Plants in the Garden for Christmas
Q. Christmas will soon be upon us. Can you suggest some plants which will be reliably in flower in the garden for the festive season?
A. Well, let’s face it gardens are generally not ablaze with colour for Yuletide and the word “reliably” makes this answer even more tricky to deliver. In fact, December is probably the least floriferous of all the months.
The frosts will usually have ended the last flowering days of the “hangers on”; fuchsias, bedding geraniums, the last few roses and the like, and winter flowering bulbs will still be lurking below ground, waiting for the New Year or February to brighten our days.
However, as always plants do not let us down, and there are plenty of performers which should be strutting their stuff when your chums arrive for lunchtime drinks on Christmas Eve. (I’m strongly in favour of a winter focus in FRONT gardens which are on view all year round).
So: Winter flowering heathers – mainly Erica Carnea and Erica Darlyensis varieties will give a fantastic patchwork of colour on their own. They have been strangely out of fashion for a while but will provide great variety in foliage and flower colour over a very decent period.
Camellias have quite a few December representatives and I particularly like the less blousy single flowered varieties of Camellia sasanqua.
For climbers, Clematis cirhossa, although somewhat scruffy in its growth habit, has delightful December flowers. “Freckles” is really unique and eye catching.
More ordinary, but often in flower at Christmas is good old Winter Jasmine. Cheap and cheerful, even a very young plant will flower.
Garrya elliptica known as the Silver Tassel Bush (name = exact description) is nearly always in flower for Xmas in my garden. It gets more spectacular as it ages, but does need a big space.
Japanese Quince or Chaenomeles japonica looks great when it produces its red or white flowers (c. nivalis) on bare stems and this can happen in December, but it sometimes chooses November or even March.
And one final shrub with terrific fragrant yellow flowers on bare stems is Witch Hazel or Hamamelis mollis which in some years is ready for the festive season.
For instant colour pop out to the garden centre and get some bright bedding cyclamen, but far better if you have the patience to naturalise the splendid Cylamen coum which has fantastic foliage as well as striking delicate flowers and begins its show in December.
Having said all that there is of course one eventuality which will render all this colour somewhat irrelevant – a White Christmas!
Season’s Greetings everyone.