How to Achieve Winter Colour with Shrubs

In the bleak mid-winter it's encouraging to know that some reassuringly warm colour can be present in the garden. David Coton recommends what plants to use if you want to achieve interest throughout the year, even during the coldest weather.

Created by David Coton on Monday, 14th of January, 2013.
Updated on Wednesday, 19th of June, 2019.


Winter Colour

If your garden is masked in white and the sky is grey, there are a fair few plants and shrubs that can provide inspirational colour. Whether this is through foliage, berries or flowers, they can be a welcome relief from the monochrome months.

Here are ten shrubs that can provide flashes of colour until spring arrives:

1. Chimonanthus praecox

Renowned for its fragrance, the deciduous Wintersweet flowers all winter. Usually the small blooms are yellow and cup shaped, with a purple centre, while 'Luteus' has totally yellow flowers. Very useful stems for cut flower arrangements. Likes full sun and moist well drained soil.

2. Cornus alba 'Sibirica'

The Siberian Dogwood will add brilliant colour and structure to the frosty landscape. Creamy white flowers in the spring and early summer are followed by round blue / white berries and then in the winter you'll be left with bright crimson stems. Will grow in most soils if placed in sun or partial shade.

3. Jasminum nudiflorum

The deciduous Winter Jasmine with its arching branches prefers a well drained sheltered position. Yellow star shaped flowers appear on leafless stems from February into early spring. This is a very hardy climbing shrub that can be trained with wires or left to flow over the ground.

4. Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'

The red spindly shaggy Witch Hazel flowers are sweetly fragrant and appear from mid to late winter. Before this in the autumn, the foliage will give an outstanding display of orange / red brilliance. Prefers a slightly acidic moist soil.

5. Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

Commonly known as the Corkscrew Hazel due to its interestingly shaped shoots. In the late winter pale yellow catkins hang from the branches before the spring foliage appears. Likes alkaline well drained soil, a slow grower it was first discovered in a Gloucestershire hedgerow.

6. Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana

A shade loving small evergreen shrub with red berries that are present throughout the winter. It is slow growing, so container planting with a moist humus rich soil is ideal. The attractive aromatic leaves are shiny dark green and before the berries arrive there are clusters of small white flowers.

7. Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald and Gold'

This is a dwarf evergreen shrub that has has a bushy creeping habit with leaves that are edged with yellow and pink in the winter. Fully hardy, it will grow in sun or partial shade in any well drained, moist soil.

8. Nadina domestica 'Fire power'

Commonly called 'Heavenly Bamboo', although it does not belong to that family, overflows with lovely crimson red leaves in the winter and will provide colour all year round. You might also be lucky enough to get berries as well. Position in sun or partial shade with an acid to neutral soil. Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' Originating from the Himalayas with purple / pink and white flowers. It will grow well in a border or container in a small garden but does not like to be moved. The lovely scented flowers possibly outweigh the fact that the sap might can irritation. May not be fully hardy.

9. Mahonia x media 'Charity'

Mahonias have sharp holly shaped leaves, glossy and evergreen, that are often tinged with red and purple in cold weather. The scented yellow flowers carried on racemes last for weeks and are often followed by purple berries. This shrub will thrive in most soil in a sheltered shady position.

10. Choisya ternata 'Sundance'

My favourite golden leaved evergreen with its broad leafed waxy foliage. 'Sundance' Mexican Orange can grow up to 6ft in a rounded shape. It likes full sun and can be cut back hard if it grows too big. It is fairly hardy and flowers with fragrant white flowers in spring and summer.

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