Whilst for much of the Northern Hemisphere winter is a cold, stark occasion, in Australia, the varying climate zones allow for a little more activity in the garden. Plants boasting vibrant hues and strong fragrance promise to brighten up the yard, whether planting for clivia’s pops of yellow and orange or the sweet perfume of a timeless daphne, there's plenty of choice to cheer things up in winter.
A winter-blooming perennial that is both easy to grow and striking to look at, hellebores are fondly named the ‘winter rose’ for their appearance at this time of year. Part of the Ranunculaceae family, most common hellebores are low-growing evergreens with cup-shaped flowers that bloom in a rainbow of colours from winter through to spring. Ideally suited to a shady patch of the garden, hellebores can almost be left to their own devices as they require very little water, except in summer, and can handle temperate to cold climates with ease.
Boasting clusters of vibrant yellow, orange or red trumpet-shaped blooms in mid-to-late winter, the clivia, or kaffir lily as it is also known, is a hardy plant that thrives in most regions of Australia, with the exception of very cold mountain regions and Tasmania, where the plants can be grown in pots but need to be brought in during winter. Clivias can grow in shade or under trees, though like a little filtered sunlight, best planted in well-drained soil. As well as suffering the cold, the clivia is very drought-tolerant, with hardly a drop of water required in the winter months.
Grow winter pansies and fill your yard with dazzling colour while everything else lies bare. Joyful hues of yellow, gold, purple, red and white come into their own as temperatures drop when these cool-loving plants are at their happiest. Interestingly, pansies can survive very cold snaps by freezing their growth until the weather warms up again. Bearing large, brightly coloured blooms from late autumn through to early spring, pansies need a sunny position and loose, well-drained soil to thrive in the garden.
Alluring yellow flowers grace the Chimonanthus praecox plant in winter. The unusual semi-transparent blooms boast an intoxicating spicy-sweet scent when this deciduous shrub bursts into blossom. Spurred on by the dropping temperatures, wintersweet is ideally suited to growing in Southern Australia, where it can reach up to three metres in height when positioned in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Blooms can last for months, though throughout the rest of the year, once the flowers have died off, the shrub will fade into the background.
Another gorgeous perfumed plant to grow in winter is luculia, whose show-stopping clusters of rose-pink flowers emit a strong vanilla-like fragrance at this time of year. The bushy evergreen shrubs grow up to four metres tall and are well suited to mountain zones and the cooler coastal areas of Australia where frosts are not too severe. Luculias will grow well in a semi-shaded spot of the yard in free-draining, cool soil (mulch well), and will bear glossy green foliage that looks good throughout the year.
Flourishing in cool to temperate climates at this time of year is the intensely perfumed daphne plant. Filling the air with its rose-citrus fragrance, its compact clumps of star-shaped flowers will add a pop of colour to your garden from mid-winter to spring against the plant’s dark green foliage. Able to tolerate light frosts, daphne thrives best in moist, well-drained soil in a partially shady position, ideally with morning sun.
These native shrubs never really know when to stop rewarding us with their striking spider-like blooms. Even in winter, the bright pink and yellow hues of the shrub’s flowers bring colour to the backyard. Able to grow well right across Australia, grevilleas come in all shapes and sizes. Its nectar-rich flowers work well to attract birds and insects to the garden, where it needs a sunny position sheltered from strong winds, ideally in well-drained soil. Once established these plants can tolerate frost and drought.
Producing a mass of rich purple pea-shaped flowers from winter through to spring, hardenbergia is a hardy evergreen climber with glossy green foliage – a small genus of just three species. Preferring a sunny spot in the garden, hardenbergia can tolerate light frost and partial shade and will grow happily up a wall or fence, ideal if you wish to disguise an unsightly structure. One of the most widely grown varieties in the country is ‘Happy Wanderer’ (pictured above), whose impressive flower chains bring vibrancy to a winter garden.