The twelve plants of Christmas

PUBLISHED: 13:13 02 December 2014 | UPDATED: 13:13 02 December 2014

Brilliant red stems on dogwoood, Cornus, at Marks Hall Arboretum

Brilliant red stems on dogwoood, Cornus, at Marks Hall Arboretum


Winter is considered a quiet time in the garden, but Philippa Pearson challenges this with a choice of plants to brighten up the twelve days of Christmas and beyond

Helleborus niger is also known as the Christmas RoseHelleborus niger is also known as the Christmas Rose

There are plenty of choices for something interesting in the garden at this quiet time of the year as many winter plants thrive in cold conditions and ooze charm, colour and interest with their shape, flowers and bark. They also provide unique decoration at Christmas from twigs, foliage and flowers for displays inside the house, too. These are some of my favourite winter plants to enjoy over the festive season...

Arum italicum 'Marmoratum' has interesting marbled leavesArum italicum 'Marmoratum' has interesting marbled leaves

Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’

Its lovely upright arrow-shaped

marbled leaves are perfect for flower arrangements, while in early summer, greenish-white flowers are followed by spikes of orange-red berries.

Bergenia ‘Bressingham White’

Its hardy evergreen leaves are good for arrangements, with upright spikes of white bell-shaped flowers from mid-winter. Bergenias are best planted by paths or in clumps under trees.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

The Himalayan birch has stunning white bark which makes a focal point in gardens all the year round. Bring some small branches inside at Christmas and decorate with baubles and lights.

Cornus alba ‘Siberica’

Dogwoods (opposite page) are useful shrubs to have in the garden to add year-round interest. White flowers in summer are followed by berries and good autumn foliage colour. The stems are the real treasure; ‘Siberica’ has the deepest red ones while others are green or black. Cut the stems for displays or put in a big vase without water and wrap some Christmas lights around them.

Helleborus niger

The Christmas Rose, with its pure white flowers, blooms for a couple of months early in the year. Plant in groups in borders or pot up in a container for a welcome by your front door.

Jasminum nudiflorum

Winter Jasmine brings some winter cheer with its bright yellow flowers borne on leafless arching stems. After flowering, dark green leaves make a good backdrop for fences or walls, but you’ll need to tie them into trellis or wire supports. ➤

Lonicera fragrantissima

We usually associate honeysuckle with summer, but this species flowers in winter and has the sweetest fragrance. Small creamy white flowers appear on leafless branches from late December through to February and is lovely near a pathway or for cut stems to bring inside

the house.

Prunus serrula

The Tibetan Cherry has beautiful peeling mahogany bark. Plant it so you can appreciate it from the house and where the sun will light up the shining bark. It’s particularly pretty with snowdrops planted underneath.

Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis‘

A cherry tree that flowers in autumn and winter is a must-have for every garden. Pretty clusters of pink or white flowers adorn from November to March and is delightful in the depths of winter.


Pulmonaria are fabulous ground cover plants for shady borders and under trees. Unusual blotches and patterns on the leaves bring year-round interest while early flowers, from late December, make this is a versatile plant. It is one of my favourites.

Sarcocca confusa

‘Sweet Box’ or ‘Christmas Box’ is a fragrance delight in the middle of winter. Evergreen leaves bring all year interest, but from December to March tiny white flowers exude an exquisite sweet fragrance. Don’t spend your money on artificial room fragrances, just cut stems of Sarcocca and put in a vase to fill your room with scent.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

This is another plant with deliciously scented flowers. Clusters of tiny pink flowers clothe the stems from November to March and are perfect to add to arrangements and perfume a room.

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