Here we are at the Winter Solstice and from now on the afternoons will slowly start to get longer and I suppose the winter will start to bite in the next week or two. But never mind there are some lovely blooms to help us through the winter and many of them are deliciously fragrant. Many viburnums are fragrant but Viburnum tinus is not amongst them. I am starting with my least favourite December bloom, in fact I have dug at least four of them up as when they are not in bloom they are quite offensive, with dull unattractive foliage which smells revolting when it is wet. So I can’t say it is a plant that I like . But as it blooms bravely right through the winter and is useful for winter flower arrangements I will give it a mention. I have never bought one because every garden I have had always seemed to be full of them. I used to think that ‘Eve Price’ was the best choice because it is compact and has lovely pink buds. I have changed my mind now though because I recently saw one that is new to me called ‘Lisarose’ and I was impressed by its deep carmine buds and pink flowers. I might even have to buy one for my winter garden. The one I saw was used as a clipped hedge and actually looked rather nice. I wouldn’t like to walk past it when it has been raining though.
All the winter flowering viburnums make large, rather untidy, suckering bushes so you can always give bits away. I have the pink Viburnum x bodantense ”Dawn’.
Viburnum x bodantense ‘Deben’ is white tinged with pink and it starts blooming in late autumn. Both these two are deliciously fragrant so they are nice for picking.
One of my favourite winter flowering shrubs has started blooming. It is Chimonanthus praecox. I love its little yellow claws with their maroon centres and they smell absolutely gorgeous. This shrub likes a nice, warm, sunny spot and many people don’t grow it because it is rather undistinguished in the summer. I get round this by growing a viticella clematis up it. A little spray of it will make a whole room smell gorgeous.
Winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum makes an untidy tangle and has to be thinned after flowering. It is welcome because of its abundance of starry, yellow flowers in the middle of winter and it is useful for flower arrangements. Funny to have a jasmine with no fragrance though. When it was introduced from China in 1845 it was believed to be tender and was grown in greenhouses. It is of course bone -hardy and you are never without it because wherever it touches the soil it roots.
The pink form of the winter flowering cherry with a big name is not yet in bloom. It is Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’. But in my garden the white form, Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ starts blooming in December. The flowers are so delicate and indeed if we have a hard frost it will give up flowering for a while but it starts again as soon as the extreme weather stops.
Winter flowering honeysuckle is always welcome because it smells so delicious it is great for picking. It does make rather a large bush but you can prune it by cutting a third of the flowering shoots out in March. If you do it any later you will lose next year’s blooms. The one I grow is Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’.
I have a lovely winter flowering clematis which it is full of bloom right now. It is Clematis cirrhosa ”Wisley Cream’. It sounds more like a liver disease than a delicate flower.
In my front garden I have a lovely clump of the Algerian Iris unguicularis. The name is rather a mouthful, I preferred it when it was called Iris stylosa. It is enjoying its position in front of the wall where it can get baked in the sun. The ones in the winter garden are not yet in bloom. I always give it a good soaking and some bonemeal in August and September. The flowers can be picked in bud just before they unfurl.
The first of the dear little Cyclamen coum has opened and soon there will be carpets of them growing with snowdrops and yellow winter aconites, looking like bacon and eggs.
My Christmas snowdrop is called appropriately enough ‘Galanthus plicatus ‘Three Ships’. This is a reliable snowdrop which soon makes a nice little clump so there are always one or two to pick for a Christmas posy.
Hellebores bring delight to the winter garden from now until April. I have lots in bud but these two are properly open very early this year. They are both real beauties. The first, ‘Sheryl’s Shine’ has lovely marbled leaves.
The second is ‘Phoebe’ and she is already wearing her party dress ready for Christmas Day.
Do you have any December blooms to share? It doesn’t have to be ten, even one would be lovely. It is great to get ideas for this time of the year when blooms have become scarce.