The Bare Bones

5th December 2023

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Prepare to adjust your perspective on what makes the perfect winter garden.

In recent years there has been a big shift in winter garden design. A reimagination of a wilder winter where wildlife, birds especially, are taken into account. There’s certainly nothing dull about the garden at this time of year, there are so many shapes to draw the eye; cones, spheres, spires and frosty plumage!

The dried seedheads of Echinacea purpurea against a backdrop of ornamental grasses.

In terms in design, you should be aiming for:

  • Structure (the backbone of the garden)
  • Colour
  • Shape
  • Texture

Ornamental grasses are great at filling out beds and borders when they become sparser during the winter months. When covered with frost they look particularly magical.

Traditionally perennial seedheads were cutback in late autumn but there has been a shift in people’s attitude towards winter wildlife. By leaving the seedheads intact you will encourage a colourful and enchanting array of birds to your garden. Our top picks are Echinacea purpurea and Rudbeckia.

Rudbeckia seedheads are irresistible to Goldfinches

Twelve key plants for winter:

  1. Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ and ‘Bi-Ho’ (for colourful stems)
  2. Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ (ornamental grass)
  3. Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ or Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ (for colourful stems)
  4. Echinacea purpurea (herbaceous perennial)
  5. Echinops (herbaceous perennial)
  6. Eryngium planum (herbaceous perennial)
  7. Panicum virgatum (ornamental grass)
  8. Rudbeckia (herbaceous perennial)
  9. Salvia ‘Blue Spire’ (herbaceous perennial)
  10. Hydrangea paniculata (in variety)
  11. Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ (for scent)
  12. Viburnum opulus (for berries)

Feed the birds

Attract more birds to your garden the natural way with fruit and berry producing plants as well as perennials that leave behind a bountiful seedhead. We recommend:

  • Sorbus (for berries)
  • Crataegus (for berries)
  • Malus domestica (for fruit)
  • Pyracantha (for berries)
  • Viburnum opulus (for berries)
  • Holly (for berries)
  • Rudbeckia (for seedheads)
  • Echinacea purpurea (for seedheads)
  • Echinops ritro (for seedheads)
The Viburnum opulus berries are a good source of food for birds during the winter months

Where to go to see inspiring examples of winter garden design:

Visit us for inspiring and seasonal displays, we are open seven days a week.