It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that a garden during a British winter is doomed to be lifeless and dull. With a combination of modern hybrids, new species and old-fashioned classics, it is possible to have flowering plants in your garden throughout the cold months. Even small flowering plants make a large impact during the winter when most plants are dormant and bright colors are in short supply.
Jasminum nudiflorum, or the winter jasmine, is a rambling shrub native to China that forms a mound up to 10 feet tall. The yellow, six-petaled flowers, just under an inch wide, appear from November to March. Winter jasmine is tolerant of poor soil and neglect but flowers best in a sunny position.
Winter pansies or ice pansies (Viola hiemalis) are cold-hardy biennials and will keep on flowering through all but the harshest winters. They should be planted in spring to give them time to get established before the winter, and they appreciate a sunny spot. Many other cold-hardy pansy hybrids that will also flower during the winter.
A deciduous shrub up to 10 feet tall, the winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) produces abundant white to pale yellow flowers with a strong, lemony scent toward the end of winter. The winter honeysuckle is tolerant of all soil types but flowers best in a sunny position and when left unpruned.
Chinese Witch Hazel
Native to China, Hamamelis mollis, or the Chinese witch hazel, flowers in late winter. Small clusters of fragrant, yellow flowers with thin, curling petals are borne on the bare branches and last for several weeks. It favours acidic, well-drained soils with plenty of organic material.
Common snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are often the first plants to stir in the garden during winter and can flower as early as January . The single white flower drooping from a fine stem makes the snowdrop an attractive addition to any garden. You can choose from several species and hundreds of varieties. Dormant bulbs can be planted during the autumn or spring. Plants with leaves attached can be transplanted during the spring for flowers the next winter.
Christmas box (Sarcococca hookeriana) is a Himalayan evergreen shrub related to common box. It produces clusters of small, white flowers with a strong fragrance from December to March. Christmas box thrives in acidic but rich, well-drained soils and partial shade.
Winter flowering heather (Erica carnea) is a native of the eastern Alps and grows in Alpine coniferous forests. A small, spreading shrub growing no higher than 10 inches, winter heather has needle-shaped leaves and racemes or bunches of bell-shaped, pink flowers just 0.2 inches long. The flowers appear throughout the winter.