Plants for harsh winters – or whatever the season throws at us

wind bent trees

It might have been a mild and wet one so far, but who knows with the Great British Weather which of the elements is waiting around the corner?

Maybe we’ll wake to a hard frost covering the garden. Whilst this might look beautiful, even the slightest smattering of snow can be a major headache for gardeners. But you can minimise damage by plant choice and prevention, so let’s take a look at ways our plants can survive this winter – come wind, rain, snow or frost.

Prevention is better than cure, so they say.  And it goes for planting and winter plant care, too.

Damage limitation

  • Choose hardy plants suited to your region (scroll down for our Hardy Heroes below)
  • Plant the more tender varieties in the more sheltered spots – under bigger trees, against walls or beneath hedges – wherever there may be more chance of heat and protection.
  • Steer clear of east-facing sites for those plants with tender flower buds or shoots – give ‘em a chance!
  • Avoid frost pockets – cold and frost descends the lowest garden point so steer clear if you’re worried.

Let it snow?

If we do get snow, it can act as an insulator, shielding plants from cold and frost. But a really heavy blanket is worth shaking off of large trees, shrubs and hedges to avoid them breaking under the weight.   You can even use string to help support the branches of conifers and avoid them becoming disfigured when laden with a particularly large helping of The White Stuff.

Hardy Heroes:  Plan wisely for winter

The best plans for a worry-free winter mean choosing the right plants to weather almost any storm – wet, windy or white.  We’ve a selection of Hardy Heroes below to suit the harshest of conditions and locations.  You can search our full range or use our plant filter to find trees, shrubs and hedging by height, growth rate, soil type and other  characteristics.  Alternatively, there’s always an A-Z plant index to help you, too.


Common Alder – Alnus glutinosa

A fast-growing, medium-sized native tree found all over Britain, especially in wet places. Very hardy and coping with a wide range of soil types, Alder is particularly useful for preventing soil erosion, and for establishing plantings in waterlogged areas. Young plants are seldom attacked by rabbits or stock, so makes a good choice where this could be a problem.


Norway Maple – Acer platanoides

This handsome, fast-growing tree has attractive sharply pointed leaves which turn deep golden yellow in autumn.  It is commonly planted as a specimen tree and in shelter-belts all over the country.  It’s another tough plant which thrives on most sites, is good in exposed areas and in acid soils.


Common Dogwood – Cornus sanguinea

The dogwood, a British native, is a very upright suckering shrub with good autumn colour and reddish stems in winter.  It will grow in almost any soil and is particularly useful for damp sites and is ideal in mixed wildlife hedges, making an effective barrier along watersides and coastal sites.

Hazel - Corylus avellana

Hazel – Corylus avellana

Hazel is an attractive, fast-growing multi-stemmed shrub or small tree with their tell-tale Spring-is-on-its-way large yellow catkins in February. With a good rounded shape and gorgeous leaves with yellow autumn colour, it tolerates shade and copes well with coastal conditions, too.


Common Hawthorn – Crataegus monogyna

A familiar favourite across Britain,it’s best known as a country hedge but also makes an excellent small garden tree with good wildlife value. It quickly makes a very effective, dense and thorny stock-proof hedge and is very tough and hardy, coping well with strong winds on exposed hillsides and coastal sites.

Sea Buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides

Sea Buckthorn – Hippophae rhamnoides

A very attractive, tall, suckering shrub, found growing wild on sand dunes and coastal sites. With narrow, silvery leaves and striking orange berries in autumn, remaining all winter, it has a long season of interest.  It will grow in almost any soil, but is particularly tolerant of very sandy, dry conditions.  It copes well with strong winds on exposed sites, too.

Purple Osier Willow - Salix purpurea

Purple Osier Willow – Salix purpurea

Sturdy enough for the most wintry of weather conditions, this is an attractive, fast-growing native deciduous shrub with a spreading, bushy habit.  Its arching reddish-purple stems and slender glossy green leaves give your planting year-round interest and brings life and movement in windy situations. It also makes for excellent waterside planting.

Osier Willow - Salix viminalis

Osier Willow – Salix viminalis

This fast-growing native shrub is often found in wet or damp situations in the countryside. The young stems are yellow in spring, and the yellow-green catkins attract a variety of insects.  It is a strong performer on wet and boggy soils as well as in chalk and coastal areas.

Rowan - Sorbus aucuparia

Rowan/Mountain Ash – Sorbus aucuparia

One of our prettiest native trees with delicate leaves, the Rowan creates a light canopy, clusters of creamy flowers, scarlet-orange berries and good autumn leaf colour. Thoroughly hardy and trouble-free to grow, it has excellent wildlife value and is good at high altitudes and in exposed conditions.

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