Winter cheer

Helleborus x hybridus SP Sally

Helleborus x hybridus SP Sally - Credit: Keith Clouting

Plant specialist Keith Clouting of Taverham Nursery Centre brings you his guide to getting the best out of your garden this winter

The start of a New Year and winter is firmly with us, so any flowers in the garden always add extra cheer to the day.

To go along with the snowdrops and aconites there are some recent introductions of hellebores which flower from early winter through to spring, adding some much appreciated colour to the garden. Helleborus x nigercors HGC Ice Breaker Fancy starts flowering from around early January with a profusion of white flowers which carry on until early spring, turning green as they age. A double variety HGC Snow Frills will, in an average winter, flower reliably at Christmas, its double white ruffled flowers held well above the foliage, and will carry on flowering through to March. A lovely pink flowered variety HGC Pink frost starts to flower in early February, its buds a deep burgundy, the flowers a light rosy pink darkening again as they age. For something a little different, try the later flowering Helleborus orientalis SP Sally blooming from around the end of February, its soft butter-yellow flowers holding their colour well as they mature. These hellebores flower best in semi-shade, preferring well-drained but humus-rich soil; mulching with bark when in flower helps stop the flowers getting splashed with soil in the wet weather. They can also be grown in pots and, when flowering, be placed in a cool light position in the house to enjoy the flowers, reacclimatise after being inside then plant out in spring.

Question time

I would like to grow some raspberries. Which are the best varieties to grow and what would be your cultivation tips?

Raspberries are easy to grow and will reward you with tasty fruit for years to come. If planting in rows, space the plants 45cm to 60cm apart and around 180cm between the rows. Raspberries are best grown in full sun but will grow in most reasonable garden soils except very dry or very wet conditions. Good summer fruiting varieties include the Malling Promise, a good early cropper which will also tolerate poor soil, and Malling Admiral, which is slightly later with a good flavour and spine free canes. For autumn fruiting try the reliable classic variety Autumn Bliss or the yellow fruited All Gold.

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