It is a fallacy that the garden goes to sleep at winter time. There are so many shrubs that are specifically chosen for this seasonal interest, in fact non descript for most of the year until they come into their own.
Camellia sasanqua is one of a few that have autumn flowering properties. They do prefer to be in full sun, acidic soil and with that well watered. These are not drought tolerant. They offer a strong fragrance throughout late summer to winter. Various colours and various flowerheads. Do prune after they have flowered since they can become leggy otherwise.
Mahonia x media ‘winter sun’ is an evergreen and another example of a shrub that can become leggy. Cut out branches that are unruly and seem to have no place. Mahonia do prefer a spot in full sun although like some shelter too so against a wall or fence would be fine. This will flower from November onwards. In good soil, Mahonia’s do thrive. Even apply some organic matter to keep it nourished.
Lonicera x purpusii is a honeysuckle climber with strongly scented flowers in winter. It may be bare stemmed but the aroma it gives makes it’s presence known. Beneficial insects are attracted its flowerheads so provides them with food. It is a sun loving plant, it will provide you with a strong scented and delicate flowers through to February.
Hamamelis x intermedia is a shrub that will also loose its leaves when it flowers in late winter and on. The flowers are very fragrant in the main although one namely ‘Diane’ has a show of flowers but little scent. They do spread quite widely so give them room to develop. The plant is a hardy suggestion and often will not be phased by a cold spell.
Daphne Bholua is a medium sized evergreen that will flower during the coldest of spells. It will provide fragrant flowers in late winter followed by berries. It does need to be in a sunny spot but will provide frgrance, foliage and flowers though the year. It is relatively robust as long as not very exposed and has some shelter.
Callicarpa bodinieri ‘profusion’ whilst it offers flowers in mid summer, the vibrancy of its berries demands that it is mentioned as an excerpt. It is decidious but before the leaves are lost they turn a red. It is very hardy and will withstand severe conditions. It is good in most soils and generally easy to look after. The habit is not dense so a cluster of them is needed to make any impact. It is generally not tolerant in alkaline soils and discolouration of the leaves will indicate this.