Gardening in Langley: Winter colours available

When the weather’s too wet or cold for gardening, strolling around a nursery is a great adventure into the colour and/or fragrance some plants could add to your own garden.

Winter jasmine, for instance is covered with yellow flowers by the time the New Year rolls around – even if it’s been planted in terrible soil on a north wall and never sees the sun. 

An easy, sprawling shrub, it does well in containers, if kept compact by pruning the side branches down to two or three buds after flowering. In the outside garden Jasminium nudiflorum hugs the ground and roots wherever it touches.

Other January shrubs include the pink fragrant flowers of Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn.’ It usually flowers December to March, producing red berries in summer and red-purple-tinged leaves in fall. As it gets older, one or two oldest trunks should be cut to the ground after flowering so new trunks can form.

Another is the winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragmantissima), which in mild Januaries opens small white clusters of beautifully scented flowers. It’s not a shapely bush – branches extend far and need annual pruning. It’s a nice support for annual climbers such as sweet peas.

Witch hazels are loved for their splashes of winter colour. A few yellow-flowered kinds are very fragrant (‘Arnold’s Promise’ and ‘Pallida’). But the coppery-red flowered ‘Diane’ offers bright red leaves in fall. Leaves of yellow flowered witch-hazels are usually bright yellow.

Gaultheria procumbens (native wintergreen) blankets the ground with pungent green leaves and long-lasting red berries. A nice ground cover, it’s about 15 centimetres tall with shallow roots that spread fast but are easy to pull. It grows well in containers.

Snowdrops appear early in the New Year, depending on weather. Pots of them are often sold in garden centres, and some gardeners like to take them home, enjoy them, then plant them outside.

Hyacinths can be removed from pots and moved to the garden when flowers fade. They do better in shady or semi-shady situations. Outside, hyacinths can flower every spring for many years.

Helleborus plants should be in garden centres soon. Some are very like the true white-flowered Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), but plant breeders have achieved new characteristics within the group: ‘Jacob’ has reddish stems, is very dwarf, and flowers in late fall; ‘Pink Frost’ has white and pink buds followed by pale pink flowers.

 Hybrids of Helleborus orientalis have morphed in all directions: there are doubles, semi-doubles, picotees, red, yellow, or pink petals, and some purples approach black. In some helleborus plants, black nectaries (the ring around the flower’s centre) are a feature. Leaves also vary, some veined or mottled.

In early January, callicarpa bushes may be displayed. The compact skimmia’s fragrant flowers, bright red berries, and evergreen leaves are popular in spaces where a year-round presence is wanted.

Anne Marrison is happy to answer gardening questions. Send them to


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