December Garden Winter Interest

posted in: Gardening | 26
What can you grow to give the December garden winter interest? Despite the ravages of a Scottish winter giving us temperatures earlier this week that never even reached zero during the day. Along with soil that’s literally as hard as a brick. This garden is not asleep! For starters it’s been the location for an buffet party all day every day with seed heads. Sunflower hearts for main course and crab apples or berberis berries for dessert. But along with the wildlife there is lots more December garden winter interest to be found.

December Garden Winter Interest …

December Garden Winter Interest - Bayberry | Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Helmond Pillar' red berries winter interest in December
Bayberry | Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Helmond Pillar’ red berries H4

All of the plants listed are annotated with their Scottish hardiness ratings which you can read about in further detail here.


There are the flowering subtleties…

autumn crocus | Crocus speciosus in flower in December
autumn crocus | Crocus speciosus in flower in December H5
Autumn crocus are still in flower which up until yesterday’s meltdown had been under snow and ice for almost two weeks.
Erysimum 'Bowle's Mauve' in flower in December for winter interest
wallflower | Erysimum ‘Bowle’s Mauve’ H4
Then there’s the stalwart bloomer Erysimum ‘Bowle’s Mauve’ which seems to flower 12 months of the year.

and a promise of what’s yet to come…

hellebore lenten rose
Lenten Rose | Helleborus  x  hybridus flower buds H4-5
Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena' petal ribbons in December
Witchhazel | Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ H5

There are clumps of tightly packed burgundy buds from the lenten roses hugging the soil.

While coppery orange petals are unfurling like little pieces of Christmas gift wrap ribbon from Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’.
Corylus avellana 'Contorta' catkins for winter interest in December
Harry Lauders Walking Stick | Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ H5


At the same time Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ and the Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’ hang their tiny male catkins against a riot of twists and turns from their contorted hazel stems.
Corylus avellana 'Red Majestic' catkins
Contorted Hazel | Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’ H5

Then there are the intricacies and complexities of nature …

It’s also the time of year when we have to look beyond the buds and blooms in the garden to find winter interest.
Euonymus alatus 'Compactus' | Winged Spindle Tree
Winged Spindle Tree | Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ H5
There’s the Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’  with its winged corky bark spindle stems.
Dogwood |Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'
Dogwood | Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ H4

Cornus sanguinea
‘Midwinter Fire’ with it’s reddish orange stems
Salix var pekinensis babylonica 'Tortuosa' twisted tangled stems |contorted willow
Contorted Willow | Salix  var pekinensis babylonica ‘Tortuosa’ H5
and Salix var pekinensis ‘Tortuosa’ with its tangled branches giving it a ‘bad hair day look’.
Cyclamen hederifolium display their marbling leaves and coiled seed heads
Cyclamen hederifolium H4-5
While at my feet the tiny Cyclamen hederifolium display their marbling leaves and coiled seed heads which look like one of those helical spring slinky toys.

and finally at sunset…

Acer griseum | Paperbark Maple peeling bark illuminated at sunset in the winter garden
Paperbark Maple | Acer griseum H5

There’s a little bit of back lighting from the sunset to illuminate the exfoliating and peeling cinnamon coloured bark from the maple tree Acer griseum.

Along with these plants there’s also Skimmia, purple Callicarpa berries, red Cotoneaster berries and the golden vertical stems from the bamboo.


Follow Rosie Nixon:

Photography Tutor and Gardener

Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh. She also writes and shares her nature images on

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26 Responses

  1. Caroline Gill

    What an exquisite winter post, Rosie! I am particularly keen on your berry picture as we saw our first ever Waxwing on a hawthorn full of berries a week ago!

  2. Richard Havenga


    This is another beautiful post. I've planted some of these species in my landscaping; Bayberry, and Euonymus, with its corky winged stems.

    The Autumn Crocus… astonishing! Never heard of these. Then all the contortions your woodies go through to get attention.Ha!

    We have Red Osier Dogwood growing wild in our swamps and wetlands here in Michigan.

    Thanks for another delightful walk through your garden.


  3. Andrea

    Hello my 'old' friend Rosie, old means we have been blogger friends for years now! And i guess i miss you, hehe, but i don't come here if you are posting advances in technology which i can't relate to. When you post things like these even if they are extremely cold and frosted, i can fairly understand! yes you have a lot there in hibernation, please keep warm yourself. Merry Christmas!

  4. Anna

    No definitely not asleep Rosie – so much understated promise and anticipation in your December garden, as well as hearty winter fare for the birds. Exquisite photos as always.

  5. Adrian

    Love the images. Just goes to show how much is really going on in the garden even during winter.

  6. Pam/Digging

    Despite your cold weather, your garden has so much going on. Thanks for showing the trunks, berries, foliage, and even flowers that carry your garden through winter.

  7. Melanie J Watts

    Definitely lots going on in your garden Rosie. You are lucky to be able to grow autumn crocus and grow cyclamen outside! Have a Merry Christmas.

  8. Alistair

    Rosie, your garden is truly just resting, a very beautiful post. Have a lovely Christmas and I will look forward to checking out what you get up to in the garden next year.

  9. David

    Hi Rosie,
    I really love your photography and garden style. I found you once then lost you….then found you again. This time I've bookmarked you on my garden favorites so I'll never lose your garden again.
    Have a Happy New Year!
    David/:0) Tropical Texana/Houston,Texas

  10. Autumn Belle

    Rosie, your pics so so lovely and alive, you manage to bring out the spirit and soul of things you photograph. I have learnt so much from you; in gardening, photography, even on technical tips! I wanna thank you so much for the help and the friendship since our Blotanical days. I have seen you evolved into a specialist in every skill you undertake. Here's wishing you and family a Happy New Year 2013. May it brings you much joy, happiness and achievements!

  11. Patricia Bloomfield

    Wonderful pictures! Though, as always) Winter time is a time when nature sleeps and awaits for spring to burst with new colors, leaves and flowers)