When designing a garden I have always given a lot of thought to how the garden looks in winter. When I designed gardens in the UK I often devoted the front garden to winter interest as I feel it gives a lot of pleasure to the owners and passers-by at a time when many front gardens are rather bare. The back garden was the space used most in summer and therefore I concentrated the other seasons there.
When I started gardening in Italy, between Rome and Siena I thought it would be possible to grow many plants to give pleasure during the winter months, I imagined that many bulbs would flower earlier here and so spring would be spread into the winter months. I already knew a lot of shrubs that flowered in winter imagined my garden as an oasis of flowers throughout the year. I WAS WRONG.
Many shrubs that flower in winter are triggered to flower by COLD; here the cold weather rarely begins before January so many plants that flower from November or December in the UK don’t start into flower here until February.
A case in point is Lonicera fragratissima, a favourite of mine as, for me; it has the best perfume of any plant. In the UK it often begins to flower in November, maybe even October if there has been cold weather in September, here in Central Italy it doesn’t really begin to put on a show until February, then flowering on through March and if it isn’t too hot into April. The heat of spring soon brings flowering to an end so if it didn’t have such a wonderful perfume I wouldn’t grow it here.
Viburnum tinus is perhaps the most reliable winter plant in the UK; yes, it is used in every municipal planting but for a very good reason, it flowers for 9 months of the year. Not here! It is really only just beginning to open its tightly closed buds and by April it will be over – then the foliage looks dismal before the new leaves grow, so not such a useful plant, mine was burnt badly by last year’s hot winds so is in need of a drastic prune, I had left the branches in the hope they might recover.
Some years daffodils don’t flower at all, or if they do it is late, so late that summer plants detract from their beauty. Tulips, I won’t give up, I adore their colour and form but they too flower only a little earlier than in the UK and are often accompanied by early roses throwing my ideas of the seasons into confusion.
So it is with very much pleasure that this winter two plants have flowered for months and don’t seem to need cold temperatures to propel them into growth. What plants you may wonder; well I think this post is long enough so I’ll describe these plants soon, can you guess what they are?