5 top tips to create your winter garden

Winter is never kind on our gardens. When you’re finished sweeping up the leaves, it often happens that you look around to see there’s not much more than the weeds growing. But that doesn’t mean that you have to give up and abandon the outdoors until the first signs of spring.

There are, of course, things that you can do to prepare the garden for the next season, but surely it’s far better to find ways to keep it looking lively throughout the winter months.


After all, looking out on a delightful wintery scene on Christmas day will be worth the effort and all the reward you need for your investment. All you need to do after that is to keep your fingers crossed for a white Christmas, or at least a light dusting of snow.

With that picturesque image in mind, here are our five tips to create a garden that looks great past Halloween and Bonfire Night.

1. Go for reds and oranges

When the greens die off, it’s time for the reds and oranges to come into their own. Witch Hazel is the best of these shrubs by far, coming in a variety of golds, oranges, reds and yellows, with its flowers able to survive the worst of winter’s ravages. They prefer neutral soil, so do test your soil if you’re not sure whether it’s acidic or alkaline. Holly bushes will also add that wintry splash of red, with the bonus of providing material for home-made decorations.


2. Embrace silver with the silver birch

There’s no getting around the fact that some of your trees are going to be bare through the winter. But why not buy trees that look as good without leaves as they do with them? The Silver Birch is one such tree – looking great when it’s stripped of its foliage. White and silver barks provide a great wintry backdrop even before the snow comes and they look even more fantastic when it does.


3. Be evergreen

Evergreen shrubs and trees will keep the garden looking lively during the winter months. They can also provide structure, which is often lost when other plants die back. Some box shrubs and yews placed in formation around the rear of your home will create a pleasant scene from the back door. You can also plant the Christmas tree if you get one with roots on. Why not decorate one outdoors and one indoors?

4. Tidy up

Debris and mess look far worse in the garden in winter, so make sure you continue to weed, pick up and sweep up on a weekly basis. Your garden may look sparser than usual during this time of year, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look classy. If you have furniture that you leave out all year round, then make sure you clean water off it regularly and tidy away cushions.


5. Give yourself a Christmas Box

Sarcococca is a Chinese evergreen that grows berries amidst its dark green foliage. So far so good you may think, but this plant is also commonly known as sweet box or Christmas, as this is the time of year that you’re most likely to find its creamy white flowers blooming. They like to grow in the shade, but wouldn’t dislike a bit of winter sun reflecting off the snow should we be so lucky.

And don’t forget to prepare your home…

With winter coming, there are plenty of other jobs that you will need to keep your eye on too. You’ve probably already cracked and put the central heating on, but it’s worth getting the boiler checked and serviced to get you through the winter incident-free. You may also want to get a roofer in to check over the roof tiles, secure any TV aerials or satellite dishes and clear out the gutters to prevent blockages leading to leaks and roof damage.

For more winter garden ideas, click here. Or head here to find a gardener/garden designer to carry out your garden maintenance or design.

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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  1. Some good points. I’d like to add a couple of comments to the ideas listed. A winter tidy-up is a good idea, to prevent fallen leaves on the lawn causing yellow marks, for example. But, it’s good for wildlife – such as beneficial insects looking for somewhere to overwinter – to leave some debris on borders, such as dead stems or debris from herbaceous perennials.

    Also, Sarcococca definitely is an attractive, and easy to grow winter plant choice. One of its most appealing features, not mentioned here though, is its fantastic fragrance – a major bonus in a winter garden.

  2. Very helpful article. My garden always used to be a mess throughout winter until I started doing regular clean-ups. But I’ve always hated how bare it looks, so I think next year I’ll add some Witch Hazel.

    This January I’m also thinking of adding a greenhouse to the garden. I think with a bit of heating I should be able to grow some annuals much earlier than I would outside.

    1. I like to think of garden maintenance as a bit like a regular haircut Paul. When you get it cut regularly, not only does it look nice but it grows and ends up looking healthier in the end. I like the idea of the witch hazel and the garden greenhouse. Do let us know how you get on – you can contact us anytime at [email protected].

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