You may think you’re going to be limited in the garden when it comes to winter scent and colour – but think again, because there’s a host of shrubs which will brighten up your outdoor space, whatever its size.
Some hybrid roses, variegated euonymus and zingy yellow mahonia will survive harsh weather conditions by growing new stems at their bases as older ones are killed off by hard frost.
Here are five shrubs to help take the chill out of winter…
1. Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’
If you want a touch of romance in winter, this pink beauty should fit the bill, with its clusters of pink buds, opening to sweetly scented paler pink tubular flowers on bare stems.
This deciduous upright shrub is long-flowering, blooming from early winter to early spring and needs little maintenance apart from thinning out the older stems after flowering to stop it becoming tall and woody. It will grow up to 3m tall.
Growing tips: It likes moist but well-drained soil. Avoid very shady spots as it prefers full sun.
2. Mahonia x media ‘Charity’
I sometimes take stems from this prickly evergreen shrub to add to indoor displays, and make the most of its delicious scent and long spikes of bright yellow flowers.
It has an upright habit, producing tooth-edged leathery, deep green leaves and is worth its place in the garden for architectural value as well as colour and scent. It grows to around 3.7m, but if you want to keep it from going straggly cut it back hard after flowering.
Growing tips: Plant it in any good, fertile soil in light shade with a little shelter. It looks great with other shrubs in a large border.
3. Erica carnea (Winter-flowering heather)
There are few gardeners who would be without a bit of winter-flowering heather in shades of white, pink, red, purple and mauve to brighten the scene, whether added to pots or within a bespoke heather garden or with dwarf bulbs and other miniature specimens in a rockery. They also make a colourful ground cover in front of conifers and evergreens.
Growing tips: Plant in acid soil or in pots with ericaceous compost. Trim them back with shears when the flowers have faded, making sure you don’t cut back into old wood.
4. Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’
This pretty, compact shrub is ideal for smaller gardens, or even to grow as a stand-alone specimen in containers or mixed with other winter favourites in pots.
It’s a neat plant with dark red buds in winter, which face upwards and then burst into scented pink-tinged white flowers in spring. It won’t produce berries as it’s a male plant, but if you grow it with a female skimmia it can act as a pollinator.
Growing tips: Grow it in well-drained soil enriched with well-rotted organic matter in a shady spot. Use John Innes compost if you’re growing it in a pot.
5. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ (Witch hazel)
Eye-catching spidery flowers appear on the bare stems of this reliable shrub in winter, casting a burnt orange hue in borders or as stand-alone specimens. The ribbon-like flowers are slightly fragrant and surprisingly rain-resistant, while pale green foliage in summer which turns to orange and scarlet in autumn earns it a place in the garden for year-round interest.
Growing tips: Grow it in sun or light shade in deep, well-drained soil with plenty of added organic matter. Remove diseased or crossed branches in spring and mulch well-rotted compost around the base.