Gardeners seem to fall into two camps, tidy and neat or relaxed and nauturalistic. My aim is to convert everyone to the latter camp, and there are good reasons why.
Many tall, winter plants look amazing
Cutting back grasses and tall perennials in winter robs us of their full potential. Left to their own devices, soft feathery grasses look wonderful, swaying gently in the breeze. The colours, generally soft and muted, tone beautifully with steely winter weather. Basically your garden looks better with a silhouette of tall seed-heads and textural grasses.
Slim, elegant Veronicastrum flowers are a soft lilac blue, in summer, but it’s the shapes that look great in winter.
Less to do in the garden in the cold months of winter. It’s nice to be out in the garden all year round, but leaving plants standing until spring, gives time to concentrate on the more important jobs.
Food and shelter for wildlife
As well as their wonderful structure, those beautiful seed-heads provide a feast for birds, whilst strong stems make a home for hibernating beetles and solitary bees.
Phlomis has the advantage of standing up well to all kinds of winter weather. The seeds are perfect for small birds, like Sisken and Goldfinches.
Ferula communis, a statuesque plant, growing up to 3m tall and 1 m wide. The shock of vibrant leaves at the base of the plant is a promise of things to come.
Flat Achillea seed-heads, beautiful en masse, are full of tiny seeds for winter birds.
In short, I go for shapes rather than colour in winter. What do you think, & what are your favourite winter plants?
All these photos were taken at R.H.S. Wisley Garden. It’s fairly close to where I live and has become a kind of sanctuary during these difficult times. It’s also a brilliant place to see what fully grown plants look like, and has a massive range of all types of plants when you want ideas.
More about Wisley Garden here
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has a list of plants with good winter seed-heads here
Wishing you a safe, healthy, happy new year.
all photos: Jill Anderson