Winter wonders

Sunday, 07 July 2013

Hybrid hellebore

July is not a pleasant month in my garden, which is looking distinctly shabby at the moment. The cold weather has cast a yellow tinge over many evergreen leaves, my warm-climate plants are looking lank and overgrown, and there is a profusion of weeds. I don't like to prune too many of my cold-sensitive plants just yet; however, some things - such as ornamental grasses, Canna and Salvia of the type that have fresh new growth appearing at their centres - can be done now, to make things look a bit tidier.

Camellia japonica Lovelight

I went searching today for some winter blooms for this blog to cheer myself up, and found that there are actually quite a few things out in my garden that can give pleasure at this time of year. I have two main colour 'stories' for winter: cool, clear whites that echo the icy temperatures; and bright colours to engender a sense of warmth - reds, oranges and yellows. White flowers out at the moment include my white Daphne, which is smothered in blooms and smelling divine; Camellia ranging from the large, opulent 'Lovelight' japonica cultivar (pictured above) to the dainty miniature flowers of 'Blondie'; cute snowflake bulbs (Leucojum aestivum); petite Primula malacoides; white Iris unguicularis and the first blooms of my white Iris japonica; and white hybrid Hellebore.

Megaskepasma erythrochlamys

I also found some nice splashes of hot hues. Red Camellia japonica cultivars 'Moshio' and 'Wildfire', planted a few years ago, have now developed into robust shrubs with plenty of flowers. Brazilian red cloak (Megaskepasma erythrochlamys, pictured at left) is a warm-climate shrub from the Acanthaceae family growing to around 3 m tall, and it is smothered in plump cerise plumes of flower at the moment. In fact, it has been flowering since May. My specimen had been competing with a Brugmansia right next to it in previous years - with that shrub now gone, the Brazilian red cloak has flourished and this year it has its best show ever. It is an easy shrub to grow in Sydney.

Justicia aurea

Another Acanthaceae plant that is blooming well this year is Justicia aurea (pictured at left). It is like a brilliant yellow version of the so-called plume flower (Justicia carnea), but blooms in winter. It looks effective grown nearby gold-variegated shrubs such as Euonymus japonicus 'Aureus', or other bright-coloured plants such as its own relative, cute firefly (Justicia rizzinii), with its scarlet, orange and yellow-toned bell-shaped flowers, which are coming out now. Another Acanthaceae plant that I have, acquired from a stall at an open garden during my trip to Brisbane last year, has begun to flower, and it looks a bit like Justicia aurea, having a yellow, feathery sort of flower, but with the addition of yellow whiskers. This plant is Schaueria flavicoma, said to grow to about a metre in height. Mine is flowering in part shade, and I will be watching its progress with interest, to see how suited it is to my Sydney garden.

Euphorbia pulcherrima, the poinsettia

I have always loved poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) flowers, and these are out now and will remain for a long time, being comprised of bracts rather than petals. The large red inflorescences are very striking. A few years ago, I propagated a yellow-flowered one from a cutting from a friend, and it has finally started to bulk up and has a nice lot of blooms on it this year.

Dendrobium speciosum in bud

Golden jonquils are in flower - giving welcome fragrance as well. During my walk around the garden, I was excited to see lots of spikes on epiphytic Dendrobium speciosum, an Australian native orchid, which is growing in a tree. Its pale yellow flowers will open in August. I could also pleased to see the red snouts of the dramatic bulb Scadoxus puniceus, which will also bloom in August, with enormous paintbrush flowers.

Salvia rubiginosa

Other flowers of various hues light up my mid-winter garden, including bright pink Nerine bowdenii and a number of Salvia. Salvia rubiginosa particularly took my eye, with its brilliant blue flowers held in purple calyces. Salvia roscida (syn. Salvia fallax) is just starting to open its pale blue spikes of flower - these are not large but the shrub is smothered with them and it gives a pretty, misty effect. Usefully, this plant will grow in shade. I have my first spire on one of my new cultivars: 'Timboon', a lovely burgundy flower in a sultry calyx. Another interesting winter flowerer is Crassula ovata, which is a succulent plant that grows into the shape of a miniature tree to around 90 cm tall, and has sprays of tiny white or pale pink starry blooms - a great plant for a tub.

There are lots of winter flowers to decorate our Sydney gardens in winter!

Reader Comments

  • By erica 2094 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 08 July 2013

    When is the best time to prune the Megaskepasma? Any time after mid-August is a good time. They can be pruned back quite hard. Deirdre

  • By Peta 2758 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Monday, 08 July 2013

    Your garden sounds just lovely considering the cold weather that"s descended upon us...and wind too. Here in the mountains the true English snowdrops are out and I"m so enjoying them. Over the years I"ve built up quite a collection, each variety slightly different. Your subtropicals would need thermals up here! Many other bulbs are poking their noses up too including tulips - can"t wait for them. One gorgeous climber blooming is the Rhodochiton atrosanguineus. Do you grow it Deirdre? It is such a different climate there, Peta. And yet only an hour or so from here! I have never grown that climber but would love to one day. Deirdre

  • By Sue 2073 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 08 July 2013

    My garden has a wonderful mauve hue at the moment with hundeds of violets flowering after the lovely rain and the lavender is loving the sun. Even in the depths of winter I can still pick a posy of bits and pieces to brighten someones day. Thank you for your always interesting blog. Thanks, Sue. Your violets sound amazing. Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 08 July 2013

    It is surprising when you look around the garden just how many flowers there are in bloom. I have yellow and white jonquils, J. rizzi near an orange abutilon, a few orange flowers on a cane begonia, snowflakes, heliotropes, yellow, purple and mauve wallflowers. Violets in pink, mauve, mauve/blue are beginning to bloom, and there are buds on some daffodils. My Justicia lutea has not any blooms as yet, but they always brighten the garden. You have lots of colour, by the sound of it, Margaret! Deirdre

  • By Sue T. 2566 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 08 July 2013

    Another winter joy is my white flowering quince which has started flowering now. Salvias Winter Lipstick and Marwin Gardens are also flowering. The quince would be lovely. I don"t know the Marwin Gardens salvia - will have to investigate! Deirdre

  • By keith 2066 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 08 July 2013

    We always look to the almost constant flowering abutilons for winter cheer and of course the vibrant blue of the witches bonnets. Glad to hear that your sister"s garden is going to be open it sounded really interesting when you blogged about it. Keith Yes, I forgot to mention the abutilons - they seem to be at their best in winter and spring in my garden. I will write more about my sister"s garden closer to the open dates. Deirdre

  • By Carole 2230 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 08 July 2013

    Ah Deidre, thank you for that delightful floral insight. Only an hour ago I was in the back garden and amazed that despite the very cool weather I still have the odd hibiscus flowering. I"m also enjoying some healthy cymbidium flower spikes and a few bromeliads are flowering as well. I did spot a flower on a very old mauve lantana obviously the deer haven"t come across it yet. The grevilleas are flowering beautifully much to the delight of the birds.Odd the deer eat only some types of grevillea. Hi Carole, I can"t imagine having to contend with DEER! Our main enemies at the moment are eight brush turkeys. You sound like you have lots of winter colour. Deirdre

  • By Angela 2234 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 08 July 2013

    Wow, I am green with envy..lol. I have only just started to garden after claiming my yard back from kids with soccer balls and bits of car pieces as they matured.. I love reading your blogs for ideas and your descriptions make me want every plant. Ps so far I am achieving a lot of satisfaction..thanks So glad you are enjoying your garden - just to potter around on a day like today is sheer bliss. Deirdre

  • By Pam 2159 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    Thanks for the note about the Camellia Show this weekend. Lots of camellias are flowering in my garden today, including the bright yellow species, Camellia nitidissima. That yellow one must be lovely. The camellias are just amazing at the moment. Deirdre

  • By noeline 2081 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    Thank you for sharing your lovely garden with everyone Deidre.Your blog is an inspiration and I have met many like minded people with plant share a blessing when starting a new garden like I am. I have a Crassula ovata in my raised bed that is over a metre tall and half metre wide and is covered with blooms at the moment thank you for identifying it for me.I live in Sydney and my snow flakes Fressias and jonquils are only just sprouting leaves is it too late for them to flower? Noeline Thanks, Noeline. I am sure your bulbs will flower - my snowflakes have only just starting flowering and the freesias won"t be out until August. Deirdre

  • By Allan 4300 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 09 September 2013

    Hi was enthralled to read your blog,My Poisettia has flowered since last year and has always made me happy since this is the first time I have been able to grow them.I also recently planted a number of Camellias hoping they do well.Do you know where I can get the white Iris Japonica in Brisbane or Ipswich Thanks, Allan. Good luck with your plantings. I don"t know much about nurseries in Brisbane but you could try our Plant Share feature on the site and maybe another reader may be able to share some of the irises with you. Deirdre

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