July in the garden

Our gardens can often feel drab and uninviting in the middle of winter. However, there are plenty of winter flowering plants that can brighten things up. Here we look at a few ideas for adding a splash of colour.

Probably the most commonly used winter flowering shrubs are camellias. Whether planted alone or in a hedge, they make a stunning display and come in a wide range of colours and sizes. The main types of camellia include Sasanqua - which can handle full sun to part shade and flower through autumn and winter; Japonica - which are more suited to partial or even full shade and flower from winter through to spring; hybrid (a mix of Japonica and Sasanqua); and for smaller spaces or to use as ground cover there are camellias such as Quintessence, or Marge Miller (another hybrid).

Other popular winter flowering shrubs include daphne, although be warned, they are quite fussy and do not like our clay soils, instead growing best in free draining slightly acidic soil rich in organic matter; azaleas, which tolerate shady spots and also prefer slightly acidic soils; and leucadendrons which are both extremely striking and hardy plants which need little to no feeding or watering.

For an easy instant lift, you can’t beat adding some colourful winter flowering annuals or perennials. The garden centres should now be full of primulas, polyanthus, pansies, violas, daisies and forget-me-nots. Pop them in a hanging basket or pot, or fill up a space in the garden bed. As they are a little more slow-growing and relatively inexpensive you can really pack them in for maximum effect. Just remember to keep feeding every few weeks  with a little blood and bone or liquid fertiliser to keep the colours vibrant.

My favourite winter perennial is the hellebore. Not only do these ‘winter roses’ provide an elegant and quick to establish splash of colour, they are shade lovers, used to covering the woodland floor so they are great for brightening up the darkest of corners. They prefer soil that is rich in organic matter so dig in some compost and feed with sheep pellets to keep them happy.