Red heads in the frost

Prunus mume “Rosebud”...

Prunus mume “Rosebud”... the first ornamental flowering tree to come into blossom.

In winter, red can give a garden a real uplift, especially on a frosty morning.  Some plants with red berries have a long tradition behind them such as holly, a favourite winter decoration in Europe.

Nandina domestica or “Sacred Bamboo” illustrated here also has a tradition.

Botanically, not a bamboo at all, so it is not going to take over your garden. This is a traditional house-warming present in Japan.


The rich red berries of Nandina domestica

The rich red berries of Nandina domestica… a traditional house-warming present in Japan.

It is said that if you buy a home with this plant in the garden, do not remove it, even if you do not like it. The story goes that if it is in the garden “whilst you may never be rich, you will never be poor”. It does not work if you race out and buy one. Unfortunately, we did not have this growing in our garden when we bought the house!


Along Northbourne Avenue there is a carpet of bright red berries clearly defining the drip line of Cratageous ‘Smithiana’ or hawthorn, so beloved of birds for their winter diet.

Many old-fashioned roses have large red hips.  Refer to my Cedfacts garden information sheet at for uses of rose hips including rose hip tea and rose hip syrup.

The ground cover Cotoneaster dammeri in winter is covered with sealing-wax red berries. In the past, the Parks and Gardens people planted this in neighbourhood parks, remnants can still be seen in Deakin, Forrest and other older suburbs.

Besides berries, let us not forget plants of which the leaves turn red the colder it gets, such as Nandina domestica “Nana Purpurea”, the dwarf version of the Nandina mentioned above.

This had a huge following in the ‘70s until many people decided it was too common and it lost its popularity. Planted in groups rather than the ubiquitous path edging, it can bring a splash of colour into the winter garden.  An improved version is Nandina domestica “Gulf Stream” (N. d. “MoonBay”) with red bordering on orange leaves in winter. I highly recommend this plant and it looks great in a container.

LAST week I made a brief reference to Prunus mume “Rosebud”, the flowering apricot now in full flower about town. This is the first ornamental flowering tree to come into blossom. Every year, when folk see the blossoms in early winter, without fail, I get calls asking: “Is spring coming early this year?”.  The answer is “no”, this is when it is supposed to flower.

A few weeks later Prunus mume “Splendens”, also a flowering apricot starts to blossom. Next for a continuous floral display is Prunus “Pollardii”, a flowering almond in late July/early August. This is followed in late August/early September by Prunus “Blireana” the first of the flowering plums. To keep the blossoms coming, more suggestions next week.

This week in the frosty, winter garden

  • Check deciduous shrubs to see if ties have been left on and are cutting into trunks/branches.
  • Look for summer/autumn flowering bulbs, which need to be planted now. These include Liliums, Day Lilies, Gladioli, Peonies and Nerines.
  • Read about the origins of plants before you buy. Do they come from drier continents similar to ours?
  • Advance diary date: Rose pruning demonstration by the Horticultural Society at 1 Pillar Place, Lyons, 1pm to 4pm, Saturday, July 16 and Sunday, July 17.


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