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Winter Flowering Plants for the Garden

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There is something particularly wonderful about wandering in your garden on a clear, crisp winter's morning admiring perfect blossoms. There are very few plants that flower in winter so if this is a pleasure that appeals then it is important to plant carefully.

Camellias for winter flowers

Those who prefer the softer flowers may want to sprinkle Camellia japonica cultivars liberally around their garden. There are literally thousands of different varieties to choose from that provide a succession of blooms throughout the winter. There is a vast range of flower forms from the perfectly sculpted formal double types to the simple and more natural flowers with a single row of petals. It is best to go to your local garden centre and view them when they are in flower as there are so many subtle variations to choose from. They require a sheltered, lightly shaded position with a reasonably well-drained soil and plenty of organic mulch. Given such conditions they are remarkably free of problems.

Luculia has a sweet perfume

Perfumed Plants for Winter Flowering

The delicate perfumes of daphne (Daphne odora), luculia (Luculia gratissima), wintersweet (Chimonanthuas praecox) are winter wonders to die for. They can all be temperamental plants that are best grown in large containers to give the excellent drainage they require to thrive. Trim each species in spring after they have finished flowering to keep them vigorous and bushy.

If you are looking for a temporary plant to brighten your winter balcony or garden bed then think of stock with its interesting clove-like perfume and soft spires of flowers that can also be cut for indoor decoration. Probably the best approach to growing this annual species is to purchase punnets of seedlings from your local garden centre when they become available in early winter.

Banksias for Winter Flowering

The Australian flora has a wealth of winter flowering wonders. The banksia group flowers predominantly through the autumn and winter months, attracting a rich array of birdlife to your garden as an added bonus. An increasing number of dwarf varieties are becoming available such as Banksia 'Coastal Cushion', B. 'Mini Marg' B. 'Birthday Candles' that can be grown in containers or at the front of garden beds. Medium sized shrubs such as the heath banksia (B. ericifolia); the very large flowered B. 'Giant Candles' and the hairpin banksia (B. spinulosa) can add beautiful warm orange tones to your garden. For the larger garden there are a couple of banksias that mature into small trees, namely coast banksia (B. integrifolia) and old man banksia (B. serrata).

The 'Coastal Cushion'
Banksia 'Coastal Cushion'

Wattles 'Acacias' for Winter Flowering

Acacia Baileyana
Acacia baileyana is spectacular when it flowers in winter

The Queensland silver wattle (Acacia podalyriifolia) and Cootamundra wattle (A. baileyana) are both golden yellow beacons in the garden when they flower in mid-winter. They flower so profusely that it is hard to see the attractive silvery grey foliage. Both species are very hardy and easy to grow and will eventually become small trees. Also a word of caution, in that they will often self seed and produce unwanted plants nearby that can invade any neighbouring bushland areas. It may be best to avoid planting them in such situations.

'Correas' for Winter Flowering

Correa Jezzabell
Correa 'Jezzabell'

Another native group worthy of consideration is the genus Correa, which has masses of bell-like pendulous flowers in various colours such as pinks, reds, greens and white as well as bicolour types. They usually grow into compact shrubs a metre I\or two in height and width. Common correa (C. reflexa) is perhaps the toughest and has interesting red and green flowers. The subtle pink of 'Dusky bells' is also quite attractive to honey-eating birds while the starry flowers of white correa (C. alba) are complemented by silvery foliage that withstands exposed coastal conditions. Correa 'Jezzabell' is a new variety that has delightful bright pink bells.

Kangaroo Paws for Winter Flowering

There are some fantastic ever-blooming dwarf kangaroo paw hybrids that will flower throughout the winter in warmer climates. The varieties 'Bush Ranger' (red flowers), 'Bush Diamond' (white with pink tinge) and 'Bush Pearl' (pink) are all perfect and are around 0.8 to 1 metre in height, making them perfect for large containers or rockeries. It is very important to remove spent flower stems as soon as they start to look shabby as this will clean up the base of the plant and make way for new shoots and flowers.

The 'Bush Pearl'
Anigozanthos 'Bush Pearl' (left) and 'Bush Diamond' (right)

Whatever style of winter flowering plants you fancy there are a couple of maintenance rules to follow to make the most of the display. Firstly, it is important to keep the water up, particularly under dry conditions. While most plants in your garden are dormant the ones that are flowering are supporting a lot of extra soft tissue as petals that drink a lot of water. Secondly, if you can find the time, removal of spent flowers will help to prolong the blooming period.

About the author

Angus Stewart is the author of several horticutural books including "Creating an Australian Garden". Angus also appears regularly on Australian television and radio shows. Angus's website is called "Gardening with Angus".