Winter is one of my favourite times in the garden. It is only at this time of year that the garden fully reveals itself. It is the time of year when I look out of the window and admire the structure of the garden. The hedges crisp with frost. The dew glistening on the lawn. The mist blanketing the fields beyond. It is a time for long walks in the countryside followed by even longer spells by the open fire. Let’s face it, its not really a time for gardening. It is a time for hunkering down and planning for the future.
Outside the window, the birds are foraging for insects and berries – if you venture out into the garden or the countryside beyond, it is a time when you can do a bit of foraging as well to bring a more naturalistic feel to the home before it is taken over by Christmas cards, tinsel and plastic baubles.
There is much to be had in the garden over winter for bringing indoors. There is no need for imported cut flowers, with a little imagination simple displays can be created from what is in the garden through the winter months.
Just take a look at what is flourishing in the garden at this time of year. I was recently walking through Pimlico on the way to a client in Chelsea and came across this planter. A combination of Dogwood, Heather and Cyclamen had been combined to create a colourful display. The Dogwood is the red stemmed version, Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, the stems of which would look equally good indoors arranged in a vase.
On the same theme, perhaps the stems of Salix caprea (Pussy Willow). Or the branches of a crab apple such as Malus ‘Evereste’ or Malus ‘Red Sentinel’, artfully arranged with their bright red fruits adding colour to the home.
If you would like to combine colour and scent in the home, wait for a Witch hazel to flower on its bare stems and then bring some of these indoors. The orange blooms of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ or Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Orange Peel’ would do the job.
On a more traditional bent, it will soon be time to bring in the mistletoe, or Viscum album for the Latin lovers amongst us. If you are lucky you may see it growing on the stems of apple trees or Hawthorns. I can also testify it makes a mean schnapps, having lost a rather promising evening in Hamburg to its alcoholic charms.
Finally, the old favourites. The holly and the ivy. If you are making a wreath, why not give Yew a try? It’s so easy, even I managed it. Take a wire coat hanger, bend it into a circle. Pad it out by wrapping strips of newspaper round it held in place with sellotape. Then wrap the Yew stems round it, holding it in place with green string or wire. Add a few sprigs of holly complete with red berries and finish off with some red ribbon. Easy. If you start it now, you might have it finished by Christmas…
Nigel is an award winning garden designer with studios in London and North Yorkshire. As founder of Medlar & Cob he uses modern, intelligent design to create timeless British gardens rooted in tradition. Take a look at his blog here here - medlarandcob.com/m. You can follow Nigel on twitter @medlarandcob. Read more posts by Nigel.