15 things I like about winter

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Japanese maple tree in my Sydney garden

I don't particularly like winter. I dislike the short days and the cold temperatures, and the seemingly inevitable winter ills can make everything seem so much more dispiriting. Overall, my garden is pretty bare. However, on this glorious weekend, I stepped outside to remind myself that there are in fact lots of good things about winter!

1. The tracery of deciduous trees against brilliant blue skies, which seem more endlessly blue in winter than at any other time of year. With all the leaves now fallen and swept up (a relief), we can now admire the lacy forms of the trees and enjoy the extra sunlight provided now the foliage has gone.

Dew on the leaves of Plectrantus argentatus in my Sydney garden

2. The glistening dew on leaves and flowers after a cold night. I always seem to take more notice of attractive foliage in winter when there are fewer flowers to distract me.

3. The sweet scent of Daphne odora and other winter flowers. These include jonquils, violets, some Camellia japonica cultivars and Luculia.

Haemanthus albi-flos in bloom, with variegated Acanthus mollis

4. Early-flowering bulbs. These include the classics such as snowflakes, jonquils and the old-fashioned tall purple bearded Iris that are often seen in old country gardens, as well as others such as Haemanthus albi-flos (pictured), Tulbaghia simmleri, Iris unguicularis and Nerine bowdenii. Seeing these flowers gives me hope for spring!

Salvia adenophora in my Sydney garden

5. Winter-flowering Salvia. There are many of these - some are very tall and wide, and take up a fair bit of space, such as Salvia 'Timboon', Salvia 'Pink Icicles', Salvia wagneriana and Salvia involucrate x karwinskii 'Winter Lipstick' - but others are a bit easier to incorporate into our gardens, such as Salvia elegans Purple Form, Salvia rubiginosa, Salvia confertiflora and Salvia adenophora (pictured). I love seeing the rich colours of these generously flowering shrubs in winter, and they lift my spirits so much.

6. Daisies. Marguerite daisies start flowering in winter in Sydney and continue all through spring. They are simple blooms but so cheerful!

Helleborus argutifolius in my Sydney garden

7. Hellebores. The Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius, pictured) and Helleborus foetidus start to flower around May and continue on until October, joined in late June or early July by the amazing array of hybrid hellebores that are available these days. These exquisitely sculptured flowers are a joy to see on a cold winter's day and very worthwhile in the garden for their long blooming time.

8. Camellias. Camellia japonica and miniature-flowered Camellia are classic shrubs for winter colour in Sydney. How I wish I had planted more of them when I first moved into my present garden!

A sunny place to sit for a cup of tea in my Sydney garden

9. Sitting in the sun with a cup of tea. This is such a delight in winter in the middle of the day.

10. Buds of spring-flowering shrubs. These have already formed on shrubs such as deciduous Viburnum, Magnolia and Pieris japonica, and give the promise of spring.

11.Beautiful bark. When deciduous trees are bare, we can admire their lovely bark - for example, with crepe myrtles and silver birches.

Lemonade fruit in my Sydney garden

12. Citrus fruits. Citrus trees grow pretty well on the whole in Sydney, and trees are now decoratively laden with lemons, grapefruit, oranges, cumquats and mandarins. The pictured fruit is a lemonade - a delicious cross between a lemon and (I think) a mandarin; it looks like a lemon but is much sweeter, and can be eaten straight off the tree.

13. Plants can be moved easily in winter. I have recently moved around a few shrubs and shrubby perennials that were in the wrong places, and they haven't turned a hair.

14. Weeds and lawns grow slower in winter!

15. Self-sown seedlings of spring annuals, such as Nigella, Orlaya, Primula and heartsease. I love seeing these determined little babies in the garden, as they give it a certain wildness and informality, and by popping up all over the place, they provide a unifying element.

Reader Comments

  • By Susan 2430 Monday, 29 June 2015

    I love winter. Winter fragrance is so delicious. There is a restful stillness to the garden that gives you a chance to appreciate the bones and structure of it. Winter is the quiet before the storm of spring. It is true that there is a lovely stillness in the garden in winter and it is entitled to its rest! Deirdre

  • By Jan 2582 Monday, 29 June 2015

    I"m in Melbourne this week and noticed quite a few winter flowering salvias here too. In particular the gardens at Ripponlea Mansion are still beautiful and full of flowers. I can highly recommend a visit to them while the fabulous Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries costume exhibition is on! I"m going to check your list of winter flowering salvias and see whether any are frost tolerant. That place sounds fab to visit! In general the winter-flowering salvias are the large-leaved semitropical ones. Mediterranean ones do best in colder climates but it is worth experimenting. For example I recently was told that Indigo Spires does well in Goulburn, so I am going to try that one in the farm garden. Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 Monday, 29 June 2015

    Thank you for reminding us about the "good" things of winter - there is much to be grateful for, with the various fragrances of plants - I particularly like that of Lonicera fragrantissima and daphne. Bright colours are also evident, to cheer - finding coleus plants surviving, and the bright yellow Calceolaria (can be weedy, but easily removed) intermingled with purple and white Primula. I too love bright-coloured flowers in winter. Justicia aurea and Tagetes lemmonii look good together at the moment. Deirdre

  • By Pam 2159 Monday, 29 June 2015

    Fresh citrus are easy to make into marmalades now, and the kitchen smells good too! I have just made some from the Lemonade fruit for the first time and it tastes delicious. My garden has masses of camellias so it is all very colourful. The Camellia Society"s annual Show is on at Ravenswood School, Gordon 11-12 July. www.camelliasnsw.org Lemonade fruit are so delicious. Camellias are certainly the stars of the Sydney garden. Deirdre

  • By Gil 2037 Monday, 29 June 2015

    Thanks Deirdre, so true. Another thing I like about winter is the contrast with steamy midsummer Sydney! By the time I"m through the cold nights and short days of winter, I"m longing for the warmth of summer, having forgotten all about the debilitating heat that is part of it! Do I have more energy in winter? Maybe I do.Have a lovely break. It"s well-earned. Thanks, Gil. It is true that winter gives us such a break from the awful humidity of late summer. And I think we enjoy spring all the more because it comes after winter! Deirdre

  • By 10dril 3146 Monday, 29 June 2015

    Actually I"ve enjoyed this article even more than your others. The list format must agree with me, horrible as it is to admit it ["10 reasons your mind is lazy as hell"]. Winter is my favourite time by far. 1. Everything is happy with a sufficiency of water. 2. You can work hard without getting sunburned and overheated. 3. With the clear space afforded by the leaf drop you can do all the perfecting stuff easily, like dividing irises. 4. The promise/fulfillment of Pericallis and Stachys I agree with your extra points! It is much easier getting into garden beds at the moment with so much that is dormant. And I haven"t watered the garden for months! Deirdre

  • By 10dril 3146 Monday, 29 June 2015

    PS. it"s not too late to put in some Camellias. Waiting with anticipation and treasuring the few blooms on a young plant is even more fun than seeing the mature plant imho. It"s less awesome but more exciting. As they get bigger it"s so easy to start taking them for granted. Early in their lives you wait for and scrutinise every new bud. My faves: EG Waterhouse variegated Desire Williamsii hybrid "waterlily" That is encouraging! Desire is a beautiful camellia. I will check out the others. Deirdre

  • By Peta 2758 Monday, 29 June 2015

    Well for me Winter is landscape project time. Exciting! We are busy cutting back, planting and planning. There will be a new pergola and a whole new "park" area with an avenue of "Chanticleer" pears, rose garden and sculpture. In Winter we are energized.Fabulous! Enjoy your break. It is so true that this is the time of year we can implement new ideas and move plants around. Good luck with your new projects - they sound fab. Deirdre

  • By Janna 0 Monday, 29 June 2015

    Thanks, Deirdre, I needed reminding of these things. I"ve been longing for summer! Thanks, Janna. Sunny winter days are easier to endure than the bleak ones! Deirdre

  • By Lynne 2479 Monday, 29 June 2015

    Thank you for you delightful musings Deirdre. I agree with so many of your readers comments too, especially the comments about enjoying the cooler months without the debilitating humidity of summer. I cherish that. The Australian winter light is something to behold. I sometimes wonder what Monet would have made of it. Have a lovely winter respite from blogging and I look forward to your return. Thanks, Lynne. I agree the light is wonderful in winter. And scented plants seem to smell much better in the crisp, cold air. Deirdre

  • By Georgina 2076 Tuesday, 30 June 2015

    Thank you Deirdre for all the interesting information you send out weekly.Enjoy your well earned break. Thanks, Georgina! Deirdre

  • By Erika 4061 Tuesday, 30 June 2015

    I enjoyed your list very much. Please have a restful break but don"t think your list is the sign of desperation. Anyway winter is a time for rest in us as in nature. Thanks, Erika. I have appreciated all the feedback about winter and what it means to different people! Deirdre

  • By john 2261 Saturday, 04 July 2015

    Thanks for reminding us that winter is not all bad. There are still things to enjoy in the garden, if only pottering around or just sitting and watching and planning for the next season. The invisible things that happen in winter come to life in spring! Thanks, John. I am feeling much more positive about winter now. Despite the freezing weather today! Deirdre

  • By Jane 5231 Monday, 06 July 2015

    As a new member, I"m hoping that other south aussies will be reading your blogs. I love winter, but worry that this year is already so dry that many plants which need spring and summer water might once again suffer. Standing here in the hills I appreciate the crisp air, the green in the paddocks and the restfulness of the soil. But can"t wait for teeming rain, to give the garden the soaking it needs. So am now looking to more drought tolerant, hardy natives. Time to stoke up the wood fire!Cheers Hope you get some good rain soon, Jane. Deirdre

  • By john 2261 Sunday, 19 July 2015

    After what seemed like a week in the antarctic, it"s nice to be out in the garden again , with The sunshine. Looks like the temps are heading towards 20 again, Woo hoo. I am noticing signs of growth on some plants. Spring is just around the corner :) Today was a truly lovely day - I agree that there are signs of spring already! Deirdre

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