Shrubs to add winter sparkle to the garden

Plants, Plan Your Garden

The festive season has begun and as the temperature falls the garden is often seen as gloomy and dull and we bring the festive floral colour indoors with the classic Poinsettias, Amaryllis and potted Paperwhite Narcissus. However, there are some lovely plants that can give the garden a bit festive sparkle – including winter flowering shrubs that will brighten any garden, as well as giving a lovely fragrance in many cases. Here are a few of my favourites.

My Favourite Winter Flowering Shrubs

Holly (Ilex)

Holly (Ilex) is a traditional Christmas plant, and its leaves are used for many Christmas decorations. But it is also a great performing shrub for any garden. It is evergreen, giving year-round structure and colour and in winter the female varieties give a great display of bright red berries brightening any dull corner or back of a border. I particularly like Ilex x altaclarensis ‘Golden King’ for its variegated and slightly less spiky leaf. Hollies prefer some shade and can tolerate most soil conditions once established; they are also very slow growing, making them a very low maintenance plant.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is a shrub that in leaf is really just another green shrub used as a back drop to summer performers. But between October and March, depending on how cold the winter is, clusters of pale pink flowers appear on bare stems and have the most wonderful sweet scent. It will grow in most soil conditions as long as its not waterlogged. It will tolerate a hard prune, so makes a great back of the border shrub – although make sure you plant it close enough to a path, so that you can enjoy the lovely winter perfume.


Another shrub that gives you a lovely, sweet perfume during winter and early spring is Mahonia. It’s a very easy plant to grow as it tolerates most soils and shade – making it a great addition to a tricky spot in the garden. The earliest flowering variety is Mahonia x media with the popular Mahonia aquifolium usually flowering in February. The yellow flower spikes give a pop of colour and the unusual evergreen spiky leaves add a winter highlight to a garden.


Sarcococca, also aptly named Christmas Box, is a dense winter flowering evergreen shrub that bears sweetly scented white flowers. This low maintenance shrub will tolerate full shade and dry soils which makes it a perfect addition to a shady front garden or woodland border where the winter scent can be fully appreciated.

Heather (Erica carnea)

If you are short of space for additional plants in your garden, consider adding a pot of winter flowering Heather (Erica carnea). They are easy to grow, hardy and flower for weeks. They prefer a slightly acid condition and therefore perform brilliantly in a pot of ericaceous compost – adding a splash for colour to any patio.

a few more winter performers…

If these haven’t got you interested yet, here are a few more winter performers to consider:

Photo credits: Ilex, Viburnum x bodnantense, Mahonia, Sarcococca, Erica carnea, Chimonanthus praecoxLonicera, Daphne bholuaAbeliophyllumCotoneaster, Hamamelis mollis.

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