Sure, the days are closing in and the sun isn’t always shining, but there are still plenty of surefire ways to bring colour and excitement into your winter garden.
For explosive winter colour you need look no further than beautiful, ever-reliable Camellias. It’s not just their vibrant pink, red or white flowers that I admire, it’s their versatility in the garden. What a choice they offer – grow them as feature trees, hedges, standards, espaliers and decorative potted plants. It’s the shade-loving Japonica Camellias that put on a real show in winter, with glossy evergreen foliage and big blowsy, ‘look-at-me’ blooms.
‘Volunteer’ is a real stunner, with bi-coloured deep pink and white flowers from April to September. ‘Illumination’ is another top choice, with intense pink flowers through the dead of winter. It is very versatile and flowers well in heavy shade or full sun. ‘Brushfield’s Yellow’ is as close to a yellow Camellia as you can get (commercially anyway). It boasts pretty creamy yellow flowers from mid July to the end of August and performs well in both shady and semi-shaded spots. If you’re after a hybrid that flowers all winter long, you’ll love ‘Sweet Jane’. It displays beautiful two-tone pink and white flowers from April right through to September – that’s three seasons of colour.
For splashes of vibrant winter colour it’s still hard to beat annuals massed in garden beds or in decorative pots on the patio or balcony. You can grow them from seed of course, but for instant and stunning results, why not pick up some seedling trays from your local nursery? Think colourful Cinerarias with daisy-like flowers, ever-popular pansies and petite Violas, old-fashioned Primulas and cheerful Polyanthus – just to name a few.
Keep an eye out for exciting new releases like Pansy Plentifall series ‘Trailing Purple’, with sumptuous, rich dark purple blooms and a spreading habit up to 60cm across. These flower over a long season from autumn right through to spring and look spectacular spilling out of pots and hanging baskets. Don’t forget to deadhead faded blooms and liquid feed your annuals regularly for months of spectacular flowers.
Hardenbergia violacea (the purple coral pea) is another winter essential. It’s an Australian native climber with leathery, dark green leaves and masses of dark purple flowers that last well into spring. Keep an eye out for popular named varieties like ‘Happy Wanderer’, a vigorous form with intense purple flowers, ‘Rosea’ with pale pink blooms or ‘Free n’ Easy’, a stunning free-flowering white form. The main attraction of Hardenbergias must be their display of colourful flowers at a time of year when our gardens really need a lift. They are tough evergreen plants that deserve a place in the garden, trailing over fences and pergolas or sprawled across the ground.
Cyclamen are stylish, sophisticated plants with marbled leaves and elegant flowers. These days they are available in shades from pale pink, to deep salmon, vibrant reds, white, rose and carmine. The smaller woodland varieties are sensational planted en masse in the shade of deciduous trees for a splash of cool season colour, or turn to the larger florist types for outstanding potted colour – the perfect centerpiece to your dining table and longer lasting than a cut bunch of flowers. Look out for scented varieties too!
Hellebores never go out of style, with nodding rose-like flowers in shades of white, pale lemon, lime green, pink, lavender and rich deep plum hues. They are at their best planted in groups or massed in the shade of deciduous trees where they lighten the passage into winter.
Look out for stunners like ‘Winter Sunshine’, a heavy flowering variety with delicate pink buds that open cream then mature to a striking pink-red. ‘Ivory Prince’ is another top choice, with ivory-white flowers that fade to musky pink and chartreuse green.
About the Author – Melissa King
Melissa is a qualified horticulturalist, television presenter, author and garden writer. She has been a regular presenter on several TV shows, including Gardening Australia, Garden Angels and The Garden Gurus. She is the author of the book Garden Feast and has written numerous articles for top magazines and newspapers. Melissa has her own range of tough, beautiful plants under the banner King in the Garden.