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Planning Retirement Online

Gardening feature  

                              October 2009

Winter colour

winter gardenI place more importance on winter colour in the garden than summer flowers.

From October through to February, we can only gaze out at our gardens from the warmth of our houses, often with precious little else to see other than the dead foliage of the previous season's herbaceous perennials, dull deciduous shrubbery, and trees that are stripped bare of their leaves. And yet there are so very many beautiful evergreen and variegated shrubs and trees to be found. There are winter berries for colour and deciduous shrubs grown mainly for their vivid bark which brightens up a cheerless winter scene.

winter jasmineI love the colours of my garden in the winter months; planted with a great many evergreen architectural plants and shrubs, it is an ever changing tapestry which sets the garden ablaze with colour. Even the trees were chosen for their winter colour and texture. For example I have a Silver Birch tree, Betula utilis Jacquemontii, which has startling white smooth bark that looks as if it has been whitewashed, and about five different varieties of Eucalyptus trees which have blue foliage, some with whitish pink bark. They look stunning and are quite hardy. I have dogwoods that are pretty mundane when they are adorned with foliage during the summer months, but when the leaves drop, the brilliant reds, greens and yellows of their bark really brightens up the garden. There is a new dogwood I have, which to my mind is particularly beautiful and is suitably named Cornus sanguinea `Midwinter Fire`.

winter berriesI also take care to make sure that the textures and colours don`t clash with each other by first placing groups of plants or shrubs together, much the same as if one was matching fabrics and wallpaper. I often look at a border and think that perhaps something doesn`t quite fit, and would perhaps look better a few feet along the border. If that happens I water the offending plant well for a few hours, then move it to its new home, having first prepared a large enough hole with compost and water. I don`t lose any plants at all. So don`t worry if you don`t get the planting arrangements right first time!

I have walked around my garden and listed below some of my colourful and structural favourites for you to look up in your gardening book, or on the internet. The names of some of them may not be spelt correctly.. embarrased

  • Silver Birch Jacquemontii
  • Cotoneaster
  • Lonicera purpusii
  • Pine trees
  • Blue cedrus
  • Cordyline Australis
  • Euonymus
  • Elaeagnus
  • Red bark maple
  • Eucalyptus
  • Bottlebrush (Callistemon)
  • Golden Choisya
  • Lavender
  • Bay laurel
  • Yew
  • Clematis Armandii
  • Arbutus unedo
  • Pyracanthus
  • Escallonia
  • Pieris
  • Yukka
  • Hebes
  • Mahonia Charity
  • Euphorbia Characias
  • Phygellius
  • Myrtle
  • Senecio sunshine
  • Variagated Holly
  • Rhododendron
  • Azalea
  • Portugese laurel
  • Viburnum Tinus Var.
  • Tree heathers
  • Box
  • Eleagnus
  • Berberis
  • Skimmia
  • Osmanthus
  • Photinia Red Robin
  • Ceanothus
  • Forsythia
  • Dogwoods
  • Crinodendron
  • Phormium
  • Fatsia Japonica
  • Lonicera - Bag. Gold
  • Bamboo Nigra
  • Coloured sages
  • Helleborus
  • Heathers


Spend some time on a lazy autumn or winter day looking round some
garden centres and see what they have in the way of plants with winter
interest. It is surprising how many people only visit their local garden centres
on warm sunny days. They often miss the best stuff...




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Amazon book - Gardens of the National Trust. When the National Trust decided to take on the care of gardens, the aim was that these would be the very best of their kind in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust now has the finest collection of gardens ever assembled under one ownership..

Volunteering with the National Trust

Volunteers are active in all parts of the National Trust, from the new central office in Swindon to the summits of Snowdonia and Divis Mountain near Belfast.

View their latest opportunities, or find out more about the kind of roles and different places you can volunteer:

Still with the National Trust, some of the most visited National Trust properties are now holding regular farmers' and food markets.  Click here for details  and dates.



RHS gardens


Their four flagship gardens not only provide year-round interest and offer a wide range of courses, talks and demonstrations, they also demonstrate the best gardening practices, new techniques and exciting new plants to try in your garden.

Or go to their website for a diary of all other events at:-

Do you take advantage of the BBC Gardening website for information? I find it a valuable source of information, for up to date legislation, countryside matters and useful information such as plant pests and diseases, which saves me ploughing through all my gardening books, with the knowledge that their information is bang up to date...


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 


Visit where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line.  Have a look to see what is new, and special seasonal offers


Some places to visit... 



The Eden Project


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.


Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN


The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...




Some websites of interest to gardeners:-


Carry on Gardening - The easier gardening web site from ThriveGardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 



Useful reading:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced ?5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is ?6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

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