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YES, it's cold, wet and miserable but that's no excuse for having an empty, drab garden - brighten it up and give your mood a boost.

Of course there are fewer plant choices than in summer, but you can find enough showstoppers to cheer up the darkest months. Treat yourself to these winter wonders.

1 Winter jasmine

THIS great plant carries its bright yellow, star-shaped flowers on bare stems. More of a scrambler than a climber, it needs a system of wires to support it against a wall - or simply let it create its own informal shape as a loose shrub.

2 Clematis

HIDE a decrepit shed, grim-looking fence or any vertical surface with a winter-flowering clematis.

Clematis cirrhosa and its varieties such as 'Freckles' are among my favourites. The pale yellow to white flowers will show from winter to early spring and the inner surface of the petals is covered with reddish-brown freckles. The bell-shaped flowers even have a delicate lemony scent.

3 Mahonia

THE foliage is unpleasantly spiky, but plant a Mahonia in a spot where the leaves aren't easily accessible and you can enjoy its bright yellow flower spikes to your heart's content.

Mahonia aquifolium has hanging clusters of yellow and sweetly perfumed flowers and Mahonia x media 'Charity' also offers a gorgeous, perfumed winter display.

4 Hellebores

MANY of these pretty herbaceous perennials are at their best in winter. The central stamens are golden yellow or cream and the cream or white flowers are often spotted with pink or purple.

5 Honeysuckle

WALKING to my greenhouse the other day I was hit by a blast of super-sweet perfume from my winter-flowering honeysuckle - Lonicera fragrantissima and L. purpusii. Both have small, pale yellow flowers on a shrubby plant (unlike the climbing summer honeysuckle) and a heavenly spicy and sweet fragrance.

6 Winter box

ITS small, white flowers do look fairly insignificant but the fragrance is mind-blowing. A great choice for a small space, this thrives in moist, well-drained spots.

7 Viburnum

VIBURNUM x bodnantense has pinky-white clusters of trumpetshaped flowers that look and smell gorgeous all winter long and often into early spring. Choose a protected spot for best results.

8 Snowdrops

ITS white bell-shaped flowers delicately decorated with green are a real delight, often popping up through snow as their name suggests. They do best in heavier soils and can be bought in pots now, planted in leaf in a month or two or as dry bulbs in the autumn.

9 Winter sweet

ALSO known as Chimonanthus praecox, its oddly-shaped yellow and purple-centred flowers emit a sweet perfume during the winter months. This shrub does best in a sunny spot.

10 Witch hazels

THEY are pricey, but these slowgrowing shrubs or small trees are a sight to behold with most flowering at their best in January or early February. Their wacky flowers on bare stems remind me of dancing spiders and they have an oriental air to them as well as a seriously spicy and all-pervading perfume.


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 13, 2007
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