Winter Beauty

The onset of winter can often reduce the garden to bare branches and dead flower heads. It is

completely possible to have eye catching colour here and there, enough to keep the garden looking interesting and alive. The range of tree’s and shrubs which provide striking autumn colour is huge.

It is often said by the experts that the dead of winter is the time to test the mettle of any gardener.  But the ability to create an interesting space where colour, shape and texture interplay with one another just takes a little forward planning and thought.

I attended an open day at Nangles and Niesen’s extensive nurseries at Aherla recently. The range and extent of trees was unbelievable, and the colours absolutely stunning. I came away with at least four more trees to add to my wish list.

Some of the trees that are looking amazing now include Betula utilis Greywoods Ghost, Acer rubrum October Glory (pictured), Betula albosinensis Fascination (the peeling bark on this one is beautiful),  Liquidamber styraciflua Worpelsdon and Parrotia persica. Even the smallest garden can accommodate one of these.

The nurseries at Aherla are now selling to the public at wholesale prices.  If you want any of these bad boys you’ll have something in common with Diarmuid Gavin, since they supplied him with the trees for his award winning Sky Garden at Chelsea this year!

I also attended a gardening seminar at Fota House where Brian Cross and Dermot O’Neill gave a talk on planting schemes for autumn and winter colour. Brian’s wonderful garden Lakemount in Glanmire consists of almost 90 per cent shrubs and trees, and only 10 per cent herbaceous plants. This is testament to the fact that it is possible to create beauty and colour without depending on herbaceous perennials to inject the wow factor.

Some of the plants the two experts suggested were as follows: Indigofera, with its indigo coloured flowers is easy to grow, deciduous and gives good autumn colour. It flowers from mid to late summer right through to November.

I wrote about Asters in a recent article and Aster Monte Casino, a winner at the Chelsea flower show, was mentioned as a possible companion whereupon six weeks of flowering from both plants planted together could be derived. It was suggested that Calycarpa put together with Sidalceaia would look fab. These plants are available at Hillside garden centre.

Fuschia Tom Thumb is a hardy dwarf fuschia and very pretty. Mr Cross recommended that at least three be planted together for impact. Unless you enjoy bare patches and weed pulling I would take his advice.

Ceratostigma is another great late performer with beautiful blue flowers and it’s hardy too, which is important. I think any shrub with blue flowers late in the season is worthy of a spot in the border. This should keep flowering until the first frosts.

If you want to learn more from Brian Cross he runs gardening classes at Lakemount in Autumn and Spring. Having been a pupil for many years I would recommend them highly to anyone who loves gardening and gossip! In relation to Dermot O’Neill, I believe RTÉ will be airing his new series in Spring of 2012 and I’m looking forward to it already.

Written by

I am passionate about gardening and creating outdoor spaces that are gorgeous, adventurous, productive and fun. I have been advising and designing gardens for many years starting with friends and family as well as developing my own garden design in Cork near Crosshaven. I have been doing this whilst bearing and rearing our four children, who also garden with me and share my interest and passion, especially in the vegetable and fruit garden. I am the Gardening columnist for the Cork Independent free newspaper. I take all my own photographs for my articles on gardening and will also customise cards for clients using photographs taken in their home and garden.

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