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Cornucopia - The Winter Garden

The Winter Garden
June Ainsworth

I am sure I have a deep-seated lump of DNA that says I originated in the deep south of somewhere! Like many of you, I am sure, dark mornings, low light levels and persistent grey skies make for a real disinclination to get out of bed in the months of December and January. If I have a definite objective for the day then there is no problem but most of the time it’s a real struggle and to have snow on top of it requires a lift of spirits of quite major proportions.

Over the years, I have tried to include in my garden plants that will light up dark corners for the winter months. It also helps if you can see many of them from the windows of the house.

A hardy example of this category is the humble yellow privet, Ligustrum aureum, and placed nearby is another ever-yellow standby, Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen’s Gold'. Viewed from my kitchen window they give me a glow even on the darkest day. If you have slightly more shelter than my garden on the edge of Salisbury Plain, Rhamnus alaternus 'Aureomarginatus' is a sparkling sight on a sunny winter morning. Mine unfortunately became a victim to two cold winters with searing winds and I haven’t yet found a more sheltered spot to try again. Another similar effect can be gained with variegated pittosporum but as these are also on the tender side a sheltered place is best.

I have used Euonymus fortunei in both the green and gold and green and white variegations and both are quite enthusiastic climbers if you give them a little help to encourage them to stick to a wall or up the trunk of a silver birch.

Closer to the ground, Vinca major 'Variegata' AGM gives a bright covering of green and yellow and together with other varieties will even give you a range of colour from dark to light blue and purple in their flowers during the winter as well as covering up rough ground or difficult spots in the garden.

In recent years I have included some reliable grasses in my border to bolster the winter scene and to provide interest for birds to feed in my garden as well as hide from predators. I use Calamagrostis brachytricha, with interesting purple plumes in summer which changes to biscuit in winter, and grows to about 3 feet in height. Slightly taller, Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' does well, a stiffer grass that stands well through winter winds. In another, damper spot, I grow a six foot bamboo grass bought some years ago from Diana Guy from Witchampton which I can also see from the kitchen window giving me a regal wave.

Another cheery note is the wonderful Galanthus elwesii which never fail to turn up well before Christmas and gradually stretch to 6-9 inches in height over the winter months to be followed by 'Galatea' an old favourite, and the prolific Galanthus nivalis giving a great show from the front of the house.

I have no right to not get up in the morning!

First published in the Wilts & Avon Group Newsletter March 2013
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 34.
© Copyright for this article: June Ainsworth

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2014. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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