There is something special about shrubs that begin flowering now, taking you (semi-officially at least) out of the gloomiest days of late winter.

There are a good range to choose from and many of them are hardy, robust individuals. I have to start with a firm favourite which is Corylopsis pauciflora, we had this planted in our ironing-board-sized front garden in Kendal and for much of the year it would quietly sit in the background doing nothing especially dramatic, but come March the bare twigs erupt with a sea of the most beautiful waxy, light yellow delicately scented flowers.

It has the charming name of the buttercup witch hazel. It is in the Hamamelis family but unlike Hamamelis (also known as the witch hazel) it is much tougher and suited to more challenging conditions should you have them.

Size wise it will get to around 1.4m tall and a similar spread so it’s by no means a large shrub and is suited to the smaller garden, alternatively if space is not a problem, they look great planted in small groups. To extend the longevity of the flowers they are best planted in semi shade where they avoid the heat of the midday sun.

When I was 10 I lived in Berlin for 18 months and in the leafy suburb of Charlottenburg where we were based every other garden had at least one large Forsythia growing (normally with a large Mahonia somewhere nearby). The soil was incredibly sandy and the dry conditions meant certain plants thrived and the Forsythia seemed to relish the soil. I have such vivid memories of these yellow explosions of flower power that I love to be reminded of when I see it growing in gardens here in Cumbria.

The most widely grown Forsythia is a hybrid called Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood Variety’ a shrub that we take for granted but next time you walk past one just pause and take the time to appreciate the form and shape of the flowers, that are practically bursting out of the stems. We have a large clump growing in the nursery garden and it’s a beacon of colour at this time of year.

Other notable shrubs that should be on your radar include Ribes (flowering currant) Skimmia, the evergreen Viburnum tinus but also its deciduous cousin Viburnum x bodnantense The luxurious flowers of Chimonanthus praecox (winter sweet) Cornus mas and the Rolls Royce of winter flowering shrubs, the Daphne, with my favourite being D. ‘Jacqueline Postill’ with a scent that will knock you sideways.

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