6 ways to make your winter garden a wellbeing oasis

Mental Health

Tap into the power of nature, all year round

Nature is a balm to both the mind and body – reducing blood pressure, and alleviating anxiety and stress. It was even the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week because of its “unique ability to not only bring consolation in times of stress, but also increase our creativity, empathy and a sense of wonder”.

By making the most of your outdoor spaces, you can bring nature closer to home! Here we share nine low-maintenance and wildlife-friendly ways to keep your fences, doorsteps, and gardens colourful and thriving through autumn and winter.

Build a bulb lasagne

Planting bulbs on top of another in a ‘lasagne’ means they pop up one after the other, bringing colour from late winter through to spring. One option is:

  • Layer 1 (at the bottom) – allium with bold globes of purple.
  • Layer 2 – honey garlic with delicate white and pink heads.
  • Layer 3 – grape hyacinth with gathered purple trumpets.
  • Layer 4 (at the top) – crocus, whose purple cups will be the first to flower in February.
  • A final dusting of cowslip seeds on the ground will give a bright yellow contrast to the bulbs.

BJohnston_wellbeing_oasis_1-1

Illustration by Becky Johnston

Give a shrub a home

Planting shrubs and bushes in pots is a flexible way to bring plant life to you. Why not try:

  • Holly – an evergreen classic that just shouts Christmas. Try a self-fertilising variety such as Ilex Aquifolim JC van Tol if you want to see those bright red berries – they’re also not quite as prickly!
  • Spindle – in autumn, bright pink lantern-shaped flowers cradle a bright orange seed.
  • Dwarf crab apple red sentinel – bursts with red fruits all the way through to January.

Paint your wall with plants

Bring your walls to life with these winter bloomers. You could consider:

  • Winter honeysuckle – flowers from mid-December through to March, producing an invigorating scent.
  • Hydrangea petiolaris – as well as making lovely white flowers in summer, this hydrangea also produces lush vibrant green foliage in winter.

Add water

Plants are not the only way to add colour to your winter garden. What could be more colourful than a goldfinch spreading its butter-yellow wings? Or a robin flashing its iconic red breast?

One way to attract birds to your garden is to provide water. Birds need water both for drinking and for cleaning their feathers, so by putting out a birdbath you will soon attract them to your garden. Make sure it’s high up and in the open – the birds will feel safe, and you’ll also get a great view.

Decorate your fence

Fences are a blank slate for welcoming winter colour. We suggest:

  • Rosa Sweet Briar – you may recognise the name from Sleeping Beauty, where Briar Rose pricks her finger. This beautiful plant bursts with pink open-headed roses in late spring, as well as apple-scented foliage and abundant red hips in winter.
  • Winter jasmine – a sweet-smelling climber with bright yellow, star-shaped flowers.
  • Common ivy – an evergreen that flowers from September to November, then produces fruits until January. It also filters pollutants, and is a nesting place for robins and blackbirds.

Feed the birds

Another way to attract birds to your garden is to put out food. In the winter there are often fewer natural food sources available, and birds need the extra calories to stay warm. A squirrel-buster feeder will deter most bushy-tailed visitors, while using ‘no mess sunflower seed’ means you won’t have to tidy up afterwards.


For more ideas on how to make your garden burst with colour, visit rspb.org.uk/yourdoorstep for inspiration, practical advice, and ‘mini-makeover’ videos.

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