Winter-flowering heathers in wonderful shades of white, pink and purple, give a show that is unfazed by wet and windy weather. Winter heather flowers are a valuable winter source of nectar for bees, and unlike acid-loving heathers, winter-flowering Erica carnea and Erica x darleyensis do not need ericaceous compost so they are a straightforward choice to pep up winter containers or gaps in borders.
For white flowers, try Erica carnea ‘Springwood White’ or Erica x darleyensis ‘White Perfection’. If you’re looking for something rosier, turn to Erica carnea ‘Springwood Pink’ or Erica x darleyensis ‘Darleydale’. One of the best reds is Erica carnea ‘December Red’.
Outdoor cyclamen will thrive in dry shade so they can be planted in that tricky spot under trees where little else will thrive. They will get enough moisture from late autumn and winter rain so do not need any extra watering. Their heart-shaped, dark leaves contrast strongly with the delicate, upward-facing petals for a gorgeous show in whites, pinks, purples and reds.
Hebe ‘Little Red Rum’
The compact Hebe ‘Little Red Rum’ is a gorgeous, evergreen gap filler. The green, lance-shaped leaves are tinged with the most striking burgundy at this time of year. In summer, this hebe bears spikes of violet flowers.
Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’
With nodding white flowers surrounded by lush, glossy, evergreen leaves, this clematis offers a very early glimpse of the fullness of summer and can grow up to 3 metres. Flowering from December to February, it is best given a home on a warm, sheltered wall situated in sun or partial shade in soils that drains well.
The rather ungainly habit of the arching stems of winter jasmine is all forgiven when its dazzling yellow flowers emerge. Lightly-scented, star-shaped blooms are daffodil-yellow and appear in late winter or early spring. Reaching heights of up to 3 metres, train the stems to a trellis so that the plant can show off a neat network of flowering stems or let them arch over a low wall.
It is the evergreen foliage of this Asian climber that catches the eye in winter as it responds to frost by turning from dark green to purply red. This plant is easy to train because the stems are self-clinging soots perfect to cover a pergola or fence. Sweetly scented flowers follow in summer to make this a good all-rounder. It will survive temperatures down to -10˚C although there is a hardier species Trachelospermum asiaticum, which is similar, with smaller flowers and foliage.