Winter gardens are full of interest and colour. If you want to create a garden with all year round interest and are looking for winter planting ideas here are some of the best, and sweetest scented of our winter shrubs and plants.

Shrubs and plants in bloom and looking good in December


Sarcococca common name Sweet box.

Sarcococca the aptly named sweet box it flowers from late November through to Jan/Feb. One of the sweetest scents of all flowering shrubs, it is low growing and shade tolerant. Ideal near the front door where all can enjoy its scent. More about Sarcococca


Mahonia in bloom

Mahonia brave the snow to flower throughout the worst of our winters. It is easy to grow, tough and many varieties are spiny, with sharp thorns often planted as a deterrent hedge. There are non spiny versions and also many scented varieties.

Christmas Carol

Hellebore Christmas Carol

Hellebores flower over a long period. The earliest are the Christmas rose varieties, this is Christmas Carol, and they carry on flowering right though into March if the conditions are right. Hellebores are an easy to grow, woodland perennial.


holly with berries

Hollies are a slow growing, evergreen perennial shrub grown for the colourful berries. That said, getting the berries requires planning, as you need to plant the right combination of holly shrubs. More about hollies and how to get the berries

Viscum album


Its Christmas time and so we are thinking about decorating our houses and Mistletoe is a firm favourite. Easy to say, hard to grow. It is a parasitic shrub which commonly grows on hawthorn, apple, poplar, lime and conifers. It has a proliferation of white berries.


Lonicera fragrantissim

My favourite winter shrub. Looks insignificant and smells delicious. All the heady scent of a honeysuckle in mid winter. I took this image at Styal Mill in Cheshire which I would visit for the delights of Lonicera fragrantissim. An easy to grow woodland shrub. 

Some Winter planting combinations

Grasses in winter

Grasses look fabulous in winter, especially back lit by sun. In the frost grasses sparkle and take on an ethereal look of sheer beauty. Driving through the countryside in winter I just want to stop and take endless photographs the natural grasses look so beautiful when frosted. We can create this look in our own gardens with a few well place grasses. More about winter grasses.

I spotted this winter combination at RHS Harlow Carr. Bright yellow stems of Cornus  Flaviramea, the delicate seed heads of Lunaria, common name Honesty underplanted with snowdrop. This was repeat planted along a border and looked just inspiring. All credit, as always, to the RHS planting gurus. 

Cornus Honestly and snowdrops

This is an RHS image, and credit is due. Its title is “Path in snow amongst Cornus 'Midwinter fire' in Winter. Winter Walk, RHS Garden Wisley credit Joanna Kossak”. It conjures up a winter wonderland with such strong colour from that favourite of shrubs, Cornus. It really is a Midwinter fire. Just a few Cornus can really light up your garden in winter.Ideal plants for a wet spot they are also tolerant of partial shade. 

Page updated 04.12.2023