Top plants for winter interest in your garden

Gardens should and can be interesting at all times of the year. There is no reason why it should be seen that the garden is put to bed in the autumn and then wakes up in the spring. With a few key plant choices, the garden can carry on giving through the colder months of the year and ensuring that we do not go into hibernation too.

Whether it’s a strong architectural shaped plant, that looks amazing with the frosts, or a gorgeously scented shrub that will smell delightful near a pathway or some delicate little bulbs that surprise you year on year when they appear out of the ground; there are many great plants to have in your garden, helping to bring interest at this time of year.

Sarcococca confusa

If you are after a small shrub, that can cope with shade, then Sarococca is what you’re after. It’s an evergreen shrub so will be a lovely structural shape all year and then in the Winter has small white flowers with a wonderful scent. Plant close to paths and seating areas to be appreciated.

Ilex crenata Dark Green

With Buxus (box) blight becoming a real problem, Ilex crenata is a brilliant alternative. It has a leaf and habit that is similar to Box and therefore can be used for similar situations, such as low evergreen hedges and structural forms i.e. balls and pyramids etc.


Mahonia’s can be really useful in gardens that have some shade and will provide some winter structure and interest. They have bright yellow flowers in November to March. Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ is a great choice. And the newly introduced Mahonia eurybracteata subsp.ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’ (PBR) is a compact evergreen and would be a lovely addition to any border.


Not only evergreen shrubs can provide winter interest, others can be planted for their stems and bark such as Cornus. Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ or Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ would make great impact in the winter when their brightly coloured stems are revealed. Best planted in groups to make more of an impact. Plant in full sun or semi shade.

Iris reticulata

These small low-growing plants, can be planted as bulbs in the Autumn and then in late winter and early spring they appear, producing delightful small colourful flowers. Best planted in a sunny spot either in pots of at the front edge of a border to be appreciated fully. Such a delight when they appear year on year.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’

If you have more space to play with then the deciduous shrub of Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ would be a great choice for any garden. Heavily scented pink flowers appear from November to March.


Hellebores are such a useful plant for use as ground cover under deciduous trees and shrubs. So once the plant above has lost its leaves, the Hellebores start to take centre stage. There are so many lovely different varieties to choose from, with their delicate flowers and dark green leaves.


If you are after some gorgeous foliage and structure in your borders, then Ferns are a perfect choice for a shady spot. Polystichum setiferum is a plant that I specify a lot, with its large upright evergreen fronds. Or if space is a premium, then ferns such as Blechnum spicant or Asplenium scolopendrium would be a lovely addition.


Ornamental grasses can look fantastic if they are left standing through the winter months providing height and structure to a border. The light and airy seed heads take on gorgeous brown tones and look stunning planted in large drifts. They can then be cut back down in the spring just before the new growth comes through. Pennisetum alopecuroides Hameln and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ would be great choices.

Seed heads

Applying the same principle as the grasses above to some perennials and shrubs can provide extra interest throughout the winter months. So hold off on pruning too soon and cutting off those gorgeous seed heads. Plants such as Sedums, Hydrangeas, Phlomis and Eryngiums will all provide wonderful winter structure.

About the author:

Amy Perkins

Amy runs Amy Perkins Garden Design. Amy has a passion for great design and creativity and is an experienced and stylish Garden Designer, who has worked on town and country gardens, home and abroad.

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