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Wonder of winter; Don't sit back and wait for the spring bulbs... plant right and January has its own delights.

One of the delights of gardening in Britain is that when winter weather allows there's always something to entice you outside. When the trees are stripped of their leaves, when bulbs are still hiding, when our herbaceous perennials don't dare to peep their heads from under their compost and soil blankets, the plants that are performing shine like precious jewels in otherwise dormant plots.

And the rewards for searching for these jewels are immense. In cold weather and against a backdrop of icy clear skies, scent and colour are enhanced, leading us to appreciate the gift that gardening brings to our temperate havens.

With plots getting smaller, the most sensible style of gardening to have is a mixed one with something happening all year round.

So don't let your interest jump from autumnal leaf colour to spring bulbs - the winter gems can be a rare delight.

There are some special plants you should consider for your plot. The witch hazels (Hamamelis) cast a magic spell. They flower on bare wood so they are not fighting with foliage for attention. And what flowers! Delicate paper fronds in bright yellows ('Pallida'), coppery oranges ('Jelena') and reds ('Diane') which offer up a spicy smell.

They prefer neutral to acidic soil but generally do well if the ground is humus rich and well drained. They won't thrive on a shallow chalky soil and will do much better if sheltered from cold harsh winds.

Wintersweet, or Chimonanthus praecox, is another treasure to be found at this time of year. Its pale yellow waxy flowers on bare stems emit a delicious scent. It's best grown against a warm south-facing wall.

Daphnes are classic winter beauties, 'Jacqueline Postill' being a star performer. This needs to be planted near a path where you can get up close to drink in the intensely fragrant flowers which are purplepink outside and white within. For an easy to grow fragrance, try Viburnum farreri which never disappoints.

Flowers of white tinged with pink have an exquisite bouquet, again produced on bare stems.

If there's a space for a small tree, Azara microphylla emits a gorgeous vanilla scent from tiny greenish yellow flowers in late winter and early spring. It's a small evergreen shrub or tree with small dark green leaves which will tolerate some shade.

More space is required for the mimosa tree, Acacia dealbata. It has beautiful silvery fern-like foliage that florists like for their arrangements and is covered in yellow pom-pom flowers in January which give off the most delicious fragrance. However, it can be a bit tender, especially when young, although it hardens with age. It may only be suitable for the south and west of the country, or a conservatory.

It's not just scent though - when foliage drops, it can reveal hitherto hidden beauty.

Dogwood shrubs really come into their own in winter - fully clothed they are unremarkable but when their bare stems are revealed, you can appreciate the vivid colour of their stems. Cornus alba 'Sibirica' is the bright red one, Cornus flaviramea has yellow green stems.





The flowers of a witch hazel bloom on bare wood

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Title Annotation:Editorial; Diary
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 20, 2018
Previous Article:A garden where cold is best.

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