Plant of the Month: December 2021

Still something to see!

by Sue Gray

I imagine that all of us try to have something of interest in the garden throughout the year, but achieving this aim, particularly through the winter months, can be a real challenge.  So much of this is weather dependent and, as each succeeding year seems to throw up new challenges, it is hard to know which plants can be relied upon to ‘do their stuff’ at any given time.

Nandina domestica ‘Firepower’

This, of course, is where foliage comes to the fore and evergreen shrubs, particularly I feel variegated ones, are a real boon.  Variegated holly and elaeagnus not only brighten the garden but the foliage is very useful in floral arrangements.  In recent years there have been a number of new varieties of Nandina domestica introduced that put on brilliantly coloured leaves; perhaps the most popular variety is the aptly named ‘Firepower’.

Latterly I have become more interested in, and appreciative of, ferns, particularly the evergreen forms.  I have to admit that this is largely as a result of bringing some of the lovely examples from our friend David Barnes’ garden.  I am totally useless when it comes to putting names to any of them, I just enjoy all the varying patterns on the fronds.

Of all the plants in my garden at this time of year, the one that I would not want to be without is Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ AGM.  The Gardeners’ World website sums it up brilliantly: ‘Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is a fantastic winter-flowering shrub, bearing densely packed clusters of rose, pink or blush white, sweetly scented blooms’.

The flowers usually appear from September onwards while the leaves, which flush to mahogany, are still on the branches, and persist on the bare wood right through winter to spring.  Even on a cold winter’s day you can detect the fragrance, and if brought into a warm house, they provide a lovely perfume.

Snowdrop shoots

Finally, while bracing ourselves for all that winter has in store, it is good to be able to look forward and one sign of hope are these shoots of Galanthus elwesii AGM – a gift from a generous HPS friend.  Always the earliest to appear in my garden, who knows, the flowers might just make an appearance in time for Christmas.


Images courtesy of Sue Gray, except close-up of Viburnum bodnatense ‘Dawn’ – HPS Image Library

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