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Good Reasons to Garden in Winter Print E-mail
Alice Spenser-Higgs   
Wednesday, 30 July 2008

It is quite a eye opener to visit the local garden centre and see just how many plants are in their prime in winter – Primulas, Cyclamen, Pansies and Violas, Diascia, Dianthus, Lavandulas, Iberis, Azaleas, Camellias, Conifers, Restios, and Pelargoniums were all looking wonderful.

If you are needing some retail therapy (and some colour therapy) put a visit to the local garden centre on your to do list. Walking out with just one flowering plant lifts the spirits. Also, flowering pot plants, like Cineraria, Primula acaulis and Cyclamen, have a much longer lifespan in the cooler winter months.

The advantage of planting nursery grown plants out in the garden during winter is that they are so much more settled in for spring.

Transplant shock and trauma is minimised in winter because the growth is at a much slower pace.

Winter wonders
Planting out in winter is a garden tradition that we have pretty much forgotten about. Deciduous fruit trees, roses and ornamentals were supplied country wide from the open ground but with the advent of container grown plants that old practice has died out.

Gardening in winter is so much more comfortable than in summer. It is not nearly as hot, sweaty and tiring digging up a storm on a sunny winter morning. As an alternative form of aerobic exercise it is equal to gym or a brisk morning walk and you have something to show for it at the end.

While working out in the garden you soon notice other tasks and chores that are easily overlooked. These include the construction and maintenance of paving, water features, gazebos, fences and other garden features. This “spare time” can also be put to good use by looking at the layout of the garden and seeing how changes can be made. Garden revamps, makeovers and upgrades are much easier to undertake when the ’bones’ of the garden are laid bare. Making design alterations does less damage to the garden now than in spring.

August Abundance
If you are not sure about what to plant in your winter garden, here are some new varieties of tried and tested favourites that will flower through to early summer.

Alyssum Mulberry The new Alyssum Wonderland ‘Mulberry’ mix, which consists of shades of lavenders, purple and white is a perfect complement to a bed of yellow pansies, calendulas, ranunculus or daffodils. Although alyssum can be grown throughout the year it is definitely at its best in the cooler seasons. They do best in full winter sun and if planted in semi-shade will not flower as well and the growth will be loose and leggy.

Shock Wave Mystic Pink Petunia’s love sunny, dry highveld winters. The new Shock Wave petunia is ideal for containers and hanging baskets as well as for smaller spaces in the garden. It grows up and then outwards into a nicely rounded shape. The flowers are just a little bigger than the Calibrachoa, so it has the feel of a mini petunia, but with massive flower power. It’s available in shades of ivory, pink, purple and rose.

Abunda Bacopa is a lovely indigenous groundcover that is covered in masses of flowers from spring through to autumn. There is now a new variety with much bigger blooms, appropriately called Bacopa ‘Abunda’ and the result is a knockout. The white or blue flowers are double the size of the originals and they glow against the dark green leaves. The new Bacopa ‘Abunda’ grows about 25cm high and can also be used as a border or edging (space plants 30cm apart). It cascades beautifully if planted in a container, around the base of a taller plant, or in hanging baskets. Plant in full sun to semi shade in rich soil that is kept moderately moist at all times. It tolerates heat well.

Alice Spenser-Higgs is freelance journalist and garden writer.
For more information on gardening and plants in South Africa, visit www.ballstraathof.co.za .

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