Winter in the Garden

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Add extra sparkle to your gardening this winter with Sally Cunis garden designer

As the end of the year fast approaches, gardens and fields erupt in a final riot of colour.

The leaves of Acer Griseum, Parthenocissus henryana and Vitis coignetiae appear to catch fire as their leaves flame red before autumn winds tear them away. Rich butter yellow, bronze, orange and purple tones of the foliage of copper beech, mountain ash, prunus and smoke bush glow in the autumn light. Ornamental grasses in a myriad of hues come into their own now, sparkling with dew and frost amongst purple asters and seed heads of tall perennials.

There is a wealth of berries in gardens and hedgerows, traditionally a sign of a hard winter. Select plants which will produce berries or hips for a spectacular display in the garden.

Choose Rosa rugosa with fabulous glossy red heps, Euonymus europaeus whose rosy-red berries split to reveal orange seeds or Callicarpa bodinieri which sports striking purple berries. If roses are left unpruned until March, lovely fat or elongated hips in oranges and reds will grace the bushes long after leaves have fallen. Orange berries of Pyracantha and clusters of red hawthorn berries provide valuable food for visiting birds and brighten the winter garden.

It’s been an unseasonably warm autumn with bugs and grubs aplenty for the birds, but they will welcome the extra nutrition they get from bird feeders as temperatures start to drop; don’t forget to put out fresh water for them, too.

This year everyone seems to have had a bumper apple crop. I’ve been cooking and puréeing mine and sharing them with my neighbours. I’ve brought bags of apples and pears from my Mother’s and made a smooth white purée from the Sutcliffe apple which was my Father’s favourite. The crab apple Malus x Zumi ‘Golden Hornet’ is the perfect small tree for a limited space and ideal for making fruit jellies and jams, perhaps with the addition of elderberries and rose hips from the hedgerows. The tree and the jams would make good Christmas presents.

Talking of Christmas, I always cut stems of fresh berried holly to weave into my wreath on the back door and to place above pictures in the house as my Mother does but, in October, our lovely holly trees were stripped bare in a matter of minutes by a flock of greedy Redwings! It was a wonderful sight to watch, but I will have to look elsewhere for my berries and think about other ways of adding some colour to the fresh foliage I will be cutting for my house and for the Christmas table top decoration I shall be demonstrating at a friend’s craft club this month.

Starting with a base of green Oasis I will create a foliage background of Portugese laurel, berried Cotoneaster, Pittosporum and variegated ivy adding in aromatic stems of Bay and Rosemary. Scented flowers of Viburnums bodnantense and tinus, Mahonia x media ‘Charity’, Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ and winter Jasmine can be popped in at the last moment. With luck maybe the odd rose may still be in flower too!

Flowers of Fatsia Japonica and ivy, the latter maybe sprayed gold, can be added to Christmas displays. Add candles if you wish but if lit do not leave unattended.

If, like me, your holly berries are missing, hang a few baubles from small trees by the back door and place some pots of bright winter pansies and heathers on the doorstep to brighten up the entrance.

Happy Christmas and best wishes for a wonderful gardening New Year!

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