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Salix for Screening and Brightening Winter Days

December 23, 2014



Whilst standing in a friend’s Devon garden discussing how to soften and screen a row of outbuildings in an adjacent lane inspiration struck: Salix alba subsp. vitellina ‘Britenzis’ would be the very thing. It’s a manageable size for most country gardens and has astonishing glowing orange-yellow stems to brighten the dullest winter days.  Every year in spring, and once the stems have reached 2m high and the showy yellow catkins have finished flowering, it can be pollarded.  Then as the weather warms up these cut stems will soon put on height and will be clothed in lance-shaped green leaves until autumn. These will then drop exposing dramatic fiery stems at a height to screen.  The Devon garden is full of mature trees and shrubs under-planted with a mass of spring bulbs and there’s a stream running through the entire 200m length of it. A row of five Salix near the stream would reflect in the water and fulfil the screening challenge whilst adding dramatic colour to this naturalistic landscape.  Branched-head standards would be the trees to source and when the trunk has reached 2m or the desired height then the branches should be pruned back to 2.5cm from the main stem.

This results in a mass of shoots developing from the top of the cut stem and these will provide the fiery colour in winter.




Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is in flower here and full of fragrance. It shed its leaves in the last week but the deliciously scented flowers seem oblivious to rain, snow or ice and are blooming away on bare stems. It’s a magical shrub to plant for winter scent.


And Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenni provides interest at this time of year with its blue-green glaucous leaves  showing an emerging flower bud.



On my desk is all that I could round up of interest so it’s mostly evergreen and the one winter pansy left in flower.

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and a brilliant gardening New Year.

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