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WINTER GARDEN GLORY At this time of year everyone is busy preparing for Christmas, but please remember that the garden does still exist during the winter and takes on a unique look at this time of year. Evergreen plants in particular such as Eleagnus Limelight or Pungens maculata, Ilex Silver Queen or Golden King, Aucuba Crotonifolia or similar to provide bright colours, not just green.  Choisya ternata Sundance is completely gold all year round and flowers in the spring and the autumn. The best evergreen colour is of course provided by conifers. I know they have such a bad reputation, but it really is not justified. Conifers can be miniature, dwarf, short, medium or tall. It’s about working out how big you want one to grow before choosing which the best is for you. Conifers provide texture, structure and colour not provided by anything else, and really are very low maintenance and easy to grow.  They only need a gentle trim each year to make sure that they do not get too big, because allowing them to get too big before you start pruning them is not the best way to do it. Just remember that a conifer does not have an ultimate height and will continue growing for all its life. Chamaecyparis come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours, but remember they can be wind burnt and don’t recover easily, so are best in a little bit of shelter. If you need ground cover then look at the Juniperus in a wide range of colours and spreads. The best ranges of colours though are provided by Thuja’s because so many change colour during the winter, and although they too can be wind burnt they should recover. Add the unique shapes of pines and spruces, the very soft rubbery texture of Cryptomeria and the options are endless. If foliage is not for you then consider flowering shrubs for colour at this time of year. Many of the options are scented too, adding yet another dimension. The long yellow panicles of the spiky Mahonia are beautifully scented. Blackcurrant scent is provided by Viburnum bodnantense, a very narrow shrub which sadly is not an evergreen.  Hamamelis or witch hazel with its curious little flowers in yellow, orange or red. The yellow varieties have the best scent. The beautiful little Sarcococca or Christmas box has the best scent for a small evergreen shrub with tiny white flowers. The longest flowering shrub is Viburnum Tinus and its dwarfed relatives which will flower from November until April. Add to all these some Hellebores, the first perennials to flower in the New Year and there are so many colours on offer. If none of these attract you, then consider stem colour as a different kind of structural statement. Cornus or dogwood provide the best range of colours from classic red to green, black, orange or one variety called ‘Cardinal’ which changes from green to orange and ultimately red as the season progresses. So much colour and variety available even at the darkest most dismal time of year. Don’t forget the garden even though your priorities may be elsewhere. Phil Dunnett