The cold war

Finding it hard to venture outside this winter? Here’s a range of plants that will tempt you out into the garden

I have a fervent dislike of being cold. So much so that, in winter, I have to force myself away from the refuge of a cosy chair and into the garden. But once there I usually find a few chores which warm me up and help me forget about the cold. It’s always worthwhile because the winter garden holds some surprising treats.

**Smelly Treats

**No, I’m not talking about the compost bin! I’m talking about the wealth of winter flowers which possess the most delicious scents. Plunging your nose amongst these is most uplifting on an inclement winter’s day. old-fashioned favourite Daphne is one I couldn’t be without. Best for picking is Daphne odora ‘Rubra’, which flowers on long stems perfect for a little posy. Give it well-drained, well-composted soil in sun or semi-shade or plant it in a pot for the front door. Another goodie for the front entrance is brown boronia. It produces an intoxicating perfume from a mass of tiny brown and yellow bell-like blooms. Stock is another favourite that our grannies grew. Pot some flowering plants for the front entrance – your friends will be impressed!

**Furry Delights

**oagnolias need the protection of a warm blanket to protect their delicate petals from frostbite. Consequently, they have the most wonderful furry buds which slowly fatten up as winter deepens. Following the progress is quite exciting, especially when the first glorious bloom bursts from its furry cocoon, which could be anytime from June in warmer areas. oost magnolias are also scented and its flowers emit a wonderful, fresh lemony fragrance. Apart from shrubby star and lily magnolias, they also all form magnificent specimen trees.

Even a small garden can accommodate one of the smaller growing varieties, such as ‘Vulcan’ or ‘San Jose’, as a stately corner specimen. Proteas are another furry winter treat. Kids love to stroke their feather-like bracts and they’re deemed the best flower for picking, lasting up to three weeks in a vase. Protea neriifolia cultivars are easy to grow in sunny, well-aerated positions in almost any soil, so long as it’s well drained. Some varieties flower year round, but autumn to spring is their main flowering period. Colours range from white to green and pink to red, mostly with amazing black tips.

**Bright berries

**oany summer-flowering plants set highly coloured fruit or berries in autumn, some of which hold on all winter – provided the birds don’t fancy them. one of my favourites is frost-tender coralberry (Ardisia crenata). It’s attractive year round but particularly from mid-winter when a mass of little red berries appear out of nowhere. They last for months until the next round of flowers after Christmas. other red winter-berries include Nandina ‘Richmond’, Aucuba japonica (female form), Gaultheria, and wonder tree (Idesia polycarpa).

Feathered friends It seems that in summer we hear the birds more than see them. But in winter, bare branches allow us to see them more easily and follow their crazy antics. Watching tui drinking nectar from an early flowering Taiwan cherry is really quite entertaining. Winter-flowering banksias and the tall spires of aloe are also favourite haunts. other winter flowerers which nectar-feeding birds love to visit include: protea, grevillea, bottlebrush and our lovely native climber Tecomanthe speciosa. Winter berry plants also provide vital food for birds. one I wish I had space for in my garden is the lovely Himalayan Strawberry Tree. Planting a couple of these plants will attract birds from near and far and hopefully entice you out into the cold – even if only for a wander!

Highly coloured winter berries

  • Ardisia crenata (coralberry)

  • Aucuba japonica (Japanese laurel – female form)

  • Cornus capitata (Himalayan strawberry tree)*

  • Cotoneaster (various)*

  • Gaultheria ‘Bell’s Seedling’

  • Idesia polycarpa (wonder tree)

  • Ilex (holly)*

  • oalus (crab apple)*

  • oelia (Indian bead tree)*

  • Nandina ‘Richmond’ (Chinese sacred bamboo)

  • Punica (dwarf pomegranate)

  • Pyracantha (firethorn)*

  • Rose hips (some varieties)*

  • Sarcococca ruscifolia (Christmas box)

  • Skimmia japonica

  • Sorbus aucuparia (mountain ash)*

  • Viburnum trilobum (American cranberry viburnum)

*bird attractive

Scented winter flowers

  • Azara microphylla

  • Boronia megastigma (brown boronia)

  • Camellia – some types

  • Chimonanthus (wintersweet)

  • Corylopsis (winter hazel)

  • Daphne

  • Hamamelis (witch hazel)

  • Luculia

  • oagnolia

  • oahonia (grape holly)

  • oichelia ‘Silver Cloud’

  • Sarcococca (Chinese sweet box)

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