Embracing winter blooms

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Winter wonders in the garden: Charlotte Tombs discovers Dorset’s resilient blooms that brighten the gloomiest months

Winter-flowering cherry,
Prunus x subhirtella)

We are lucky in the south of England with our milder climate. As we enter the depths of winter, and gardeners elsewhere in the country resign themselves to a dormant bare garden, there is a hidden world of beauty waiting to be discovered in the form of winter blooms. These resilient plants brave the cold temperatures and shorter days, offering a burst of colour and fragrance to uplift our spirits. Below are some of the winter flowering plants that bring me pleasure at this time of year and thrive in our Dorset climate.

The snowdrops are already beginning to emerge.
All images: Charlotte Tombs

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
Snowdrops are usually the first arrival of spring. These delicate, bell-shaped flowers emerge from the often-frozen ground, their pristine white petals contrasting beautifully against the dark winter landscape. Snowdrops can be found in woodlands, gardens, and even naturalised in meadows. Their dainty blooms and subtle fragrance make them a true winter gem.

The distinctive petals of Witch Hazel are temperature sensitive; they become reflexed when cold and unfurl when warm.

Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)
Winter jasmine is a deciduous shrub that graces the winter garden with bright yellow flowers. Blooming from late December through to early spring, it adds a cheerful touch to any landscape. The arching branches create an elegant display, and the flowers provide an early source of nectar for bees and other pollinators.

Hellebores (Helleborus):
Hellebores, also known as Christmas Roses, are a winter favourite in southern England. These evergreen perennials produce clusters of nodding flowers in shades of white, pink, purple, and green. Known for their ability to bloom in even the harshest winter conditions, they are a reliable choice for gardeners looking for winter colour.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis)
Witch Hazels are renowned for their vibrant, spidery blooms that appear on bare branches during the winter months. The fragrant flowers come in shades of yellow, orange and red, adding a burst of colour to the winter garden. Witch Hazels are also prized for their attractive autumn foliage, making them a year-round delight.

The mythological physician Melampus was said to have observed the cathartic effect of hellebore on goats who browsed on the plants. Melampus used the milk of these same goats to cure the daughters of the King of Argos of a divinely inflicted madness, and hellebore was sometimes called melampodium.

Winter-flowering cherry (Prunus x subhirtella)
The winter-flowering cherry is a small deciduous tree that surprises with its delicate pink or white blossoms during the winter months. Blooming intermittently from November to March, this tree brings a touch of spring to a winter garden. Its flowers are a welcome sight on sunny winter days, attracting early pollinators. I’ve yet to own this tree but it’s on my own list of must-haves!

Winter-flowering Viburnums
(Viburnum x bodnantense)
Winter-flowering Viburnums are a group of shrubs that offer light, fragrant blooms during the dark cold winter months. Their clusters of pink or white flowers emerge from bare branches, filling the air with a heady, spicy, sweet scent. These hardy shrubs are a valuable addition to any garden, providing both visual interest and fragrance during the winter season.

Winter-flowering Viburnums

A winter garden
These lovely, hardy plants remind us of the beauty and resilience of nature. So – bundle up, grab a warm drink and venture into your winter garden to discover the hidden treasures that await. Embrace the magic of winter blooms and let them inspire you during the colder months.
PS Please don’t forget to keep your bird feeders topped up this month!

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