As the year moves through February and March you can have another layer of colour and interest to your winter planting with additional shrubs and early flowering spring bulbs.
Ribes sanguineum is a really tough early flowering shrub (March/April) usually seen with pink flowers. But I like the white flowered varieties, Ribes sang. ‘White Icicle’ or ‘Elkington’s White’ with delicate looking pendent white flowers that move with the breeze. They provide rare early season nectar for bees and insects on warmer spring days too
Amelanchiers are tough shrubs with the added bonus of two seasons of interest and are good specimen shrubs/small trees for a garden – look for a multi-stem one. Delicate, star shaped white flowers appear in March/April, followed by young bronze leaves, maturing to green. In the autumn the leaves turn a brilliant red before dropping
A third choice is one I mentioned in my last blog, Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ grown for their flame coloured stems, revealed when the leaves drop in autumn. They do best in full sun and damp soil, but manage well in our drier soil, but remain smaller specimens. They come in different stem colours, yellow, orange, red, purple, green and look especially good planted in groups where the winter sun catches their stems.
Early spring flowering bulbs are a joy on a miserable grey day. My office looks out on a rockery and I have planted lots of early flowering bulbs. Snowdrops are a given, but I love Iris reticularta which flower from late winter to early spring. They need a sunny well drained soil and can be grown in pots. They bear pale blue to deep violet and yellow flowers which last several weeks and cope well with the worst of winter weather. Plant them at the front of borders or by pathways where they can be admired.
Add in some early flowering daffodils, Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ is coming into flower in our garden, heralding the beginning of flowering daffodils which flower until late April/early May. Our spring flowering Crocus are in bud too, but more on this next time.