Some shrubs come into their own in this period and rather non descript throughout the rest of the year. They may bear fruits now (feeding wildlife, may flower in abundance) yet produce quite bland foliage at other times.
Dogwood alba (sibrica) does produce foliage, and its stems green . It does flower in spring and bears fruits after but is used for its winter colour. It prefers sunlight and so not suited to a chilly corner. It does remain relatively compact but cut down after dormant period and reduce growth to a few central stems. Remove dead, damaged stems and this will encourage new fresh growth for the coming year. Dogwood (kousa) is a variety not known for red/yellow winter colour but its flowers in summer.
Mahonia offer a scented yellow flower in the autumn shortly after the leaves start to change colour. Having the colour at this time, the foliage is equally attractive all year round as it is an evergreen. Mahonia are hardy. No maintenance to speak of other than control the size so if limited room cut back a little to retain the shape. Although a shrub can be used as part of a mixed hedge or a means of deterrent down to its very spiky leaves. It is not a formal shrub and shouldn’t really be pruned heavily.
Hellebore (Lentern Rose) These can flower throughout the darkest and coldest months, although must be in full sun. The soil needs to be free draining too, they don’t like sitting in moisture. Although they are regarded as perennials. The foliage actually never dies back to the ground, although the flowers are this period.
Pieris ‘mountain fire’ and ‘forest flame’ are evergreens that offer flowers, changing foliage and needing little care. A compact shrub. It bears flowers in late spring as the foliage colour in early. So it is not autumn flowering but provides more interesting foliage in this period. It does prefer full sun and the soil enriched with goodness.
Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ (Mexican smoke bush) has a deep foliage all year round although in autumn seems richer. A great foliage plant needing little or no maintenance save unwanted growth. It flowers in summer but known for its purple foliage which is enriched in the winter months.
Hamamelis X intermedia/mollis (Chinese witch hazel) – an architectural specimen often looking quite insipid until the flowers appear. It can be the most vibrant orange and yellow. The flowers are fragrant, delicate and appear in the dormant period (usually late in winter though.) It needs some protection from wind damage too. The leaves, although a bit non descript do provide foliage and change colour in autumn.
Virburum tinus, a winter flowering shrubs providing hugely fragrant flowers. Virburnum’s are good in most aspects and relatively resilient to adverse conditions. The soil should be on the heavy side and not too sandy. Water retentive but not water logged since few plants like this. Bear in mind, you should let this shrub/hedge lead it’s own habit. it is not formal any way.
Chimonanthus praecox (Wintersweet) A hardy shrub providing a spicy, fragrant scent. A delicate flower borne on the previous years growth. It needs to be in a sunny position and well drained soil. A little shelter too, maybe by a wall for protection due its delicate habit or an appropriate wind buff.