As memories of summer fade so too does the colour of flowers and leaves and we are once again left with a garden bereft of its clothes. Gone are all the fluffy and fancy bits and only the skeletons and bones remain, forming a meagre image that greets you as you open the curtains every wintery morning. But your garden does not have to stop working for you during the months between November and March.
There are many ways to make the garden an interesting and rewarding place even in the grey depths of an English winter. For example, a feature or focal point that remains hidden by summer foliage can now be allowed to jump out and provide drama or direction to the eye. Carefully chosen plants that give summer interest in the beds can also provide winter interest through their seed heads, stems and flower spikes. Plants that have this wonderful multi tasking ability include Sedum, Achillea, poppies, honesty, golden rod, teasel, Eryngium, Phlomis russeliana, Cardiocrinum giganteum, and Cynara cardunculus. Many of the grasses and bamboos will also give great summer and winter interest too. The dogwoods are also well worth considering for their vivid red, yellows and greens.
A third option for winter interest is a well placed tree which gives valuable structure and a focal point whether evergreen or deciduous.
Now is a good time of year to buy and plant trees so here is a list of trees that are suitable for all gardens but especially those small spaces that need to make every single plant work hard for its keep: Acer, birch, cherry, dove tree, ghost tree, handkerchief tree, laburnum, mountain ash, pear, quince, hawthorn, crab apple and wisteria. Some of these trees can even be successfully grown for years in a pot placed on a patio. In our garden we have 5 plants that have lived in pots all their lives: a 17 year old acer, a huge pyracantha bush, a 10 foot high Cyprus tree, a clump of 15 foot high bamboo and a hawthorn tree trained to be flat and wide. Check before you buy a tree that it really is suitable for the space available, and be aware of potential problems from root growth too. For more tree-related information visit the following web sites: – www.treecouncil.org.uk, www.rhs.org.uk, www.gardenersworld.com.