Gardening / Colourful ideas for the winter garden

Winter-flowering iris… for colour and fragrance.

BRIGHTEN the garden through the dull winter days ahead with perennial flowering plants.

  • Cedric Bryant.

    At the moment Iris unguicularis will be all scrappy leaves that don’t look particularly attractive. So, like hellebores, it’s not too late to cut the leaves back quite hard to expose the flower buds to develop with winter sunshine. The flowers have a delightful fragrance and last well as a cut flower.
  • Bergenia cordifolia, also known as elephant’s ears due to its huge leaves, originates in Siberia with frosts down below minus 50C. The delicate flowers range from shades of pink to white flower in mid-winter.
  • The Australian ivy-leafed violet with soft flowers, Viola hederacea, is a perennial ground cover plant that flourishes when planted under deciduous trees to get winter sun. Hederacea is the botanical name for ivy.

Cyclamen… thrown out once they finish flowering by unwitting people who don’t realise they can be planted in the garden.

CYCLAMEN, the popular florist’s plant, is from the Mediterranean region and central Europe. Everywhere it is pronounced as per the horticultural pronunciation guide “sik-la-men”. To my knowledge, only Australia and the US pronounce it rhyming with “cycle”.

Garden centres abound with cyclamen at this time of the year, but unfortunately tens of thousands sold as indoor plants are thrown out once they finish flowering by unwitting people who don’t realise they can be planted in the garden or used in outdoor hanging baskets.

Ideally their soil preference is one part leaf-mould, one part soil and one part washed river sand planted in a semi-shaded position.

In their native growing regions they experience extreme heat plus snow and frost in winter, which makes them ideally suited for growing in Canberra gardens.

WHY do we recommend an apple a day? This has been a good year for most varieties of apples. Getting back to the “why” question: apples have four times the antioxidants as the current trend to drink green tea. Or 10 times more oxidants than the equally trendy goji berry juice. Apples, skin and all with their combination of antioxidants, fibre, potassium and other minerals all help to keep the body feel younger inside and out. More importantly, they help fight cancer, heart disease and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

IN the early days of Canberra block sizes were large enough to have fruit trees, a veggie garden and a lawn, wow!

Most gardens had at least two apple trees, one for cooking and one for eating. Apple orchards abounded in the Yass district in the early 1920s and 1930s but now, except for perhaps one, they are gone.

Since the 1960s, two-thirds of all the orchards in Britain have been lost. The number of varieties of apples there meant that years ago you could eat a different variety of apple every day for six years and never actually get to eat all of them!

In Canberra, you’ll be hard put to find apples or fruit trees of any variety in the new suburbs. Where do you find room for even parsley on a block of just 270 square metres? And yet our town council still keeps persisting in the concept of Canberra as a “garden city”.


  • Keep bird baths clean of falling leaves.
  • One last feed of lawn fertiliser won’t go astray before winter.
  • After leaf fall on fruit trees, give them clean up spray with lime sulphur.
  • John Grubb will speak on bees at the meeting of the Horticultural Society at the Wesley Church Centre, National Circuit, Forrest, 7.30pm, May 15. John is the training manager for the ACT Beekeepers Association. All welcome.

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