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?
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 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
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.