15 things I like about winter

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Japanese maple tree in my Sydney garden

I don't particularly like winter. I dislike the short days and the cold temperatures, and the seemingly inevitable winter ills can make everything seem so much more dispiriting. Overall, my garden is pretty bare. However, on this glorious weekend, I stepped outside to remind myself that there are in fact lots of good things about winter!

1. The tracery of deciduous trees against brilliant blue skies, which seem more endlessly blue in winter than at any other time of year. With all the leaves now fallen and swept up (a relief), we can now admire the lacy forms of the trees and enjoy the extra sunlight provided now the foliage has gone.

Dew on the leaves of Plectrantus argentatus in my Sydney garden

2. The glistening dew on leaves and flowers after a cold night. I always seem to take more notice of attractive foliage in winter when there are fewer flowers to distract me.

3. The sweet scent of Daphne odora and other winter flowers. These include jonquils, violets, some Camellia japonica cultivars and Luculia.

Haemanthus albi-flos in bloom, with variegated Acanthus mollis

4. Early-flowering bulbs. These include the classics such as snowflakes, jonquils and the old-fashioned tall purple bearded Iris that are often seen in old country gardens, as well as others such as Haemanthus albi-flos (pictured), Tulbaghia simmleri, Iris unguicularis and Nerine bowdenii. Seeing these flowers gives me hope for spring!

Salvia adenophora in my Sydney garden

5. Winter-flowering Salvia. There are many of these - some are very tall and wide, and take up a fair bit of space, such as Salvia 'Timboon', Salvia 'Pink Icicles', Salvia wagneriana and Salvia involucrate x karwinskii 'Winter Lipstick' - but others are a bit easier to incorporate into our gardens, such as Salvia elegans Purple Form, Salvia rubiginosa, Salvia confertiflora and Salvia adenophora (pictured). I love seeing the rich colours of these generously flowering shrubs in winter, and they lift my spirits so much.

6. Daisies. Marguerite daisies start flowering in winter in Sydney and continue all through spring. They are simple blooms but so cheerful!

Helleborus argutifolius in my Sydney garden

7. Hellebores. The Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius, pictured) and Helleborus foetidus start to flower around May and continue on until October, joined in late June or early July by the amazing array of hybrid hellebores that are available these days. These exquisitely sculptured flowers are a joy to see on a cold winter's day and very worthwhile in the garden for their long blooming time.

8. Camellias. Camellia japonica and miniature-flowered Camellia are classic shrubs for winter colour in Sydney. How I wish I had planted more of them when I first moved into my present garden!

A sunny place to sit for a cup of tea in my Sydney garden

9. Sitting in the sun with a cup of tea. This is such a delight in winter in the middle of the day.

10. Buds of spring-flowering shrubs. These have already formed on shrubs such as deciduous Viburnum, Magnolia and Pieris japonica, and give the promise of spring.

11.Beautiful bark. When deciduous trees are bare, we can admire their lovely bark - for example, with crepe myrtles and silver birches.

Lemonade fruit in my Sydney garden

12. Citrus fruits. Citrus trees grow pretty well on the whole in Sydney, and trees are now decoratively laden with lemons, grapefruit, oranges, cumquats and mandarins. The pictured fruit is a lemonade - a delicious cross between a lemon and (I think) a mandarin; it looks like a lemon but is much sweeter, and can be eaten straight off the tree.

13. Plants can be moved easily in winter. I have recently moved around a few shrubs and shrubby perennials that were in the wrong places, and they haven't turned a hair.

14. Weeds and lawns grow slower in winter!

15. Self-sown seedlings of spring annuals, such as Nigella, Orlaya, Primula and heartsease. I love seeing these determined little babies in the garden, as they give it a certain wildness and informality, and by popping up all over the place, they provide a unifying element.