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Winter Gardens

Judith Sleijpen

 If the weather is cold and wet and getting you down, it’s a good idea to go to your local garden centre and get some plants.

You may find that they not only brighten up your garden but just looking at them may lift your spirits and make the days seem brighter.

During the colder months of the year, there are lots of plants that can bring delight both to you and your garden.  Here are some I recommend.   

The Viola (Viola ‘Starry Night’) is a compact, free-flowering, cold tolerant hybrid developed in Victoria.

Growing up to 20 centimetres in height and spreading up to 50 centimetres wide, its bright, cheerful flowers of pale purple and yellow have a light, sweet fragrance and look perfect planted in containers or hanging baskets in premium grade potting mix.

Preferring a full sun to part shade position in compost-enriched, well-drained soil, it’s a welcome border planting in rockeries and gardens.

Another lovely addition to the winter garden is the elegant Lenten Rose (Helleborus ‘Penny’s Pink’).  

Originally from The Netherlands, this compact hybrid grows about 50 centimetres high and spreads up to 60 centimetres wide.  It displays unique, dome-shaped, mid-pink flowers from winter to spring. This vigorous, evergreen perennial prefers a sunny to part shady spot in the garden in most soil types that are well-drained.  It looks particularly attractive mass planted under established tree canopies.

To add style and beauty to your balcony, grow a Lenten Rose in a container.  If it is in a very hot position, ensure that the potting mix does not dry out completely.

To keep the plant tidy, simply remove old blooms and feed in late autumn and spring with a slow release fertiliser before and after flowering.

For gardeners who want native plants, there is Grevillea (Grevillea rhyolitica x ‘Deua Gold’), a newly-released hybrid bred in New South Wales.

Growing to a height of 1.2 metres and spreading up to 1.5 metres wide, this Australian native is frost hardy and drought tolerant with arching, glossy, green foliage.

Its most outstanding feature is its display of rich, golden-yellow flowers throughout the year but mainly from March to October.

Preferring a sunny spot in organic-enriched, well-drained soil, this evergreen perennial is ideal for native and coastal gardens and very attractive to birds.

Planted in containers in potting mix suitable for Australian native plants, this grevillea adds a special touch to balconies or courtyards.  And it’s easy to maintain.  In spring, simply apply a slow release fertiliser, suitable for Australian native plants.

For colour and fragrance in winter, it’s hard to beat Lavender (Lavandula ‘Violet Lace’). 

Bred in Victoria, this compact, mound-forming, evergreen perennial with aromatic, grey foliage grows about 70 centimetres high and wide.  

The flowers are held above the foliage in varying shades of purple, from intense deep hues to mild lilac tones. It begins to bloom early in autumn and  continuously throughout the winter months. 
Planted in a sunny spot in the garden in fertile, well-drained soil or in a container of premium grade potting mix, lavender looks stunning. It makes a beautiful, low-growing, aromatic hedge, planted at 50 centimetre intervals.  

Lavender is very easy to maintain.  Simply prune the plant by up to two-thirds of its size in late summer to retain a tidy shape.  After pruning, apply some slow release fertiliser and a light sprinkling of dolomite to the soil to promote new growth. 

Make your garden as beautiful in winter as it is in summer and enjoy the beauty of nature all year! 

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

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