It’s the first winter for our new baby, Cyclamen Coum.

“The rain soaks deep into the soil for the most benefit, helping trees, shrubs and flowering winter perennials,” says gardening columnist CEDRIC BRYANT.

IT’S hard to ignore all the rain we’ve received in the past few weeks – fair to say it’s going to be a terrific spring.

Cedric Bryant.

The rain soaks deep into the soil for the most benefit, especially for trees and shrubs. This also helps the flowering winter perennials, so let’s have a look at some of these. It’s surprising how many plants flower in winter. 

I simply adore the cyclamen family. Most will be familiar with the deep pink C. Persicum that’s flooding every garden centre and florist shop, and which makes an ideal hanging basket plant. I love C. Coum, in flower at present, which is perfect as a small ground cover for its marbled leaves and tiny, pale-pink flowers. It will easily spread to 30-40cm. Mine was kindly given to me by a friend, Greg, a plant collector supremo, and this is its first winter. Another variety for ground cover is the ivy-leaved C. Hederifolium, again for its marbled ivy leaves (Hedera is the botanical name for ivy). These are native from Turkey to Lebanon and Syria. 

There are numerous other perennials with marble leaves, such as Pulmonaria “Electric Blue”. It flowers from late winter through to late spring with its stunning blue flowers. This is ideal for shady areas and I have planted a group of five that truly look perfect. It is low-growing, just 30cm high with a spread of 50cm. 

Another great ground cover, although at times can be a bit too vigorous, is Viola labradorica, just one of a family of more than 95 violas. Common names include American dog violet or Alpine violet. It may surprise readers to find out it’s a native of Greenland. In geological terms, the country being all ice and snow is a relatively recent occurrence. For thousands of years, Greenland was occupied by the Vikings, living and grazing their cattle with a wide range of plants. 

A great ground cover, but Viola labradorica can be a bit too vigorous at times.

This viola is covered with tiny mauve and violet flowers in spring, with attractive purple bordering on black leaves. It can be a little bit too vigorous and self-seeds readily. I planted it near a border alongside a path edged with mondo grass. Once it gets into this, it’s almost impossible to separate the two of them. Maybe you can learn from my mistake, but it certainly is an excellent ground cover of 5-10cm high with a spread of 15-20cm. When in flower, it’s a most attractive plant and perfect for pots. 

SOMETIMES one gets into a habit and visits only one nursery, which is a mistake. I have a collection of nearly 20 varieties of daphne plants, and get quite excited when I find another to add to my collection. My favourite nursery for daphne is Mount Wilson in the Blue Mountains, which has unfortunately closed.

However I found another variety to add to my collection almost right at my back door, in Greengold at Federation Square. Daphne “Scent of Summer”, a tantalising name, an evergreen variety growing to about 1.2 metres high and with a 1.5 metre spread. Here is an idea that I have never seen put into practice – has any reader used daphne plants as a hedge? Can you imagine the magnificent fragrance of such a hedge leading up to the front door? Believe it or not, there are in excess of 200 varieties of daphne. Obviously, I have a long way to go.

WITH the present weather conditions, it is still a good time to plant deciduous plants; many are budding up ready for a super spring floral festival. Whilst they won’t be in flower now, at least one can look at the labels. Don’t miss this opportunity.  

I AM a regular reader of the weekly UK-based “Country Life” magazine, and get a copy from our excellent libraries. There are heaps of great garden articles but I must just mention one. With all the problems of covid and venues not having an audience, the Liceu Opera House in Barcelona, Spain, in June 2020 hosted a full house with a difference. Folk could watch online, but the UceLi Quartet performed Puccini before an audience of 2,292 pot plants in the auditorium! You can Google it to see the amazing picture.

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Ian Meikle, editor