Top 10 flowers for Christmas
1. Jasminum nudiflorum
A winter jasmine trained on a sheltered south or west-facing wall will reliably produce shiny olive-green shoots studded in pallid yellow flowers from November on. The spiky twigs can be picked, although they don’t have the heady scent associated with jasmine. Cut the shoots back hard after flowering to encourage new growth
2. Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’
The festive creamy flowers of this winter-flowering clematis are heavily splashed and freckled in bright red – hence the name. Clematis cirrhosa is a Mediterranean species, so good drainage and the protection of a south-facing wall are vital. It reaches up to 10ft and has pendent bells. ‘Freckles’ is the earliest cirrhosa to flower
3. Iris unguicularis ‘Mary Barnard’
This Algerian iris is perfect to plant at the feet of your winter-flowering clematis. Soft blue flowers unfurl from pointed buds from November onwards. Pick single flowers and let them unfurl indoors. ‘Mary Barnard’ was collected by the lady herself near Algiers in 1937. Snip out any untidy leaves twice a year. Other than that, neglect is the best option.
4. Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’
Almost always out by Christmas Eve, this bright yellow miniature daffodil was named after the artist (1889-1982), who founded the East Anglian School, by his friend Beth Chatto. It has a shallow trumpet and the outer petals are shaded in emerald green where they meet the stem. Sir Cedric found it over 50 years ago on a rocky ledge in Spain
5. Galanthus plicatus ‘Three Ships’
Rare and pricey, like many of the best snowdrops, this wide-leaved plant produces plump buds in December. As the flowers mature, the petals thicken and develop a seersucker texture often evident in plicatus seedlings. The inner green mark is revealed and a wide cross appears, often coinciding with Christmas Day
6. Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’
The head of pale green buds on this choice and compact evergreen are arranged in a tight, lilac-like raceme. Place ‘Kew Green’ in a container by the front door, add some variegated trailing ivies and forced crocus, tiny narcissi or white muscari. Replace the bulbs as they fade with other early flowers
7. Paperwhite narcissi
Paperwhites can be planted in mid-October for Christmas flowers. Half-fill glass jars with stones, glass beads or gravel. Cluster five or 10 bulbs together, not touching, pointed end up, then add gravel until only a third of each bulb shows. Water to just below the base of the bulbs. Place in a cool, dark spot and bring into a warm room a few days before you need flowers.
8. Helleborus niger
The simple Christmas rose, such a failure in most gardens, is now grown under glass. Small plants make excellent displays in a cool porch or windowsill when mixed with ivies. Place several in a basket and top-dress with moss.
You can grow your own, but I’m in favour of buying a plant that’s about to explode with bright trumpets. Opt for glowing scarlet or a pure white. ‘Red Velvet’ is a classy single, ‘Red Dragon’ a fiery double. ‘Papilio’, an elegant red-striped white and ‘Benfica’, dark red, are both excellent.