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23 February 2009
The cold weather has already delayed the snowdrops, crocus, winter Aconite and early varieties of daffodils. But one consolation in the midst of the winter freeze - the evenings are gradually beginning to get lighter.
The main winter flowering shrubs - Mahonia, winter sweet, Christmas box and Witch hazel all have exquisite perfume. The usually tiny, delicate blooms are the palest colours - cream, white or yellow.
Foliage plants that may not seem interesting at other times of the year provide some of the winter colour - climbers such as ivy (Hedera) come in many shades. Varieties like 'Gold Heart' or H. canariensis 'Variagata' and H. colchica 'Dentata Variagata'. Ivy is often labelled as invasive or dull, but choosing the right variety for the right situation (and this includes the window box) and pruning twice a year, (spring and summer) makes the ivy a useful and extremely attractive foliage plant - especially in winter.
When grown against a wall, or allowed to scramble up trees and fences, ivy also makes a welcome habitat for birds - providing places to nest and dense cover to hide away from predators.
Cornus alba Sibirica (Dogwood) is a very striking shrub and is most noticeable during dull winter days.
The bare red stems are a contrast to the leafless trees and evergreens. Cornus is not a particularly interesting plant for most of the year, but grown in dense groups, with ivy growing around (trained up a wall or fence) and a selection of spring and autumn flowering bulbs planted between the shrubs, will provide an interesting seasonal border.
If weather conditions allow for work in the garden, pruning of various shrubs can be carried out. Trim back winter Jasmine once it has finished flowering. Summer flowering Jasmine can also be pruned - thinning out weak or damaged stems.
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