Saturday, January 14, 2023

We have had some beautiful but cold days when the plants around us have been covered with a silvery hue and, it was especially welcome as it does not last long. I am not sure that people living in Alaska, Canada or Scandinavia feel the same as they have those conditions for over six months.

Bright sparks

While we humans realise that we must constantly change or evolve to what is happening around us, it appears that this occurs naturally with much of wildlife, especially birds. They have a more acute instinct and awareness of changing  conditions and that is why migration patterns occur when they do and, why some species like the little egret have now made their home here. Another recent bird arrival is the Great Spotted Woodpecker which was either introduced or arrived naturally around 2005 in Wicklow and has spread rapidly and widely since then into over 21 counties.

Winter sparks

I do not know why but, I am always surprised and delighted when plants come into flower during the worst winter months. I know they are primed and scheduled to flower then but, when you see the delicate looking flowers all bright and cheery, it leaves a strong lingering impact and, if it has a fragrance that would be a big bonus.  Some of my favourite scented winter plants include Acacia (Mimosa), Daphne, Hamamelis (Witchhazel, pictured), Mahonia, Lonicera fragrantissima, Viburnum (some) and Sarcococca (Christmas Box).

Spark plug

There are a number of plants that are definitely worth having for colour during the winter and one is the evergreen Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ or a similar variety as it flowers regularly from October until the spring and, is a good provider of floral material for indoor decoration. Berried plants are also good for colour into the winter and, will last until a sharp frost or prolonged cold will see the plants stripped clean by birds. Some of the main berried plants include Malus-Crab Apple, Sorbus-Rowan or Mountain Ash, Cotoneaster and Pyracantha. Colourful winter bark is provided by Acer (some), Birch, Salix-Willow (large gardens) and Cornus-Dogwood (alba/sanguinea types).

There is one plant that I would not be bothered with as, it is tricky to do well at all, even though they are promoted regularly in the media. It is called Chimonanthus or ‘Wintersweet’ and needs a warm sunny sheltered wall to have a hope of obtaining quality flowers. Far easier is the tough large growing Lonicera fragrantissima mentioned above.

Seasonal sparks

I know heathers are out of fashion now but, the winter flowering (Erica carnea) ones are far too valuable to dismiss out of hand.  By choosing suitable varieties you can have white or pink flowers from late October until early April which is about six months of colour. These low growing versatile plants can be planted singly or in a group here and there where colour is needed. Heathers benefit from trimming after flowering and in that way they will keep a more compact shape. Another plant that flowers for a similar long period is the winter cherry (Prunus autumnalis)


It is probably a final week to prune some sensitive outdoor fruiting plants such as Figs, Vines and Kiwi, while Birch and Cherry can be carried out until the middle of February. House plants need a small amount (half cup) of water and then no more for a month but, you can mist the foliage regularly about once a week or more if your house is very warm.  Poinsettia and other flowering plants will need water more frequently. If you have any queries or comments you are welcome to share them with me on (051) 384273 or [email protected] and if of general interest I will include it in a future newsletter.

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