Though lacking the showy displays of spring and summer, with the right planning and planting, winter can be a beautiful time of year in the garden. Sydney’s long summers spoil us with an epic stretch of warm days for planting and pottering in the garden. But all good things come to an end and, while we don’t endure the frosts and bitter temperatures of our southern neighbours, winter–as they say–is coming. The good news? A well-designed garden should be just as enjoyable and lovely to look at in the colder months–and some might even look their best at this time of year
Winter gardens are often short on colour, but a good base of evergreen trees and shrubs will provide lush colour all year round. A good choice for larger backyards is a Cupaniopsis anacardioides (tuckeroo tree), while smaller gardens would suit camellias or Gordonia axillaris (fried egg plant), both of which offer the added bonus of flowers in autumn and early winter. Box hedging and topiary plants, such as Buxus, provide greenery and an element of structure year round.
In the garden beds, winter-flowering plants can provide a cheerful display of bright colour at the gloomiest time of year; think primula, pansies, cyclamen and winter-flowering varieties of aloe.
A combination of evergreen and deciduous plants gives a winter garden its unique brand of beauty, with deciduous trees adding dramatic, sculptural style, as well as a tangible sense of seasons passing, with the turning leaves of autumn fading to stark, bare branches, then announcing the arrival of spring with a flush of new growth.
Trees with dramatic autumnal displays are a little harder to find in our mild climate, but we love forest pansy (Cerics Canadensis) for its stunning burgundy foliage over summer and delicate pink blooms in spring. For a tree that looks stunning when bare, our favourites include crepe myrtle, a hardy native that, as well as being a pretty flowering tree in summer, also develops a gorgeous silvery bark as it ages, which makes it stunning after the leaves have fallen; and Betula nigra for the textural appeal of its peeling white bark.
When the distracting colours of spring and summer have faded, the hard-scaped elements of the garden will really come into their own and a beautiful winter garden can really benefit from some thoughtfully chosen hard elements. Think about including garden art, water features or decorative screens, which will go from supporting act to a playing a lead visual role in winter. Even simple pots – perhaps filled with winter-flowering succulents – can take a winter garden from drab to fab.