Winter Warmers in the Garden

DaphneHello to all  keen gardeners.
Today I want to talk about plants that will bring beauty to your garden in the middle of winter.
Looking out the window today, it looks pretty bleak, no sunshine and it’s about eight degrees. Hardly the sort of day that will encourage you to get out and do some work in the garden. But there are some real plant gems that will brighten your day with their beauty and even fragrance
CHIMONANTHUS PRAECOX - (Winter Sweet) This is a deciduous shrub that flowers through July/August. With one of the most delightful fragrances you could ever wish to have in your garden. The pale yellow flowers appear on the bare stems at this time of year. Pick the stems and bring them inside to a vase of water and I guarantee the sweet fragrance will fill the room. This plant used to be very popular in our grandparents gardens. But there is no reason why it shouldn't be used today. It is a great performer, hardy, gets no pests and can be easily kept trimmed. It would make a beautiful deciduous hedge at the back of the shrub border.
DAPHNE ODORA LEUCANTHE - (Pink Fragrant Daphne) The most common is the pink form and also avaliable in white. The plants in our garden at the moment are just breaking into flower. Like the winter sweet they are a real delight when picked and brought inside. Daphnes generally have a limited life. If you get 10 years from a plant then you have done pretty well. They can get a virus that over many years slowly attacks its vigour. It then pays to pull it out and put in a new fresh one.
Daphnes like to be fed with slow release acid fertiliser. Twice a year in spring and autumn. They will grow in shade or the sun. but if the latter then mulch around its roots to help keep the moisture in over the hot summer months.
DAPHNE ODORA ALBA -same as the above,but the flowers are purest white.
PROTEAS - This is a big family of plants and there are some amazing varieties avaliable. They vary in growth habit, flower size and colour. My wife loves to pick flowers for inside the house and we have just planted a selection of  varieties. So that she will have a continuous supply of flowers for about six months. The protea family are mainly natives from Australia and South Africa. So they like excellent drainage. If you have a light sandy soil then the proteas will do very well. They prefer a bit of a breeze around the foliage rather than a sheltered humid site. The flowers will last for many weeks in a vase of water. No fragrance but beautiful colours, something for every colour scheme. After flowering it is advisable to prune the bush as this encourages more  branching. Which leads to more flowers the following  Autumn/Winter. This yearly pruning of the bush is important because the protea family are generally shallow rooted. Proteas do not like your standard general fertiliser. They don't like phosphate very much. So I advise using a fertiliser with a low phosphate content. (you can buy such a fertiliser from most plant retailers)

Four Proteas I personally like are:

  1. Protea Nerifolia Alba - White with black tips on each petal.
  2. Protea Tasman Ruby - Deep red bracts.
  3. Protea Cynaroides Artic Ice - A selection of the King Protea with impressive extra large pure white flowers.
  4. Protea Jazz - Deep clear pink.
Most of the protea family like protection from severe frosts. I find that planting them where they can still get sunshine and it gets quite dry is important. Close to the house and under the eaves or on the northern side of large trees are ideal spots for success in the Waikato region.

Things to do in your garden in July.

  • Cut off your liriopes to ground level. This will get rid of all the chewed leaves and the plants will come back quickly with a new set of leaves.
  • You can also do this with your mondo grass. if its looking a bit tired and brown edges on the leaves then give it a severe prune close to the ground level. it will come back lovely and fresh again.This major haircut wont need to be done every year, probably every four years. But definitely feed it every spring with a slow release fertiliser and water it in well. So that it wont burn the foliage.
  • Prune all your roses and spray the bare stems with copper. This will clean off any fungous spores. Which will help to keep your plants free of disease next Spring/Summer
  • Spray all your citrus and fruit trees with conqueror oil. This is to get rid of any scale, mealy bug, thrips etc
  • Any perennials that have grown too big. Divide them with a spade and replant a few smaller pieces. This will keep them young and vigorous
  • Put some new compost and garden mix into your vege garden. Next month you can get into planting the first of your spring vegetables.
  • Plant your strawberry plants. 
  • Prune and feed your lavenders, which will encourage lots of new growth and a beautiful spring floral display.
Happy Gardening

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