Did you ever think about planting for winter interest when you first started gardening? I have to confess that when I started my very first garden I was only interested in the colour that came from flowers. Then each autumn I would cut down all of the herbaceous plants ………….and what was I left with?
………. not very much other than an evergreen hedge, a hellebore and the silhouette shape from a deciduous tree.
When the frosts arrived there were no dried seed heads to sparkle, no drama from colourful winter stems and the flower beds just lacked any winter definition. I’m glad to say that all of that changed after many years of gardening, study and loads of trial and error.
Today I’m sharing three of my February winter interest favourites……..all with one thing in common the colour red.
Cornus ‘Baton Rouge’
The deciduous Cornus | Dogwoods are so well suited to this garden as the soil is wet and heavy and for years I’ve been growing Cornus ‘Mid Winter Fire’. Two Cornus ‘Baton Rouge’ are the newest shrubs that I’ve added for winter interest. They’ve the most intense scarlet winter stems especially when the sun is shining. You have to see if for yourself to believe it
|contrasting colours and shapes from the Cornus “Baton Rouge’ H4 and the carex grass.|
Their stems literally glow on a bright and sunny day and contrast so well with bronze coloured carex grass and the red cowberry Vaccinium vitis-idaea ‘Red Candy’.
|Red berries for winter interest from Vaccinium vitis-idaea ‘Red Candy’ H5|
The Dogwoods are becoming more and more popular in the garden as many of them can be planted in a large container and then viewed close by from a window.
|I’ve planted this one in a container for the winter months and added a few other plants from the garden.|
Their winter stems add drama especially when the backdrop is evergreen. They also contrast so well with a snowy winter wonderland or in my case near by a colourful hamamelis | witch hazel.
|Capturing the glow from the Cornus ‘Baton Rouge’ while in the background grows Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ being back lit by the winter sunshine.|
If you do consider using a cornus in a container please don’t use a multi purpose compost but use a soil based compost that is suitable for the plants you’re growing.
The cornus shrubs can be pruned back quite hard in the spring and then given a good feed. This encourages the new growth which produces the most vivid colours during the winter months.
Vaccinium vitis-idaea ‘Red Candy’
The Lingonberry or Cowberry as it’s commonly known as is a very hardy evergreen which is low growing and compact. It can tolerate temperatures down to -40 °C though hates really hot summers so it’s perfect for any Scottish garden.
|It’s berries are ornamental as they are much too bitter.|
It’s not yet a very well known cowberry as it was only introduced commercially in 2009. It carpets the ground as it’s quite vigorous and produces white flowers in the late spring and red berries from early autumn right through the winter. It too is good for a container as long as you have added some ericaceous compost. It loves the same moist conditions as the Cornus shrubs and likes to have some shade during the summer months.
It’s probably best to grow more than one type of cowberry in the garden to be sure of getting those winter berries.
Vaccinium vitis-idaea ‘Red Candy’ last week covered in snow.
The birds don’t seem to like the berries so they give great winter interest throughout the season.
Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’
Finally another plant that deserves a mention for winter interest is the evergreen acid loving plant Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’. It grows in a spot in the garden that only gets the morning sunlight and provides the border with lovely red leaves with a little touch of variegation during the winter months. Mine grows below a Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ (American Redbud) which takes over with the red/burgundy theme from late spring onwards as the Leucothoe turns much more green.
|Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’ H5 covered in frost this week.|
The stems of the Leucothoe arch over gracefully and during the winter time it looks so attractive with a dusting of frost. It’s really only then that you’ll notice the really pretty leaf stalk pattern along its stem.
So……. what’s red in your flower bed at this time of year ?