Preparing your Garden for Winter : Expert advice on giving your garden some winter colour and ensuring it’s in the best shape for spring.

We’ve enjoyed record-breaking temperatures across the UK this September and as the nights draw in, it’s tempting to withdraw from the garden and leave it to its own devices until spring appears. But in fact, now is the perfect time for planning and planting both in the garden and in containers, as any experienced gardener will tell you. Many plants benefit from being planted at this time of year, when the soil is warm and not waterlogged and they have a chance to develop a root ball. They can settle into their surroundings and are likely to produce a more robust plant in the spring. 

Euphorbias offer year-round texture and colour. Photo: Anna Ainscough

Of course there is plenty of housekeeping to do at this time of year but I’m going to assume you already know about the tidying up borders, clearing vegetation, composting, mulching and winter protection, and just move onto the fun stuff.

Tulips are best left till late October or November for planting.

The most obvious way to be sure of a spectacular display in the spring is to plant lots of bulbs. Many gardeners only start thinking about spring as it approaches but planting bulbs now is a great way of storing up colourful surprises come March. Bulbs look best planted en masse whether in pots or the ground, so place them in group for maximum impact.

Winter Flowering Pansies Photo: Anna Ainscough

If you can’t wait for spring and are desperate for some colour and interest to brighten up your garden over the winter, here are garden designer, Sarah Speller’s top five easy wins:

  1. Cyclamen – available in a variety of forms and colours, cyclamens can really transform winter containers and will flower from late autumn until well into January.
  2. Hellebore (Christmas or Lenten Rose) – an essential component of the winter garden, Hellebores thrive in shade and their delicate, often speckled, flowers range from pure white, through pink, purple and green, to almost black offering a welcome splash of winter colour.
  3. Winter-flowering Viola (Pansy) – these annuals are the stalwart of winter window boxes and containers and flower from early autumn until June and there is a colour to suit every scheme. Their small flowers ensure they survive the worst of winter weather and will repeatedly flower with minimal dead heading.
  4. Clematis Cirrhosa – beautiful ferny, green foliage which climbs gracefully over fences, the real delight are the creamy, bell-shaped flowers emerging in December and continuing into March/April.
  5. Erysimum or Wallflowers – perennials with a long-lasting flowering habit, colours range from reds and purples through oranges and yellows to white. They work particularly well with the early spring bulbs. Erysimum “Bowles Mauve” is a purple flowered variety with grey/green leaves. It is renowned for its ability to flower all year round if planted in a sunny spot.

Hellebores – delicate winter beauties.

It can be a little deflating watching summer’s bright colours fade at this time of year, but Decorcafe garden expert, Jo Connolly, has some suggestions for creating Autumn colour and winter interest with a host of different plants & trees:

For Autumn leaf colour, from yellows & oranges through to reds and deep crimson try: Japanese Maple, Amelanchier, Naninda, Cotinus, Berberis, Parthenocissus, Heuchera, Cornus, Viburnum

Evergreens give structure and are a way of zoning. Photo: Jo Connolly

Evergreens are also a great way to create a year-round framework in the garden with the use of clipped structural shapes to anchor your garden. Use them to plug gaps in your borders but also to create cohesion by repeating colours and shapes.

This elegant sculpture draws the eye like the graceful wings of a visiting bird. Photo: Jo Connolly

Evergreen planting combinations: worth researching as these are the building blocks of your garden and by their very nature, visible year-round.Combine plants with interesting leaf shapes such as Fatsias, Camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons, Eunonymus, Phormiums, Liriope, Hebes, Choyisa, Sarcococca, Pieris & Abelias and Skimmias, evergreen Magnolias and Star Jasmine.

Clip into topiary shapes, standards & hedging: English Box, Ilex crenata, pittoposrum, olives, bay, rosemary, abelias, evergreen Viburnum, Star Jasmine.

Sculpture adds interest and definition. Photo: Jo Connolly

Garden Features & Sculpture are also a great way to create permanent structure in your garden and will sing throughout the winter when much of your planting will be dormant. Position carefully and consider lighting so as to draw the eye.

Of course, if you are thinking of a more substantial garden redesign or reconfiguring your outside space, then this is also the best time to start planning. For ideas, take a look at the decorcafe garden expert pages or for advice, contact Sarah or Jo below.

Sarah Speller

Jo Connolly

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