Although we are still in winter there are welcome signs in the garden that spring is around the corner. 
There are many ways to introduce interest to a winter garden, the beauty and variety of stems, bark, berries and a variety of decorative, evergreen foliage chosen with care to ensure that your garden never looks dreary.  
Sarcococca hookeriana may not be the showiest of plants but it is an extremely useful shrub. It will happily thrive in a shady or more open position and is tolerant of a wide range of soils. In summer it is a useful background plant but in winter it comes into its own. The small creamy white flowers produce an intense, vanilla scent which makes it an ideal shrub for positioning near a gate, door or any where else you will get the benefit of its glorious scent. 
Skimmia x confusa 'Kew Green' is another useful shrub that can cope with sun or shade and requires no pruning. It has a low growth habit and a compact shape providing a year-round backdrop of evergreen foliage. At this time of year it bears cone-shaped clusters of buds which open in early spring to reveal creamy white scented flowers with a hint of green. 
Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' bears clusters of intensely scented flowers which appear on bare stems. The tiny blooms can withstand frost and will continue to flower for several months. Despite appearances this is a tough, easy to grow shrub best planted to avoid early morning sunshine. Morning sun can cause damage to frosted blooms, although this will not cause any lasting damage and new flowers will take their place. 
 
Acer griseum is known as the paper-bark maple and is an ideal tree for a small garden. It is an attractive tree with stunning autumn colour that sees its leaves turn from dark green to orange and then a rich crimson. Its decorative bark peels off in thin, papery sheets, exposing cinnamon-coloured new bark making it an perfect winter interest tree. 
Helleborus makes the winter garden a more exciting place. It's beautiful and sophisticated flowers appear from mid-winter and last for months. There is a wide range of flower colours and forms, the leaves also offer variety in shape, size and markings. The flowers are designed to attract solitary bees which are essential to the pollination process. Hellebores are generally trouble-free and thrive in humus rich soil beneath deciduous shrubs and trees.  
 
Pyracantha is a valuable garden shrub throughout the year. The frothy white flowers appear on the evergreen shrub in summer and are followed by bright coloured orange, yellow or red berries depending on the variety. It responds well to trimming and an overgrown shrub can be cut back drastically if required. The berries are particularly popular with blackbirds and it is one of the top shrubs for nesting, perfect for many bird varieties. It isn't fussy about position or soil as well as a gereral garden shrub it can be grown as either a wall shrub or hedge and clipped accordingly. 
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Old Oak Farm Nurseries | Bell's Lane, Hoghton, Preston, Lancashire PR5 0JJ | Tel: 01254 852 065 
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