.
‘Sweet Box’ or ‘Christmas Box’ is a fragrant delight in the middle of winter. Evergreen leaves bring all-year interest, but from December to March tiny white flowers exude an exquisite sweet fragrance. Don’t spend your money on artificial room fragrances, just cut stems of Sarcocca and put in a vase to fill your room with scent.
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’
Another plant with deliciously-scented flowers. Clusters of tiny pink flowers clothe the stems from November to March and are perfect to add to arrangements and perfume a room.