Five ways to brighten up your winter garden

Have you recently moved in to a new home with a garden, patio or courtyard space? Now it’s winter, we may spend less time outdoors, but it’s easy to create a colourful, low-maintenance space you can still enjoy during the colder months.

Do you want a country garden feel, full of overflowing pots and meadow areas? Or perhaps a more traditional lawn with flower beds around the edges?

Here we’ll show you five ways to bring a splash of colour to your winter garden, whatever your style. And as a bonus, you’ll also be helping the bees, birds, and lots of other garden wildlife.

1.  Give a small tree a home

All of these shrubs will grow in large pots if you want some colour to liven up your doorstep or walkway:

  • Holly: the bright red berries of this evergreen are a Christmas classic. Choose a female variety if you want to see those bright red berries, and a self-fertile variety such as Ilex aquifolium ‘JC van Tol’ will guarantee you a crop (they’re also not as prickly).
  • Spindle Euonymus europaeus: in autumn, bright pink lantern-shaped flowers cradle a bright orange seed.
  • Crab apple: varieties such as Malus x robusta Red Sentinel burst with gorgeous red fruits all the way through to January.

2. Decorate your fences

Fences are a perfect blank slate for welcoming winter colour. Here are some top tips for decorating fences and walls:

  • Sweet Briar Rosa rubiginosa: this beautiful plant bursts with pink open-headed roses in late spring, as well as apple-scented foliage and abundant red hips in winter.
  • Winter jasmine Jasminum nudiflorum: a sweet-smelling scrambler with bright yellow, star-shaped flowers that bloom from January to March.
  • Common ivy Hedera helix: an evergreen that flowers from September to November and then produces fruits from January until May.
  • Native honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum: this has beautiful scented flowers in spring and summer which are much loved by moths, and in autumn it will be festooned with bright red berries, loved by birds such as blackbirds.

European robin

A European robin perched in tree with berries

3. Build a bulb lasagne

Planting bulbs on top of another in a ‘lasagne’ means they pop up one after the other, bringing colour from late winter through to spring.

Try out this ‘recipe’:

Layer 1 (at the bottom): allium with bold globes of purple
Layer 2: honey garlic with pendulous cream and pink heads
Layer 3:  grape hyacinth with gathered blue trumpets
Layer 4: (at the top) – crocus, whose purple, yellow and white cups will be the first to flower in February.

A final scattering of cowslip seeds on the ground will give a bright yellow contrast to the bulbs in the second year.

4. Provide a bird bath

Plants are not the only way to add colour to your winter garden. What could be more colourful than a goldfinch spreading its wings with their band of gold? Or a robin sporting its iconic red breast?

A great way to attract birds to your garden is to provide water. Birds need water both for drinking and for cleaning their feathers, so by putting out a bird bath you will soon attract them to your garden (especially in winter when other water sources may be freezing over). Make sure it’s no more than about 5cm deep, and to provide some grip with stones or gravel if the bottom is slippery.

Provide seed in your garden to attract and feed the birds this winter

5. Feed the birds

Another way to attract birds to your garden is to put out food. In the winter there are often fewer natural food sources available, and birds need extra calories to stay warm.

If you’re worried about squirrels nabbing all the best nibbles, you can try putting up a squirrel-proof feeder, and if messy leftovers are a concern, using ‘no mess sunflower seed’ mixes can help.

In the winter you might even get a visit from migratory birds, such as a flock of redwings, fieldfares foraging on fallen fruits, or you could even spot the yellow and black stripes of a siskin.

For more ideas about how to design a garden with nature in mind, including mini-makeover videos and an inspirational guide, please visit

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