Winter warmers

There are a few tough shrubs that will help illuminate the darker months of the year with their luminous yellow flowers. One of the brightest winter warmers is winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) and this versatile, hardy shrub can be tightly clipped against a wall, used to form an arch, or be allowed to flow over a low wall. It's easy and undemanding and the new olive-green wood makes a perfect foil for the bright-yellow starry flowers that open along the length of the stems, although sadly without any scent. If it's cut back after flowering and sited well, winter jasmine is one of the top winter performers and will provide fresh flowers from November until March. Pruning will promote new shiny stems, but if left alone (as many are) it will form a tangle of brown twigs with little flower.

Mahonias also offer yellow flowers and forms of Mahonia x media have prickly evergreen foliage that's topped by fountains of scented yellow flower. 'Winter Sun' has bright-yellow upright racemes and 'Charity' is a softer yellow. The upright, architectural shrubs can flower as early as November and both will perform in shade whilst keeping their rigid shape.

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