In some areas of Australia and New Zealand, winter is a season of ample rainfall and cool temperatures that can be enjoyed in the company of numerous garden plants.

Although many plants slip into dormancy where winters are mild, there are plenty of evergreen trees, shrubs and perennials, as well as hardy annuals, that will keep the garden vibrantly alive with greenery and flowers through the slow season.

The right time to landscape?

The right time to landscape?

If you are developing a new landscape, winter may not be slow at all. I

n many mild-winter climates, autumn is the preferred planting season for perennials and evergreens, both large and small.

When planted in the autumn, these plants will benefit from the cool temperatures and winter rains.

By the time the hot weather returns the following summer, they are comfortably settled in with strong, deep roots established in the soil.

In addition, autumn is the best time for dividing some perennials, such as daylilies, which can become crowded if they have spent several years in the same spot.

When divided at the appropriate time, they will be well rooted and ready to bloom when spring arrives.

The tyranny of the lawn

The tyranny of the lawn

The main feature of many gardens is a lush, green lawn.

In warm climates, warm-season grasses, such as couch, buffalo and kikuyu, are the favoured grasses.

During spring, summer and autumn, these lawns are green expanses that demand regular mowing, watering and lots of fertiliser.

As the weather cools, warm-season grasses will wind down and may become dormant.

In areas that experience winter frosts, warm-season lawns are liable to turn brown and lifeless with the first frost.

While some varieties claim to hold their green colour through winter (including ‘Wintergreen’ couch and ‘Sir Walter’ buffalo), most warm-season grasses languish between dull green and straw colour.

Some buffalo lawns may develop a crimson tinge, which can be removed by mowing in late autumn or early winter.

If the thought of a brown lawn over winter is unappealing, it can be disguised under a blanket of green by oversowing it in autumn with cool-season grass seed such as rye or tall fescue.

In climates with cold to mild winters and mild summers, cool-season grasses are the preferred choice for lawns, provided adequate water is available.

These lawns demand lots of summer watering, but become lush and green in winter, and provide a pleasant green contrast to the bare branches of deciduous trees and shrubs.

As the winter draws to an end, they are often starred with English daisies.

Willing winter bloomers

Willing winter bloomers

If you have acid soil and partial or filtered shade to accommodate them, camellias can be counted upon to colour up winter in mild climates.

Sasanqua camellias lead the show with their first flowers opening in late summer and progressing through autumn into early winter.

In late autumn and winter, the japonica camellias feature, with varieties opening progressively until spring.

Camellias are a good choice for an evergreen hedge, or can be the central feature of your winter garden.

For extra interest, edge with other winter-flowering plants such as pansies and primulas, or early-flowering jonquils and narcissus.

In mild-winter climates gardens can be a mass of flowers with careful planning. In sunny spots, deciduous magnolias are stunning as they come into bloom in late winter while their branches are still bare.

The display lasts into early spring as the leaves appear.

Surround them with Marguerite daisies, African daisies and narcissus for a breath of spring in winter.

Colourful winter annuals

Colourful winter annuals

In any mild-winter climate, there are lots of cold-hardy annuals waiting to be discovered for wintertime entertainment.

Consider planting dusty miller, dianthus, ornamental kale, poppies, pansies and snapdragons.

You can find them in garden centres in punnets from autumn onwards.

They may not bloom much during the shortest days of winter, but will provide great colour again in early spring.

When in doubt about the staying power of not-quite-hardy plants, such as snapdragons, plant them in a sheltered place.

A wall or building can absorb heat during the day and radiate warmth to nearby plants at night.

Such a sheltered spot also helps to protect plants from being damaged by harsh winter winds or frosts.

In mild-winter climates, planning and preparation for the spring and summer garden continues through the colder months.

In frost-free climates, make the most of the cool conditions to prepare new garden beds, or rework and replant existing ones.

In subtropical areas, spring comes early in the garden as petunias and annual phlox burst into bloom.

These annuals can be started in winter as seeds or seedlings.

In all areas, you can keep winter and spring annuals such as pansies and sweet peas blooming for many months by regularly picking or deadheading spent flowers.

The application of a fortnightly dose of liquid fertiliser will also help to keep your annuals growing and blooming well.

What to look for: Compact plantings

What to look for: Compact plantings

A mild winter usually means a long summer is ahead, giving you time to grow both cool-season and warm-season annuals.

When looking into a design, group pansies, primulas and other cool-season annuals close together so that nearby permanent plants won’t be disturbed when you pull them up and replace them with summer annuals.

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Reader’s Digest Magazine delayed due to coronavirus
Please be advised that due to the current lockdown in Malaysia and the Philippines, Reader’s Digest magazine will not be available at its regular on-sale date to our subscribers or through our retail channels in these regions. We hope to have the issues available around 15 April in Malaysia and around 24 April in the Philippines, but this is dependent on when the lockdown restrictions are lifted. We sincerely apologise for this inconvenience.
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– The Reader’s Digest team