The team at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens share their winter gardening tips

PUBLISHED: 15:51 21 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:54 21 January 2014

Chimonanthus Praecox Lutea

Chimonanthus Praecox Lutea


In the garden with the team at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

C.cirrhosa 'Jingle Bells'C.cirrhosa 'Jingle Bells'

Colourful Combinations

Winter gardening has become very fashionable in recent times, although the concept goes way back to the Victorian era. It’s all about using certain endearing features from various plants that are particularly outstanding in the colder months of the year. These include colourful or peeling bark, persistent fruits, early flowers and evergreens.

The Winter Sweet, Chimonanthus praecox, brings both flower and scent into the garden. The small yellow flowers of the variety ‘Lutea’, sparkle like jewels on the bare branches - use a bold combination as an under planting to really highlight it.

Bergenia purpurea, an herbaceous plant sometimes known as ‘Elephants ears’, is often grown for its pink spring flowers, however this species has leaves that turn deep purple in winter and is even more striking when inter-planted with Snowdrops. Try the taller, double flowering Galanthus ‘Hippolyta’; they are becoming more widely available nowadays and Garden Centres do generally stock a small selection.

Barry Clarke

Propagator and Nursery Manager


Cheerful Clematis

When you see the garden in January, skies are grey with low winter light and a chill breeze often fills the air. However, a house wall softened by the dark glossy foliage of Clematis cirrhosa complete with pendulous, greenish-yellow flowers provides such an uplifting sight during this quiet period of the year.

The less vigorous Clematis balearica has cut-leaved foliage turning from bronze to near black in winter. The delicately scented blooms are a richly speckled, reddish-brown inside. Clematis ’Jingle Bells’ has bell shaped flowers of smaller size with creamy white flowers and similar foliage. After flowering they produce large fluffy seed heads which can be fun when used in flower arrangements.

Rather different but genuinely winter flowering is Clematis napaulensis, which needs careful placement as it loses its leaves during the summer. Tassel like flowers are borne in pendulous clusters and are a delight. They are scented, creamy white and have conspicuous purple-red anthers.

Needing similar conditions, but coming from South western China is ‘Winter Beauty’, which is becoming more widely available. It must have shelter and good drainage as it is borderline hardy in some colder areas. The elegant flowers are small, single, bell shaped, creamy white with an almost wax like appearance.

A climbing flowering plant is a real bonus as it draws your eye when much else lays bare. Most winter Clematis offer quality foliage, flower and scent and have light pruning requirements - I’m surprised not to see them planted more often. I encourage you to try them as their charm and subtle beauty is matched by few others during the darkest months of the year.

David Jewell

Head Gardener


Jobs for January

As long as soil conditions are not too cold or wet, you can still lift and divide herbaceous perennials. This will save money, increase stocks and revive tired or congested clumps.

Sweet peas can be sown this month. Place them on a sunny windowsill, or on a high shelf in a greenhouse that receives plenty of light.

Continue to plant bare root deciduous plants or trees. Position the stake ahead of planting to avoid any damage to the roots. Place the surface roots slightly proud of the surrounding soil before applying organic mulch.

Brush any snow off evergreen conifers, Camellias, trees and shrubs.

Wrap non frost-proof containers in bubble wrap, hessian or fleece to prevent them cracking.

David Jewell

Head Gardener

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