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Agnes Stevenson: It’s winter but there’s colour in the garden

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In spring their buds are bright and fresh and the reverse side of the opened leaves has a lovely, white sheen.

Now, with the leaves long gone, these trees continue to delight me as their bare stems have a deep purple shade that stands out, even against a grey sky.

Seen from the kitchen window, the bark of the cherry tree at the bottom of my garden has a coral tinge while the branches of the willows that grow close by are silver and yellow.

Look closely and you’ll be amazed at how much colour you can find, even in the depths of winter.

Maybe I’m a bit odd, but I love this time of year when the garden is stripped back to its elements.

It’s a bit like opening the back of a fancy Swiss watch and seeing the cogs and wheels – you get a glimpse of the workings of nature and a chance to appreciate amazing things that are hidden by the froth of summer foliage.

Right now, the garden is also a very busy place, with deer at the fence and great tits perched on the feeders.

Robins scratch at any recently-disturbed soil and I’m always delighted to see the little wrens that turn up.

It helps that I live just a few miles from the River Forth and am on the flight path of the thousands of geese that flock there every morning to feed.

The other day while I was clearing up some storm damage I looked up to see five swans flying just overhead, their huge wings noisily displacing the air as they headed for the nearby ponds.

My squirrels are the grey kind and not the lovely red ones that scamper about in woodland close to here, but I still enjoy their antics and welcome them as part of the wildlife that fills the garden when the leaves and flowers have disappeared.

What I still need however are more of those wonderful plants that are at their best in December, such as perfumed viburnums and the lovely rowans including Sorbus vilmorinii, which produces pink berries that fade to white as winter progresses.

At the moment I’m dithering over which crab apple to plant, swinging between ‘Red Sentinel’ and a newer variety called ‘Rosehip’ that has flagon-shaped fruits.

Either would bring a festive touch to the garden, their fruits dangling from the branches like Christmas baubles.

Meanwhile the scarlet dogwoods, raised from cuttings, have never looked better.

Their bare stems glow whenever there’s a hint of sun and the sweet box, Sarcoccoca hookeriana, is smothered in tiny white flowers that pack a powerful scent.

The first time I came across this was at Achamore Garden on in the Isle of Gigha.

I spent ages searching for the source of the perfume that filled the air and when I finally located it I couldn’t believe that anything so insignificant could have such a powerful scent.

I’ve grown it in my own garden ever since.