Garden designers and landscape gardeners can help you make sure that winter is one of the most magical times in your Glasgow garden. It is all too easy to forget about the garden over the winter, abandoning it to the elements, but with some carefully chosen plants you can be looking out on your very own winter wonderland. Knowledgeable garden designers and landscape gardeners will be able to help you choose the right plants, be they plants specific to the Glasgow area or elsewhere.
Firstly, there are a number of plants that flower during the winter, including Mahonia japonica and Viburnum tinus. Whilst not the most exciting of shrubs, they provide year-round greenery and flower in the winter, so they are a useful addition to a garden. There are a number of different cultivars of Mahonia so have a good look around at what is on offer. Note that in milder areas, Viburnum tinus can be prone to damage from Sawfly larvae and this is best treated with specific nematodes which can be bought online. Witch Hazels are winter-flowering trees, but they can be tricky to get established, so planting these would be a job best left to a professional landscape gardener.
Plants with colourful stems or foliage provide more options, some of which are really striking. Densely planted Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ (a kind of Dogwood) underneath a Betula utilis var. jacquemontii (Himalayan Birch) look absolutely spectacular, sufficient to rival the majority of summer flowerbeds! Keep the Dogwood pruned hard every spring (once they are mature), and you will be rewarded with striking and vivid orange stems. There are smaller plants such as Heleborus niger (Christmas Rose) that flower in the winter too. All of these plants grow well in a Glasgow garden, and will be happily recommended by landscape gardeners and garden designers alike.
As well as the Himalayan Birch, there are numerous trees with beautiful looking bark that can make a real feature in a garden. These include the Tibetan Cherry (Prunus serrula ‘Tibetica’) and Snakebark Maple (Acer capillipes) which both provide year-round enjoyment thanks to their interesting bark. Many plants look good with a coating of frost on, and this can be another way of keeping your garden looking magical in the winter months. Some plants, such as Astilbe chinensis, provide superb flowers in the summer, but also look great if they are left to die back naturally so that frost gathers on the spent flowerheads in the winter. Ornamental grasses also grow well in Glasgow, and are another great choice for plants that gather attractive coatings of frost, and they have the added benefit of adding real texture and depth to a garden design.
In addition to the grasses, there are a number of other plants that help add structure to the winter garden. It is always a shame to see a garden where everything seems to die back over the winter. Some plants carefully chosen and judiciously planted by a garden designer or landscape gardener can be allowed to come into their own in the winter whilst surrounding plants die off. Buxus sempervirens is a good idea for this, and they will take as much trimming as you want to throw at them, so you can leave them to grow in a rustic fashion, or you can clip them into any kind of topiary if that’s your thing. Columnar plants such as Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ can also provide interesting and attractive shapes in the winter garden - both garden designers and landscape gardeners will preach the importance of a height dimension in your garden.
There are a number of bulbs that come up during mid to late winter, and I love seeing these pop their heads up as if heralding the oncoming spring, and the bulbd mentioned here are all happy in Glasgow. There are many varieties of winter Crocus, and of course there are Snowdrops which come up at the end of the winter. A couple of words of warning though, rabbits seem to enjoy Crocus’ even though I have seen them in many lists of ‘rabbit resistant plants’! Also, don’t waste your time with Snowdrop bulbs, they rarely come up; you are much better off planting them ‘in the green’, which means transplanting clumps after flowering from a friendly neighbour or friend who can spare them. A garden designer or landscape gardener will always recommend planting Snowdrops in the green.
There are many species of plant that have berries over the autumn and winter, such as Pyracantha coccinea, Skimmia japonica and Cotoneaster dielsianus. The birds generally seem to leave Cotoneaster berries till later in the winter, so they may give you a splash of colour for a bit longer. Trees that hold onto their fruits into the winter include Crab Apples that often keep their golden or orange fruits on right into the winter, or the ubiquitous Rowan tree with its delightful red, pink or white berries.
While the birds are in your garden feeding on all these berries, why not give yourself a warm fuzzy feeling by keeping your feeders well stocked with a variety of different bird food. One of my absolute favourite things about my garden in the winter is the influx of birds once their natural food sources have been exhausted or covered up by frost or snow. I have feeders set up on the outside of my kitchen window, and I love eating my breakfast whilst watching the various birds tearing around outside my window having their morning feast! It is also important, if you can, to keep some water available for birds in your garden. I have a small pond in a Belfast sink surrounded by stones, and with shallow areas within it, that I try to keep ice-free over the winter. If you want your Glasgow garden to be home to wildlife, adding a body of water is crucial.
Don’t forget that winter is also the best time to start thinking about new plans for your garden, speaking to garden designers and booking yourself in with landscape gardeners. In the winter, you have much more of a blank canvas to have a look at, and you can get a lot more done while most of the plants are asleep. I’ve a number of garden designs that I am working on at the moment, and I can’t wait to see them come to life in the spring!
Tom Angel offers planting plans, garden designs, garden consultancy and a specialist soft landscaping service in the Glasgow area. Tom's background is as a gardener and landscape gardener before qualifying in garden design. Tom is based in Glasgow.
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