It may be cold outside and the garden a little bleak but there are still some stunning plants to be had that will really give your garden a lift at this time of year. From early bulbs to flowering shrubs, here is a short list of some of the very best.
Narcissus is always a very welcome sight at the end of a long cold winter and there are a few varieties that emerge at the very start of the year to offer a glimpse of spring to come. Narcissus tazetta is a lovely little daffodil whose leaves begin to emerge as early as December. At the end of January it produces clusters of up to fifteen small highly scented flowers with white petals and a yellow corona. It prefers a warm sunny position in good rich soil and grows to a height of 50cm. Rijnveld's Early Sensation has large yellow windmill style flowers and if planted in a sheltered position can flower as early as December. It grows to a height of 35cm.
Crocus tommasinianus is another cheerful little bulb that flowers from the end of January and into February. The flowers close up in bad weather but unfurl to reveal delightful mauve innards with bright orange stemens. It is a useful bulb for borders or under deciduous trees and looks good planted amongst snowdrops. The snowdrop is probably the one flower we all associate as heralding spring. There are many varieties to choose from. Galanthus 'S. Arnott' Flowers from February to March. It has slender stalks of nodding white flowers and a delicate scent. It is a self propagator and spreads to around 20cm.
The sight of a flowering witch hazel on a gloomy winter day is enough to brighten any heart. Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aphrodite' is a large shrub with a height and spread of around 3m. From January to March is it covered with large clusters of spidery amber-coloured flowers. Euonymous fortunei 'Silver Queen' is a common variegated evergreen shrub that may be a little overlooked at the height of summer. But placed in a border on a sunny February day it glows with its green marbled leaves that are edged in creamy white. It will thrive in sun or partial shade in any garden and grows to a height and spread of around 2m.
Finally, hellebores are a jewel in any winter border with their various colours from bright white to pink and dark purple. Helleborus 'Anna's Red' flowers from February to March. Its flowers sit on top of dark stems that rise up from marbled leaves and are rich red in colour. Hellebores like rich soil and semi-shade and grow to a height and spread of about 30cm. They also look good in garden planters.
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