Batsford Red Bridge in Winter

Batsford Red Bridge in Winter

A garden can change dramatically in winter, as the perennial layers die down and leaves have fallen from trees and shrubs. It is less about colour and more about shadows, shapes and silhouettes. A time to appreciate the naked beauty of skeletal silhouettes of Phlomis, Eryngium, architectural seedheads of Allium, poppy, and sculptural grasses for example.

Winter light is low illuminating plants from the side, catching details of textured bark, stems and branches. Plant and foliage colour are very muted, straw yellow to dark brown.

Evergreen shrubs come into their own, providing much needed structure and taking the attention away from unsightly features such as sheds and fences. Key is layering, get the right proportion, about 30%. Go for soft appearance, smaller leaves (Skimmia) are not as distracting as the larger leaves of a Fatsia japonica. Dark foliage provides a useful back drop to brighter stems of Birch and Hamamelis.

Shrubs for winter interest

  • Abeliophyllum distichum
  • Arbutus unedo
  • Daphne mezereum
  • Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’
  • Mahonia x media ‘Charity’
  • Sarcococca ruscifolia var. chinensis ‘Dragon’s Gate’

Plants with attractive foliage, stems or seedheads during winter

  • Achillea filipendulina hybrids
  • Eryngium, especially E. giganteum
  • Phlomis russeliana
  • Rudbeckia
  • Verbena

Grasses for winter interest

  • Calamagrostis brachytricha
  • Deschampsia cespitosa
  • Miscanthus sinensis cultivars
  • Pennisetum alopecuriodes


Beautiful winter gardens provide an excuse to get outside, there are plenty of lovely gardens to visit, here are just a few.

Batsford arboretum, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire

The Courts garden near Bradford on Avon

Hidcote Manor, near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire