Winter-flowering plants can be understated and overlooked, but they bring much to the garden at this time of year, writes GINA PARKINSON.

IT CAN be a gloomy in the garden at this time of year, windy and cold, making work out there an uninspiring prospect. But there is always something to enjoy. Even from my window I can see an autumn cherry flowering in a neighbour's garden and the winter-flowering jasmine covering our garage wall with sunny blossom.

Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ is a member of the ornamental cherry family whose better-known relatives fill gardens with showy flowers in spring. ‘Autumnalis’ is the exception and is covered in delicate flowers from November to March. It is a reliable bloomer, producing flowers even during cold spells, although the best show will be during those mild windows we often get during winter.

Winter-flowering plants are often understated and sometimes overlooked. As time spent in our gardens in winter is so much less than in summer, it can be tempting to think there is no point bothering with plants that produce flowers we are unlikely to enjoy.

On the other hand, our gardens can continue without attention and there is something rather nice about knowing they are carrying on regardless. And the possibility of a bloomer in a winter garden will soon see the gardeners donning boots and gloves to check it out.

There are a number of shrubs that can add flowers to the winter garden. Take the lovely winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima. This, like the cherry described above, is less showy that it’s summer relatives. It will tempt out nectar-seeking insects temporarily woken from winter slumber by a warm day. The tiny flowers on this shrub are crystallised by frost, the pale cream petals sugared with cold. They seem to suffer no damage and if the winter sun appears they become opaque and their lovely perfume filters around the garden.

Like the winter honeysuckle, witch hazels also provide scented flowers on their bare stems before the leaves appear in spring. The spidery flowers appear from December to the end of February in a sunny or lightly shaded spot.

Among the best for scent and flowers are Hamamelis intermedia ‘Pallida’ with yellow flowers, orange-red coloured ‘Jelena’ and red bloomed ‘Diane’.

Weekend catch-up

DECIDUOUS trees and shrubs can be tidied up in winter, which is useful if the task was put to one side in autumn.

It always seems a shame to trim branches when they are carrying brightly coloured autumn leaves, so the job is often left for that later date.

Most specimens can have a cut during winter, the exceptions being tender or dubiously hardy plants, which are best left until it is warmer in spring. Ornamental cherries should also be left as winter pruning can make them vulnerable to disease. They are best left until late summer.

Courtyard talk

GARDEN designer and lecturer Dawn Johnson will give an illustrated talk entitled “How to make the best of a small courtyard or garden” on Tuesday.

Organised by Askham Bryan College Gardening Club, the talk will be held in the Conference Hall at Askham Bryan College and will begin at 7.30pm.

Dawn is based in York and began her horticultural career by taking a City and Guilds gardening course at Askham Bryan College, which she followed with a BA Hons degree in garden art and design from Leeds Metropolitan University. In 2006 she was part of a team that won a gold medal and best in show at Chelsea Flower Show for their courtyard garden. After working in France for seven years as a garden designer and magazine writer, Dawn returned to work in the UK.

Admission to the talk is free for Askham Bryan College Gardening Club members and £5 on the door for visitors. Complimentary teas and coffees will be served after the talk. For more details about the evening or joining the gardening club contact publicity officer David Whiteman on 01904 707208.

Gardening TV and Radio


6.15am, BBC2, Great British Garden Revival. Heritage fruit and blossoming tree and shrubs.

7.15am, BBC2, Glorious Gardens From Above. Views of Gloucestershire from a hot-air balloon.

8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis. Gardening-related news and features from around North Yorkshire.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. From north Cumbria with panellists Pippa Greenwood, Christine Walkden, Matthew Wilson and chairman Eric Robson.

Monday to Wednesday

7pm, BBC2, Great British Garden Revival. The experts look at lilies, bluebells, bog gardens and peonies.


3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Matthew Biggs, Bob Flowerdew, Anne Swithinbank and chairman Eric Robson advise gardeners from Arundel Castle in West Sussex.

8pm, SKY1, Show Me Your Garden. Featuring contestants from the Midlands.

9pm, BBC2, The Big Allotment Challenge. The remaining six contestants are asked to produce perfect tomatoes, a display of rudbeckia and sweet and savoury jams.