Dreaming of my favourite plants to warm up a Winters day

As we edge from Winter towards Spring, and clients start talking about their new gardens, it feels we are all craving growth and colour to brighten up our February days.  

So, what better time to share a selection of my favourite plants that you might be able to find a spot for in your own garden. These are not trendy, transient examples but reliable specimens with a vital role of providing pops of colour, form, movement and benefits for wildlife.

I’ve tried to pick some favourite bulbs, perennials, grasses, shrubs, and small trees that provide interest through the year that you should be able to fit into any garden, large or small.


Snowdrops and Crocuses are pushing up through the cold soil to reassure us that all is well, and spring is on its way! Although ‘Flore Pleno’ is my favourite Snowdrop with its double head and wonderful scent, there are plenty of other varieties to bring joy. If you don’t have some Snowdrops already, choose a shady spot that you can see from a window and buy some ‘bulbs in the green’ to plant this year for next.  Crocus ‘Blue Pearl’ is another favourite, luminous pale blue with a yellow base and easy to grow from bulbs planted in Autumn. 

Hellebores are lovers of shadier spots in the garden and provide evergreen leaves for groundcover throughout the year as well as stunning winter flower colour. The deep purple hues of my favourite ‘Victoria’ often reveal themselves in November and carry on until March!

Scent is so captivating in the garden, particularly in Winter. My favourite scented plant at this time of year is an unassuming shrub called Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) which produces vanilla-scented flower wands from December to March over lustrous evergreen leaves. Be sure to plant it near your door or path to enjoy it close up – just one sprig will fill a room of the house with delicious scent.


It’s easy to be overwhelmed with excitement by the time we get to Spring but there are a few reliable, beautiful, long-lived plants that I think offer more than most.

Geums hold their heads up as if to herald the warmth of Spring sun – the variety ‘Totally Tangerine’ is a particularly vibrant and long-lasting shot of orange which goes on until mid-Summer and proves a magnet for bees and butterflies. It can be planted with other hot colours and its scalloped leaves provide a good contrast with airy grasses or small-leaved topiary. It also looks amazing with the purples of Penstemons and Alliums.

Tiarella are small ground cover plants with interesting leaf markings and diminutive wands of white/pink flowers which go on for months – ‘Spring Symphony’ is my favourite for a semi shady spot. Try to plant in numbers if you can for maximum effect.

Ceanothus is the perfect Spring shrub for a sheltered sunny spot – the vibrant blues are a real showpiece in the spring garden for humans and bees alike. There are many different forms including wall shrub varieties like ‘Puget Blue’ to low growing creepers such as ‘Thyrsiflorus repens’.  Their jade green leaves continue the interest throughout the year – I’ve even attempted to cloud-prune mine! 


By summer, garden centres are bursting with colour and it’s easy to be seduced into lots of random purchases.  I love a bit of spontaneous plant shopping as much as the next gardener, but it’s useful to consider a few things before you buy. What soil do you have – dry or boggy, sandy or clay? Will it be planted in a sunny or shady spot? And who will its neighbours be? 

For me summer is all about long-flowering plants that provide a certain delicate airiness when it’s hot but are robust enough to cope with our inevitable summer rain. Astrantias love the semi-sunny, semi-shady spot that most people have somewhere in their garden and are best planted somewhere that you can appreciate the delicate detail of their wonderful long-lasting flowers, ideally from a garden seat!  There are now lots of varieties of Astrantias, but I favour the dark ones for contrasting with ferns or evergreen grasses such as ‘Hadspen Blood’ and ‘Star of Beauty’.

Stipa tenuissima is a blonde bombshell ornamental grass for dry sunny flower borders. It mixes with most colours and creates a sense of movement even on the calmest day. This grass stands up well through winter and the bullfinches might even tidy up the older leaves for their nests come Spring.

There are lots of climbing plants to choose from in summer, but many require pruning and sometimes I want a plant that just does its thing. The star jasmine (Trachelospernum jasminoides) packs a punch of perfume from its white flowers through summer, provides a stunning red/purple display of leaves through Autumn and retains its evergreen form through winter.  It really is a year-round delight that can be used for greenery at height or as groundcover.


As we say goodbye to summer it’s even more important to have plenty of colour splashes through Autumn to continue enjoying the garden from inside the house.  These can be in the form of trees – from the rich reds of small trees such as Acer Aconitifolium, to the mellow yellows of Birches and Gingkos for larger spaces. 

Shrubs such as Euonymus Alatus, sultry smoke bushes (Cotinus) and the blazing stems of Dogwoods such as Cornus Midwinter Fire can help to create stunning autumnal focal points, breaking up evergreen structural plants within the garden.

Even ground cover plants such as hardy plumbago (Ceratostigma  plumbaginoides)  can create an impact in the smallest of spaces.

So, keep dreaming about those favourite plants and Spring will be here before you know it!  If you need help designing your garden to make the most of the seasons, please get in touch via the contact form or email emma@mymuddyboots.co.uk