Winter's tale

by Andy Cawthray, 6th January 2017

December - it can often fool the unwary with its mild weather. While Christmas cards abound with images of snow, the observant may see plants break into bud and grass begin to grow 


Andy Cawthray is a writer, gardener and poultry breeder based on the Welsh Borders. Extracts from his monthly column in Welsh Border Life appear here on


Ask Andy

Q: I like to grow plants and flowers that I can cut and bring into the house. What would you recommend growing for a good display on Christmas Day?

A: Viburnums top the list for me. Some like V.bodnantense and V.farreri o er fragrant flowers. Winter flowering honeysuckle is another to consider and wintersweet, whilst taking a long time to flower in the border, pay back with beautiful yellow flowers with purple centres. Finally, why not try some mahonia? These are better known for their foliage, however they do put on a good splash of flowers at this time of year.

Got a gardening conundrum? Ask Andy by clicking here


Plant Lover

Seasonal plants widely available in local garden centres. This month, Eastern Sowbread (Cyclamen coum), pictured above

I can’t decide which name I like most for this beautiful jewel of winter. There is something strangely romantic about its common name that just stirs my imagination.

Cyclamen as a genus are tuberous perennials with rounded, sometimes angular leaves which are often attractively mottled. They typically have nodding flowers with five backward bent and twisted petals, usually with dark markings at the base.

The perennial Cyclamen coum has leaves marbled with silver on the upper surface and usually rounded in shape. The flowers are about 2.5cm in width and have a deep pink colour with a purple blemish at the base.

They flower from late winter and add a wonderful low level splash of colour under large shrubs or around the base of trees. Plant the corms in late spring in a sheltered position in partial shade.

Avoid too much moisture during the summer and mulch well once the leaves have died back after flowering.



Top Tip

Don’t be tempted to over-tidy around the edges of garden ponds during the winter months. Frogs and toads will be sleeping in the piles of dead herbage


For more gardening advice, comment, products and books, see Andy's Country Garden column in Welsh Border Life every month. To subscribe from just £5.99, click here

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