Now we are in December, the true stars of the garden are evergreen shrubs and trees, and those which have interesting bark, stems, or berries. These can take centre stage and provide colour and interest throughout the bleakest months.
Pyracanthas and Cotoneasters are laden with berries for the birds in vivid scarlets and oranges, and a most unusual variety of evergreen Cotoneaster, called ‘Rothschildianus’, bears berries that look like miniature yellowish pears, which show up beautifully against the dark green foliage. These last well into the season, as birds prefer red-coloured berries most of all. Conifers are at their best, in shades of green, blue and gold, and for brilliantly coloured stems, varieties of dogwood are hard to beat. My own favourite is ‘Midwinter Fire’, which literally does glow, especially when planted where sunlight can shine through the stems.
With Christmas in mind, tradition has it that we should have holly and ivy in the house, so why not plant those and have them to hand for Christmas arrangements. Hollies usually need both male and female plants to produce berries, but a good self-fertile one is ‘J C van Tol’; easy to grow and with leaves that have few spines. As native ivy is rather rampant, the best types to try are the dwarfer varieties, which tend to have more interestingly-shaped leaves or gold/silver variegation. Try ‘Goldheart’, ‘Goldchild’, ‘Green Ripple’, or ‘Sagittifolia’.
Melton in Bloom volunteers will be having a well-deserved break over the Christmas period, but it will be all systems go as soon as the holidays are over. As usual for this time of year, we entered the Christmas Tree Festival at St Mary’s Church, and our photo shows volunteers with our Woodland Walk-themed natural tree, dressed with lots of hand-decorated cones, leaves and dried flower heads. I would like to thank everyone involved with Melton in Bloom for all their hard work and support. Long may it continue, and from all of us to all of you – a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year for 2017.