The Garden Guide

Book: Colour schemes for the flower garden
Chapter: Chapter 17 Planting for winter colour

Winter garden walks

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The place for this winter walk should be sheltered from the north and east. I have such a place in my mind's eye, where, beyond the home garden and partly wooded old shrubbery, there is a valley running up into a fir-wooded hill. The path goes up the hill-side diagonally, with a very gentle gradient. In the cooler, lower portion there would be Rhododendrons and Kalmias, with lesser growths of Skimmia and Gaultheria. Close to the path, on the less sunny side, would be Lent Hellebores and the delightful winter greenery of Epimedium. Then in full sun Andromeda japonica, and on the shadier side Andromeda floribunda. Both of these hard and rather brittle-wooded shrubs belong to the group properly named Pieris, and form dense bushes four or more feet high. At their foot would be the lower-growing Andromedas of the Leucothoe section, with lissome branches of a more willowlike character. These make a handsome ground-carpeting from one to three feet high, beautiful at all seasons�the leaves in winter tinted or marbled with red. Portions of the cooler side would also have fringes of Hartstongue and Polypody, both winter ferns. Then, as the path rose into more direct sunlight, there would be Cistuses�in all mild winter days giving off their strong, cordial scent�and the dwarf Rhododendrons. Behind the Cistuses would be White Broom, finely green-stemmed in winter. There would even be shrubs in flower; the thick-set yellowish bloom of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) and the bright yellow of Jasminum nudiflorum. Then groups of Junipers, and all the ground carpeted with Heath, and so to the upper Fir-wood. Then, after the comforting greenery of the lower region, the lovely colour of distant winter landscape would be intensely enjoyable; for the greys and purples of the leafless woodland of middle distance have a beauty that no summer landscape can show. In clear weather the further distances have tints of an extraordinary purity, while the more frequent days of slightly distant haze have another kind of beautiful mystery. The common Laurel is generally seen as a long-suffering garden hack, put to all sorts of rather ignoble uses. It is so cheap to buy, so quick of growth and so useful as an easily made screen that its better use is, except in rare instances, lost sight of. Planted in thin woodland and never pruned, it grows into a small tree that takes curious ways and shapes of trunk and branch of a character that is remarkably pictorial.