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Create A Beautiful Bright Winter Garden

Judith Sleijpen

Did you know that a study at Harvard University revealed that seeing colourful flowers, especially first thing in the morning, reduces anxiety and increases feelings of compassion? 

There are lots of winter plants with beautiful blooms to make your outdoor area as colourful as it is in summer. 

One such plant is Hellebore ‘Anna’s Red’, which grows approximately 50 centimetres high and spreads up to 60 centimetres wide. It features elegant, regal blooms in eye-catching, deep magenta. Preferring a sunny to part-shady spot in well-draining soil in the garden, it also makes a stunning display in containers in premium potting mix. 

This evergreen perennial is easy to maintain. Simply remove old flowers, water deeply during extended periods of heat, and feed in late autumn and spring with a slow-release fertiliser before and after flowering.
Another great plant is Spurge (Euphorbia ‘Rudolf’), a compact perennial reaching about 50 centimetres in height and spread. It’s perfect to brighten gloomy winter days with its vivid foliage display of glowing red tips. 

Although the colourful leaves are its main feature, this ornamental display is followed in late winter by sprays of tiny, red flowers shrouded in lime-green bracts.

Euphorbias are hardy and grow well in most free-draining soils. They are ideal for coastal gardens and their colourful foliage creates year-round interest in containers on balconies and patios.  

This hardy plant doesn’t need any pruning but removing the old flowers encourages bushy growth. It’s advisable to use gloves when you do this, as the sap can be irritating to sensitive skin and eyes. To really bring out the best in the plant, apply some slow-release fertiliser in summer.

A special delight in winter is Nemesia (Nemesia ‘Strawberry Ripple’), a neat, compact perennial growing about 30 centimetres high and 60 centimetres wide.  With its prolific display of mid-pink flowers, it’s perfect to brighten up a patch of garden at ground level or to add a touch of old-world charm on balconies in containers and hanging baskets.

Nemesia prefers a spot in morning sun or part shade in organic-enriched, well-draining soil and benefits from an application of slow-release fertiliser in spring.

And who doesn’t love to see and smell lavender? It’s an all-time favourite with a fragrance that not only has a calming effect on people but also acts as a natural pest repellent in the garden. Lavender (Lavandula ‘With Love’) reaches a height and spread of about 60 centimetres and features lots of long-lasting, pink blooms during winter with flushes of flowers throughout the rest of the year. Grow this lavender in a sunny spot in well-draining soil, either as a feature plant or as an aromatic hedge, by spacing plants at 50 centimetre intervals.  

Lavender benefits from a light prune after the main flowering flush to encourage further blooms and an application of slow release fertiliser to promote vigorous growth.  

Visit your local garden centre and bring some of these beautiful plants home to enjoy. Your garden will look just as colourful in winter as it does in summer and you’ll feel good, too. Now that’s a win-win!

Judith Sleijpen is an experienced horticulturist, columnist and garden designer advising clients on all aspects of their balconies and gardens. For more information phone 9907 6460.

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