Nurseryman's favourites – December

Chris Marchant of Orchard Dene Nurseries chooses Vinca difformis for its grace and long season of interest – with the occasional flower right through to December. Plus her pick of other top plants for the winter months.

Vinca difformis c. Jason Ingram


Vinca difformis
Coming from warmer climates, this Vinca is marginally less hardy than other species, but to my mind its grace and extensive flowering period make it worth the small risk. Arching stems erupt from a central clump, bearing unusually large five-petalled flowers in shades of French powder blue that command attention. The floral display peaks in spring and autumn, though a smattering of flowers continues intermittently throughout most of the year. An enduring under-storey to woodland plantings, which requires only an annual trim in February to maintain an orderly habit.

HEIGHT/SPREAD 35cm x 35cm.
ORIGINS North Africa and south-west Europe.
SOIL Any fertile garden loam.
SEASON April-May, October-December.



The other eight plants chosen by Chris this months are:
Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’
Lilium martagon
Lunaria annua
Fagus sylvatica
Hydrangea quercifolia
Snowflake (= ‘Brido’)
Ballota pseudodictamnus
x watereri ‘Cornubia’

• You can find out more about these plants in the December issue of the magazine - issue 192

Chris suggests places to visit to enjoy autumn at its best: 
Waddesdon Plant Centre, situated in the old kitchen gardens of Waddesdon Manor, has a particular sparkle at this time of year. Their discerning buyer ensures December ranges include a variety of indoor floral displays: forced bulbs, scented Narcissus ‘Paper White’ and flamboyant amarylis to light up a gloomy corner.
Decking the house for winter celebrations offers a pleasant distraction from freezing outdoor temperatures. Every year the Christmas decorations at Waddesdon have a different theme, with this year offering a continuation of their tour of the five European countries where the founding sons of the Rothschild dynasty made their fortunes. England is the chosen nation for 2012.
(House open Wed-Fri 12-4pm, Sat-Sun 11am-4pm). If you do get chilled, the Plant Centre café offers fresh coffee and home-made cakes. Pant Centre open Mon-Sat 10am-5.30pm, Sun 10.30am-4.30pm.
Go to for further details.

Now is the time to start thinking about packing your pantry with festive food in time for this year’s Christmas celebrations. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate all that is good about home-grown produce for the table: fine regional cheeses, cured meats and smoked fish; local wines and piquant relishes to spike a jaded winter palette. And alongside these mouthwatering treats, Christmas farmer’s markets are great for picking up festive essentials while soaking up the seasonal atmosphere. What’s more, these plentiful and tempting displays remind us that cold weather does at least bring on a hearty appetite!
Check the website for the market nearest to you.  

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