Eight Great Plants that look good in Winter

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on 7 May 2021, 16:47

In the winter gardens can become a bit drab. I love seasonality in the garden, so trees that lose their leaves and plants that die down are an important part of the garden. In the spring and summer, there is so much going on in a garden and it is easy to create interest.  However, it is nice to have some interest in winter, whether it be foliage colour, stem colour, evergreen for structure, or flower. Below are some plants that I just love. 

1. Helleborus 

Helleborus, commonly known as ‘Winter Roses’ are a real superstar in the garden in the winter. Hellebores flower from late winter, and are a sign that spring is not far away. They are easy to grow in a number of situations, performing best when planted in partial shade in rich, moist, but well-draining soil.  The flowers last for several months and come back year after year, so really good value. You can plant them as a ground cover under trees or large shrubs. A plan combination I really like is Helleborus, hosta, and ligularia. The hellebores in winter, the hosta for spring, and then the ligularia for the summer months. 



2. Pseudowintera Red Leopard 

Pseudowintera Red Leopard is a selection of the New Zealand native pepper tree that stays little, getting to a maximum height of 1m making it a great choice for small gardens. This plant is one that you would choose for its foliage. The foliage is interesting all year round but as the temperature cools the colour intensifies making it a real show stopper in winter.  Pseudowintera Red Leopard prefers good soil in full sun to semi-shade. 

Pseudowintera Red Leopard


3. Rhododendrons 

Rhododendrons flower in spring, right? Yes! But they are a great evergreen shrub that holds the garden together for winter. Their foliage holds such good form that they are a great choice for shrubbery with lots of seasonal plants such as deciduous trees and summer and spring perennials that look great at other times of the year. The Rhododendrons provide the ‘bones’ of the garden in the winter months. 



4. Muehlenbeckia astonii

Muehlenbeckia astonii is a wiry New Zealand native shrub that is very versatile and tolerates dry and windy conditions. I’m not sure why, but it seems to really stand out in the garden during the winter months, its interesting interlacing habit just sets it apart. Muehlenbeckia astonii is a slow-growing plant that takes little looking after and is a must-have in a New Zealand native garden.  

muehlenbeckia astonii (3)


5. Cornus alba 

Cornus alba is deciduous, in the summer months it is just a green plant that lacks any real interest, but as the days start to shorten and cool down the foliage starts to change in colour to a real burgundy colour, shortly after the foliage completely leaves this plant and the brilliant red stems are exposed. The red stems are very eye-catching, making an incredible statement. The stems are often used in floral arrangements in the winter months. You just need to make sure you have enough space for Cornus alba as he can get big, so either be prepared to keep him contained, or have enough space for him to spread his wings. 

Cornus alba


6. Pittosporum Golf Ball 

Pittosporum Golf Ball is a selected form of the New Zealand Native Pittosporum tenuifolium. Golf Ball, as the name would suggest, holds a natural form of a ‘Golf Ball’ making it a great small plant for the garden. It is a green ball, that is it - but it is so much more than that in the garden. Pittosporum Golf Ball is great in the winter as it is so fresh and holds the garden together with its structure. 

Pittosporum golf ball


7. Nandina 

Nandina, also known as ‘Japanese Bamboo’ is a hardy shrub that grows in most climatic conditions throughout New Zealand. It is a relatively small, compact plant that gets to 70cm in height. Very low maintenance, as in never needs to be touched. The foliage is interesting year-round, but in the winter the colour darkens to a burgundy colour making it a real stand out plant. Plant in the full sun. 

Nandina Pygmea  Nandina Gulfstream


8. Buxus 

Buxus sempervirens, commonly known as ‘Box Hedging’ never seems to go out of fashion. A real timeless plant that adds so much value to a garden, especially in the winter months. You can have a garden filled with flowering perennials, roses or other deciduous plants that are spectacular in the spring and summer. Then, when they die down, good old buxs is there to frame the garden, and give it structure for the winter. Another reason I really like it to border a garden is because it hides so much, where it be the dormant plants or the weeds that you haven’t quite got to - it doesn’t matter - you can’t see them. 

Buxus Sempervirens



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