Daphne laureola 

Many winter-flowering shrubs are unassuming, their blooms are usually quite subtle and many are fragrant; most often you catch the scent on the air before you notice the flowers. Daphne laureola, commonly known as the spurge laurel, is one of two native daphnes found in the UK and it is easy to grow and utterly dependable, unlike some of the others we know! It has attractive, polished evergreen leaves which arrange themselves as rosettes, forming a neat dome about a metre high and rather wider after many years. The effect is certainly reminiscent of the euphorbia family but daphne...

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Chimonanthus praecox

The name translates from the Greek as precocious (or early) winter flower, and it is without doubt the most striking plant in our garden this month. Striking, not only because it is so heavily laden with flower this year (and I am wondering how this happened after such a mediocre summer), but also because its fragrance is pure heaven. Planted in 1990, it was one of the best choices we made, even though initially I began to doubt this, as several winters passed before the unusual waxy flowers started to appear, along with their intoxicating scent. For the rest...

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Iris unguicularis

FEBRUARY: Iris unguicularis – The Algerian Iris. This beautiful, winter flowering iris used to be called Iris stylosa; sweet sounding and easy to remember. Easy to grow too, just plant it at the base of a dry sunny wall with no added compost, and it will thrive. It seems to love poor stony soil which is no surprise when you look at its natural habitat. For most of the year you wouldn’t give it a second glance … a scruffy collection of strap shaped, dull green leaves which often as not are brown at the tips; and horror of...

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Salix fargesii

FEBRUARY: Salix fargesii. During periods of hard frost it is not difficult to find stunning subjects to admire as you wander around the garden; every stem, seedhead and leaf is enhanced by the sparkling white dust of  air hoar. The challenging days are when it’s grey and dismal and the light levels are at their lowest. But even then I know that there will always be something to brighten things up, and at this time of the year I look to Salix fargesii, which we have planted at the edge of our pond. There are about 400 species of...

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