Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Winter Flowers

Shrug off the chill and lift your spirits with the beauty of winter’s most delicate flowers. It is not like spring, when plants awaken and explode into a kaleidoscope of colours, nor is it like summer, when each bloom tries to outdo the other. Winter is slower, gentler, but equally as precious as seasons go, full of magical surprises and fragrance.

Lavenders thrive in well-drained parts of the garden, and only require minimal watering. Lavenders cope well in exposed, sunny, open positions, and grow to one-metre, bun-shaped balls. They flower prolifically in winter and they respond well to pruning. Conduct two good prunings a year, after flowering, to cut back, followed by a fertiliser, such as blood and bone, to encourage quick re-growth.

Winter rose 
The winter rose is actually not a rose at all, but a low ground cover with shy, nodding flowers. They are perfect to pick, good to float in bowls and last forever. Hellebores are easy to grow and not demanding, plant them in soil enriched with compost or manure and give them light-dappled shade. They’re perfect beneath deciduous trees such as magnolias, crepe myrtles and maples, where winter sunshine will encourage more flowers and the summer canopy will protect them from too much heat.

Fairy primrose 
Primrose is lovely in winter growing 30cm-high in clusters of soft, lacy flowers in white, pink, lavender and magenta. Lasting one season, from winter to spring.

Paper daisy 
Another winter-flowering native which boasts thousands of starry-white flowers is the Rhodanthe paper star, a more compact form of the species. It loves well-drained soils and spilling over walls and covering the ground. Admired for its blue-grey foliage, papery-white flower petals and yellow centres, it may grow to 50cm. 

Give it a spot with morning sun and protection from cold winds. Sweet Daphne odora has clusters of small, starry, pale-pink flowers in winter. If you plant it in filtered sunshine, and moist, cool, humus-rich soil that is well drained and slightly acid, your daphne should last 10 years. 

Hardenbergia is winter’s favourite flowering native climber with royal-purple sprays of pea-shaped. It needs well-drained soil and semi shade – grow it along the ground, up fences, over an arbour, or entwined into other shrubs. 

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