Good old Buddleja. This is one of those iconic shrubs that you will see everywhere at this time of year and not everyone is thrilled to see this brute self-seeding at liberty all over the place, and yes it is true that Buddleja 'Davidii' is very vigorous but there are lots of other varieties out there and one for every garden, they come in different colours and growth habits, some are even suitable to be grown in containers! As well as being attractive and easy to grow, these shrubs are extremely beneficial to bees and butterflies.
Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote'
is a compact form of English lavender with long-lasting spikes of deep violet flowers. This form of lavender is possibly the best for edging paths and borders, as the aromatic perfume is released into the air as you brush past. With the added bonus of being attractive to bees and pollinators, it is also easy to keep well clipped into shape once the flower stalks have dried off.
Forsythia is so widely grown in the UK that they often overlooked nowadays. But they produce spectacular yellow flowers in early spring, are easy to maintain, and are very healthy shrubs. They also grow quickly so can be used as screening plants which will do their job much faster than most other shrubs.
Forsythias are vigorous shrubs and the only care required after they are established is to prune them correctly to encourage flowering in springtime. They are naturally deep-rooted and will search out moisture well below the soil surface. On poor soils, a couple of handfuls of blood, fish, and bone per plant in April and September time will help feed the finer roots near the soil surface.
Although an established forsythia can be safely cut back virtually to the ground if you want to maximize flowering it's best to prune them annually.
For the first two to three years after planting a new forsythia, let it fill out and don't prune it. This will help it establish a good root system.
In the third or fourth years onward prune forsythia as follows:
- The best time to prune forsythia is immediately the flowers begin to fade. If you leave it a month or two later you will be reducing the show of flowers for next year. Forsythia flowers on stems that were grown during the previous two years.
- Prune to shape by removing about a quarter of the length from all stems.
- Every other year, prune about a quarter of all stems back to ground level from the center of the bush. When doing the above keep an eye out for damaged stems and those bending over near to the ground. Choose to prune these first including stems that are crossing each other.
- If you inherit a very overgrown forsythia bush the best plan is to chop it back completely to a height of 1m / 3ft and let it grow away. It will produce very flowers the next year but will be fine by the year after.
Pulmonarias (commonly known as Lungworts) are a great group of plants, they are low growing and provide masses of flowers in Spring, with blue, red, purple, pink, and white forms available. They associate well with Hellebores, snowdrops, Cyclamen, Tiarella, and Erythronium. Many have fabulous foliage, well marked, and even fully silvered leaves, providing a lovely contrast to Summer flowering plants such as hardy Geraniums. They really have two seasons of interest, flowers, and foliage over a long period in Spring and then fine clumps of fresh foliage in Autumn which form an attractive ground cover before flowering in the Spring. Tidy up plants in Winter to make room for a flush of new strong growth.
One of the great things about these plants is that they form large clumps quite quickly so you can divide them up after flowering and spread them around your garden or even as I do, share them with your friends and neighbors. Lungwort is beneficial to early pollinators and has a long flowering season especially when dead-headed.
January: Winter Flowering Honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima
The winter honeysuckle produces wonderfully scented, creamy-white flowers during the winter months upon semi-bare branches, sometimes also followed by red berries. Come spring the leaves of L. fragrantissima will appear a deep, rich green, with a purple/bronze flush to them.
This plant is a shrub but it can also be trained to grow against a wall with careful annual pruning. It is best positioned where the flowers can be seen up close and where the scent can be truly appreciated.
winter-flowering honeysuckle is a specimen plant ideal for cottage, scented, and wildlife gardens. It is relatively low maintenance growing up to 3m with a 2.5m spread in sun or part shade and is fully hardy.
This shrub can be enjoyed as part of a container display, as part of shrubbery or border, or, like me, you could grow it up the wall of your brick outhouse?
Wherever you decide to grow it, the winter-flowering honeysuckle will never disappoint you and i hope you enjoy it as much as I do!