All White in Winter…

…creates a stunning seasonal scheme.

Travel writer Pat Richardson shares the pleasure of her own little corner of heaven to come home to

Ice and frost may spell cold and discomfort for us, and possible damage for tender plants, but there’s no denying that both bring an ethereal beauty to our gardens – especially when winter sunlight adds sparkle.

White flowers emphasise that beauty, as do the shiny, snow-white berries of Symphoricarpos albus – aka Snowberry bush. This, I’ve decided, will be my garden’s new Winter colour scheme. Several of my already-established plants flowering now fit right in. Some are shrubs: Viburnum tinusFrench White’, winter honeysuckle Lonicera × purpusiiWinter Beauty‘ and sweet box Sarcococca confuse. The last two are also gloriously fragrant. Also made for the moment is the delightful Clematis urophyllaWinter Beauty’, which trails its pretty white bells along the fence behind the magnolia’s fur buds; and a sprinkling of snowdrops. All I’ve added this Winter is four white cyclamen on the garden table, in zinc pots that echo the magnolia’s silvery buds.

I want even more white flowers next winter – hellebores and crocus are on my list. Over the years, I’ve tamed my reckless tendency to rush in and buy what I hope will be ‘the perfect plant’. Researching first, I’ve learned, means fewer disappointments, and less money wasted.

I start by visiting garden centres to see what’s in flower. I won’t buy yet; I’ll just read the labels to check that I have the soil conditions and the positions that the plants I like require, and maybe find a knowledgeable member of staff who can tell me more. I may visit a showcase garden, too, where I can see them growing and see how they fit into an overall planting scheme. If I’m lucky, there’ll be gardener around, so I can pick up some expert tips, too.

Back at home, I can do more detailed research, including finding nurseries that sell the plants I’m looking for. Only when I am sure they’ll survive and thrive in my garden will I look into buying some.

Planting Snowdrops, crocuses and Christmas roses will bulk up the white flower count at ground level where, at the moment, I have only snowdrops. My clematis and the snowberry’s branches climb high; the shrubs – viburnum, honeysuckle and sweet box – sit at mid-height between the two. Something else experience has taught me is that to successfully weave a new strand into the garden’s colour scheme, I’ll need to reinforce it visually at all three levels.

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs www.perfectlyworded.co.uk, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and www.HotelsThatWereNot.com, a website showcasing properties with a past.
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