Great article, people often forget about the dark days of winter, and the wonderful plants that can brighten the whole garden up!
As an apprentice gardener (seven years), one of my first jobs in the spring was to cut down two sorts of Cornus sp., a gold stemmed and a red stemmed variety. They did not look much over the summer or the Autumn\fall, then it snowed in the winter. Suddenly as you turned the corner, there in red and gold swathes were the Cornus, glistening against the snow, how wonderful!
Or a slight couple of warmer days in winter and the sudden smell of Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet), wafting over the garden. The incredible sight and smell of Viburnum × bodnantense 'Dawn', a truly beautiful plant. On the main lawn of the Victorian park I worked, a huge Cedrus atlantica glauca (Blue cedar), its massive blue branches topped with snow, and the snow underneath it, a perfect foil for this awesome tree.
My Foreman had been at the park for forty years, and when he started there was a single Hamamelis (Witch hazel), so he made it his job to start a collection of these extraordinary plants. I had only cleared the leaves up and thought wrongly, that these plants were dormant for the winter, how wrong I was. For suddenly in the depths of winter, one of these incredible plants suddenly started to flower, the smell was immense in fact, from a flower that looks somewhat like a spider. The different coloured ones flowering at different times fascinated me, and always have done.
Here is a picture( sorry no snow), of an Acer griseum I rescued from the Chelsea Flower Show, with Cyclamen sp. underneath.
Regards from a very wintry England.