Great Plants for Winter Gardens

The days are beginning to slowly get longer and we can already see our gardens starting to come to life with numerous plants now making a spectacular show.

The photo is of a floral arrangement that my wife Val has created from plants that are in flower or looking great in our garden at the moment.  


Commonly called winter sweet.  Back 20 years ago this was one of those plants that every keen gardener found the room for in their garden.  They have the most beautiful fragrance that you could wish for and they flower at a time of the year when not much else is happening in the garden. They are tough and get to about 2.5metres.  They do respond well to summer trimming and can be kept at whatever height you like.  You can even use them as a winter flowering hedge at the back of a border. The Winter Sweet has pale yellow flowers on mass in July/August over a semi deciduous bush.  


Yes, the ever popular sweetly fragrant daphne family is another must for any gardener wanting to add some beautiful fragrance to their garden. There are quite a few varieties in this family of plants, pink-D.ODORA LEUCANTHE and the pure white-D.ODORA ALBA are the most popular. Daphnes like acid loving soils so make sure you feed with a slow release acid fertiliser every September and March to keep them in top condition. Daphnes are unfortunately susceptible to viruses which, over a period of time, can cause your daphne plant to lose vigour and health. It is not something you can do much about.  The fact is that every 8-10 years you will need to replace your old plant with a new high health plant. Daphnes like a little shade in the hot afternoon if possible and good drainage. I have planted some in our garden as a low growing winter flowering hedge and at the moment they are a real delight to walk past.  The perfume hits you well before you get near the plants.   


The winter rose - these perennials are so easy to grow and so dependable.  They provide a great array of colours in the depths of winter.  Winter roses do very well under deciduous trees, or even at the front of the perennial border. Over the summer months they sort of go into a state of semi dormancy but as soon as the weather starts to get cooler in autumn they want to come into life. I advise my landscape clients  at the end of February to cut off all the old foliage and feed with a slow release fertilizer which causes the plants to quickly produce a new set of healthy clean foliage. Plant breeders around the world are now coming up with some truly amazing new hybrids in the hellebore family of plants, and this will I am sure keep a keen interest in these plants in the coming years. Hellebore flowers are very good for floral arrangements and last a good amount of time in water.  


We can see them coming into flower in Waikato gardens at the moment. They are easy to grow if you follow a few set rules.

  1. They must have very good drainage - all leucadendrons detest wet feet and very quickly will get attacked by phytophora (a soil borne fungous).  If this happens then it is certain death to the plant. You can open the soil up by mixing some pumice, pea metal, organic compost, etc.
  2. Feed with a slow release fertilizer which has low phosphate. They do not like your general garden fertilizer because the nutrient level is not right for them.
  3. They need a site with good air movement
  4. Each year after the flowers have finished looking at their best give the plant a reasonable prune taking off about 25% of its existing foliage. This will cause it to resprout with some new foliage and keep the plant nice and compact. They are shallow rooting and even though they don't mind the wind we don't want to put unnecessary strain on the root system by having a huge amount of top growth.
  5. Protect them from frosts - they don't like extremely heavy frosts so protect them with a bit of frostcloth if the weather turns extremely cold.

We have some leucandendrons in our garden at the moment and each plant has about 150 flowers - a truly great site at this time of year.  


Cast iron plant - if you are into floral art then this is a plant you should definitely have in your garden. SHOOTING STARS is relatively new to the market but like others in the aspidistra family it is extremely tough to drought, low light and the leaves will last a very long time in a floral arrangement. We have this plant growing very successfully outside in our garden under a lot of other foliage, and it looks fantastic with its white spotted markings on dark green foliage. Also a great plant for patios/indoor plant-especially if you are forgetful about watering, this plant is very forgiving and won't turn up its toes if you forget about it for a while. A good plant if you want to just add foliage to the garden without the drama of flowers.  

Happy Gardening



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Graeme Burton - Landscaper - Rukuhia Homestead, RD2, Ohaupo 3882
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