Joy in the winter garden
The start of a new year is the perfect time to review your patch of outdoor space to ensure it fills you with joy – even in January. You need either strong structural design that looks stunning at any time of year, or a wonderful array of rainbow shades, punctuated by architectural forms. But how can you achieve this?
Planting a rainbow
Aim to provide something that fits into the chart of the seven visible spectrum colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Almost certainly, you will already have some green, but there are many different shades. The secret is to have one shade of green set off against another – dark and light is the classic combination. You can play with greens all year round, but January is the month they can really bring the show alive.
Reds for the winter garden
Think about stems and bark as well as flowers, foliage and berries, and there is a feast of red opportunity. The fiery stems of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ or Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ will set the border ablaze, particularly if you prune down your cornus in late winter or very early spring so that the new growth is pleasingly vertical. The rich mahogany bark of Prunus serrula, or Tibetan cherry, can look stunning against a backdrop of dark green hedging or the brown leaves of winter beech. Lower to the ground you might consider heuchera such as H. ‘Forever Red’ or H. ‘Paprika’. Then we have rhododendrons, some of which can be adorned with a blousy show of scarlet this month. Don’t forget red-flowering evergreen camellias too – their winter flowers stand out against the dark green foliage.
Create orange and yellow sunshine in the garden
With ornamental grasses in borders or pots, January will glow. Clumps of tall miscanthus with its warm, yellow-orange stems and seed heads will look dignified in January, providing structure and colour. Choose an orange-stemmed cornus for vertical accent and dot these plants around in repeated forms to bring the picture together. Plant Eranthis hyemalis, the winter aconite, under deciduous shrubs to create a spreading, golden carpet and consider Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’, a magnificent structural shrub with yellow, scented winter flowers to transform a shady corner.
Beat the winter blues with garden blue, indigo and violet
Blue fescue is an evergreen grass that can create winter blues and there are plenty of conifers and shrubs with steely-blue foliage to provide structure and colour, including Juniperus ‘Blue Star’ and Pittosporum ‘Wrinkled Blue’. Eucalyptus gunnii, with its strikingly blue juvenile leaves, can be tamed by clipping for winter beauty. For an indigo or violet hue, consider the conifer Cryptomeria japonica, which turns a pleasing shade of purple in winter. Evergreen heucheras can provide low mounds of purple foliage to line paths and provide a safe haven for wildlife.
Your winter garden is likely to be viewed through glass for much of this month, so help it to come alive with colour!