Cold comforts

Some plants have the ability to light up the garden in winter.

WINTER WONDER: Viburnum x bodnantense Dawn.
WINTER WONDER: Viburnum x bodnantense Dawn.

They don’t actually relish the task, but they face up to it and refuse to kowtow to the cold and short, dull days.

That’s why more people should give them a chance and create a little something special in the darkest months of the year.

Everyone knows the vivid yellow of winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, whose blooms appear long before the plant’s leaves. And the scented Daphne mezereum, whose sweet, fragrant flowers seem to thrive in February’s bitter frosts.

For ground cover, consider winter-flowering heathers and hellebores, bulbs like Cyclamen coum, snowdrops, winter aconites, dwarf daffodils and the white wood anemones. But there is one plant which stands head and shoulders above them all – Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’.

Even the Royal Horticultural Society recognises the fact: “There are few outdoor plants that flower from autumn through to spring and hardly any that match Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’. This strong-growing upright shrub can reach 3m (10ft) in height. The small clusters of heavily scented flowers fade from pink to white and are most abundantly produced during milder periods.”

It’s a stunning deciduous shrub whose burnished bronze autumn is followed by those amazing fragrant flowers blooms, the first of which usually appear in mid-October. In a good year, the flowering will go on and on – right through until March.

The flowers are frost resistant and are long-lasting as cut flowers for indoors.

The only thing to deter gardeners is the space required – it can reach 10ft in height and have a spread of six feet. It likes a sunny site but it can tolerate light shade and looks best planted against an evergreen background.

If you can provide all that, then grow Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’. It can become the star of the winter garden, lording it over other late-year colour specialists such as Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’, and the Chinese witchhazel, Hamamelis mollis, whose scented, spider-like, yellow blooms appear in January, slowly fading in March as the leaves begin to appear.