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Posted On December 1, 2016 By In Home & Garden With 1567 Views

West Coast Garden: The Winter Garden – a Cure for the December Doldrums!

by Matt Hall, Wildwood Nurseries

It’s hard to be enthused about your garden in the heart of a coastal winter. The days are short and gloomy and the spring flush of snow drops and daffodils are still months away. However, there are some horticultural cures to the “December doldrums.”

Yuletide Camellia (camellia sasanqua; “Yuletide”). There aren’t many better choices for firing up some winter colour, especially if you have a space with only part sun. These shrubs bloom profusely with sweet-scented, lacquer red flowers which usually peak during the holidays. They’re deer resistant, they take well to pruning and do very well in a container.
I keep mine in a pot and move it to my doorstep for Christmas.

Christmas Cheer Rhodo (rhododendron; “Christmas Cheer”) These rhododendrons really are the first call for spring. Once they flower, you know that the rest of the rhododendron family isn’t far behind. Soft pink margined with medium pink flowers, these are held up on a nice mid-sized shrub. One can expect them to grow to four to five feet tall and wide.

Winter Jewels™ Christmas Rose (helleborus). Winter Jewels™ are a series of winter flowering hellebore that were developed to a very high standard of flower quality and they represent every hue in the hellebore color palette. They’re also deer resistant in all but the most heavily grazed garden.

Himalayan Sweet Box (sarcococca humilis). I think sarcococca is one of the finest small evergreen shrubs for our area. Its only fault is that it flowers so early in the spring that many gardeners miss its jasmine-like scent. Its compact shape, love of shade and overall toughness make this plant a real gem. If you need a plant taller than three feet, look to sarccocca ruscifolia for the same features in a slightly bigger plant.

“Kramer’s Red” Winter Heather (erica carnea “Kramer’s Red”).

I might be selling this heather short to say that it is only “winter flowering” when it blooms from October to April. This is true of many of the winter heathers, but none of them have the hot magenta flowers of Kramer’s Red. They establish well (as long as they have great drainage) and really flourish in sunny gardens.

Kitayama Japanese Cedar (cryptomeria japonica “Kitayama”). These tall conifers have the unusual habit of bronzing in cold weather that makes them extraordinary in the garden. In a matter of weeks they will completely transform, going from light green to coppery purple (and then back again in the spring). They are a truly remarkable sight in a winter garden.

There are so many more plants that can jazz up your beds this winter, but these are some of my favourites. I always welcome questions so feel free to email me at



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