Here are some ideas courtesy of Go Wild Landscapes which will brighten up the monotony of Winter in your garden. These are mainly native plants which are insect, animal and bird friendly:
- The native dogwood ‘Midwinter Fire’ (Cornus sanguinea), when pruned back thoroughly in the Spring produces abundant bare stems in Winter coloured in striking reds, yellows and oranges. Dogwoods prefer moist soil, but tolerate most soil types and are fully hardy to -15°C which makes them a great choice for almost any garden. Full sunlight will bring out the best colour in its stems.
- Copper beech (Fagus sylvatica Purpurea) is a native plant and recommended by the RSPB as a suitable tree or hedge for British birds to nest in. Its leaves are rich copper in colour during springtime, but change to purple in early summer and darken further in the coming months. If you trim mature plants midsummer, there will be a higher chance they will keep their leaves throughout the Winter. It can be used as a backdrop, or in contrast to bright green plants to accentuate their colour. Copper beech is happy growing in any well-drained soil-type with a good level of sunlight.
- Scots heather ‘Wickwar Flame’ (Calluna Vulgaris) holds an “RHS Award of Garden Merit” and is certified with the “RHS Perfect for Pollinators” badge. It sports a myriad of upright mauve-pink flowers from July through to November. During the Winter, the foliage first turns gold, then red. Contrast with other heathers for some great colour combinations throughout the year. It is fully hardy (being relative of the native ling that used to be spread over a quarter of the UK) but will need well-drained, humus-rich, acid soil or ericaceous compost.
- In the spring-time the crab apple ‘Golden Hornet’ (Malus x zumi) has pink buds which open into white flowers. Come the autumn time these will have transformed into a generous crop of stunning yellow-amber fruits. Although deciduous, the crab apples should hang onto the tree well into the winter, providing food for the local wildlife. They are also edible to humans: they are usually cooked and a high pectin content making them great for jam, but after the first frosts some fruits may be sweet enough to eat raw. Golden Hornet can be grown in fairly fertile, moist and well-drained soil. It enjoys a position in full sun, although partial shade is tolerated.
- Although Native Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is the classic choice for festive red berries in the lead-up to Christmas, the ‘Strawberry Tree’ (Arbutus Unedo)is a more unusual alternative. White, or sometimes pale pink flowers which are attractive to pollinators appear September to November, whilst simultaneously the bright red fruits from the previous year’s flowers reach maturity. The fruits have coarse skin that resemble strawberries and are a good food source for birds in autumn. Additionally the fruits are edible to humans: whilst somewhat bland when raw, the fruits can be made into jams and various soft and alcoholic drinks, such as the strong Portuguese brandy “medronho”. This tree is native to the Mediterranean, Western Europe and Ireland. It should be grown in a sheltered location with full sunlight. Soil can be composed of loam, clay or sand but must be well-drained and acid or neutral.