The skeletal structure of the winter garden offers an opportunity to look carefully at one’s plot and to think about plants and structures which will contribute interest, texture, form and added meaning.

Plant Ident.

Viburnum davidii

A very useful evergreen shrub. Diecious. (No, me neither.) It means that male and female flowers exist on separate plants. It is the female form which bears flat heads of white flowers in May, followed later on by clusters of shiny, metallic-blue berries – provided, that is, there is a male plant in the vicinity. The semi-glossy, dark green leaves are noticeably veined. It makes an attractive dome-shaped shrub for borders, growing to around 1.5 m. in sun or partial shade. A.G.M.

Viburnum farreri

Originally brought back to England by the plantsman and plant collector, Reginald Farrer, from China. This is one of G/H’s must-have plants, so it must be good. An upright, deciduous shrub, which flowers between October and May. Clusters of pink buds appear in late autumn to winter, opening to scented, tubular, white flowers. An absolute joy to have its fragrant presence in the garden at this time of year. The small veined leaves are bronze at first, turn green over the summer and darken to purple in the autumn. Vigorous in growth, so you may need to cut around one third of the shrub back to the ground every couple of years. A mature plant will be about 2.5 m. in height. Likes most soils, including chalk! A.G.M.

The flowers bloom (and you swoon) before the leaves appear.

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Another wonderful, winter-flowering, deciduous shrub. This is a cultivar which was developed at Bodnant Garden in 1934-35, hence the name. Fabulously fragrant, with pinker flowers than than V. farreri. Grows to around 2.5 m in most soils and in full sun or partial shade. Leaves are small, veined, dark green and oval in form. A.G.M. We probably need this one as well.

Viburnum rhytidophyllum

Some people don’t like this at all: “too coarse, too ugly”. Others start off feeling the same way, but then find, over the course of time, that they have come to rather love the ‘leather-leaved’ (or ‘wrinkled’) Viburnum. It grows larger than other Viburnums, up to 4 m. in height, is evergreen and architectural. Clusters of small creamy-white flowers form in a dome in the spring, followed by oval red berries which turn black as they ripen. Its distinctive leaves are long, lanceolate, dark green, and deeply veined. Happy in full sun or partial shade, but will also cope with full shade.

Clematis cirrhosa var. ‘purpurascens ‘Freckles’

Not a Viburnum. But for a thing of such simple beauty, it does have a long and complicated name. An evergreen, winter-flowering climber, it looks amazing now with its splashes of purple ‘freckles’ and glossy, dark green leaves. Flowers from December to February and best grown over an arch where the flowers can be enjoyed from below. No regular pruning required, but can be cut back to restrict its growth directly after flowering has finished. A.G.M.

Garden Structures

The week’s topic. How can structures, objects of art and ornaments be used to add interest to a garden space and improve rather than detract from it. Winter is a good time to observe, consider and assess what is missing and needs adding. Of course, there may be things which need removing, so maybe start with these.

The term ‘garden structures’ covers an enormous range of items. For example, an obelisk is one possibility; it would certainly make a statement.

A pagoda, perhaps?

Of course, any statement has to be chosen with care. You don’t want anything too showy-offy

How about a pergola? It would add height and interest to any space. This one is gorgeous but spendy.

Notice how it leads the eye towards that curve and onward, through to the next part of the garden.

This one is less spendy, and more appropriate for a cottage garden, but it fulfills the same purpose.

Visiting other gardens is always a good place to start.

Clinton Lodge Garden, Fletching

A mown strip cut through a wildflower meadow leads to a seat which just begs to be sat on. Birch trees add vertical structure to this soft informality.

Knepp Castle estate

Hmmm. These look very much like….. antlers?

Yes, indeedy. At the Rewilding Project, where deer roam freely, they make good use of found materials. Here an arch leads the way into the campsite area.

Sissinghurst Garden

A massive copper pot makes a bold statement in the middle of a paved area, providing a focal point. Such a clever choice to opt for the vivid red of these tulips with their grey-green foliage. It’s clearly sparked joy in these visitors.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

The suspended bridge emphasises the jungly nature of this part of the garden; it creates a sense of adventure and excitement. Just look at the way those children are being encouraged to cross it and move from one area into another. This structure creates a partnership between the visitor and the garden.

When visiting other gardens, try to notice the various devices used to encourage movement, rest, contemplation, curiosity.

A seating area within an arbour of hedging: peace and privacy.

A gate and a small obelisk beyond: marking endings and beginnings

View through hedge created by woven branches; a focal point which moves the gaze out beyond the present space

Ornaments and structures can also include statues, water features of all sorts, pots, stone balls, kinetic pieces, ceramics, gates, arches, raised beds, mirrors and screens. Sound and movement may be part of this – as in the trickle of water or the soft clunk of bamboo. These additions can help to make sense of a space, draw the gaze, and create relationships between other elements in the garden. They should heighten and reinforce a sense of place.

We discussed the various garden structures we already have, and those we might install in our own gardens. Budgets permitting.

A pebble pond. Adds interest, the element of water, texture and a punctuation mark in the design.

A mirrored gate is cleverly installed on the back fence.

A bird bath – for wildlife and as a terrific focal point, uniting the planting and the tree trunks

Jobs for the week

Friday Group is ready to get out there whatever the weather, We have proof –

Prune roses

Plant garlic

Try the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm for a wide variety of interesting bulbs

Plant salad and herb seeds in boxes

Plant Japanese onion sets

Divide Rhubarb plants if necessary

Lift pots up off the ground to help drainage through the winter. Use pot feet or bricks

Plant broad beans and peas

They can be started now for an early crop next year.

Prick out Verbascum seedlings

Experiment. Grow something new!

Garden House is trying Florence Fennel.

Buy and plant Raspberries

Raspberries can be planted any time during the dormant season from November – March. They are often sold as bare root canes, as above. Plant in an area where they will get full sun.

Plant yet more of these

These bulbs are the beautiful tulip species ‘Bronze Charm’ or Bokhara Tulip. Described as having apricot-yellow petals and being “an endearing small tulip with poise and character”. Delightful.

You can never have too many. Especially if the squirrels are digging them up as fast as you are planting them. The blighters.

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