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The Best Plants in Winter

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by Susan J Bowes (subscribe)
Writing for pleasure to showcase the best Australia has on offer.
Published July 24th 2014
Colour ignites Winter's beauty
I'm not a lover of real cold weather, although you would hardly say we endure the winters these days that was once experienced decades ago during my youth. Back then, air-conditioners in houses and cars were not heard of and heaters were usually a wood fire or a kerosene heater. A wood fire did warm the whole house; that was for sure.

We learn in school how many animals prepare their homes for the coming colder temperatures and hibernate there until winter is over. I feel just the same on a winter's night arriving home from work when the sun has gone down with all I'm wanting to do is to get inside and turn the heater on or have a warm bath. You rarely see a snake in winter or in colder countries.

So what about nature, our gardens, the trees and the shrubs? I always think of winter as a time when flowers disappear and we are left with either green or autumn coloured leaves on the trees. We think of Spring as a time when new growth appears and spring garden carnivals are abundant for all to see. However, there are some plants I look forward to seeing in winter as these produce colour in a season when all else seems dormant.

Garden, Cactus, Winter, Shrubs
An abundant display of Zygocactus

The Zygocactus or botanical name "Schlumbergera" is one of my favourites, not only because they are a succulent and not needing much water, but also very easy to grow from just a cutting. They were named after Frederic Schlumberger a collector of cacti who lived near Rouen in France in the mid-nineteenth century.

They come in a number of beautiful soft pastel shades as well as white and grow well in a semi-shaded area or under a pergola. Their radiance coincides with the Maryborough Show Holiday in the latter part of May and even though I'm not living in Maryborough anymore, as soon as I see the first burst of colour I am reminded of my home town. I'm reluctant to re-pot mine as it's rather huge and it still continues to provide a beautiful bouquet of colour each year. The stems also easily break off when moved.

Garden, Bushes, Bougainvillea, Winter
Bougainvillea Bush - a beauty indeed

Driving to work each morning in winter I have noticed a magnificent Bougainvillea Bush. Positioned outside the house it certainly gives privacy on a busy main road. It's one of those things that I can drive on that road every day of the week yet only see its vibrancy and colour at this time of year. However, Bougainvillea's will flower all year round.

Don Burke states the Bougainvillea thrives by neglect and pruning is not usually recommended. Their thorns enable them to grip onto tree branches and they can give the gardener a very nasty bite as well. They are good for the busy or the lazy gardener although they can take over the whole garden choking other trees.

Garden, Orange Honeysuckle, Winter, Vine
Orange Honeysuckle great as a vine or bush

Another vine or bush in Winter with a vibrant colour is found on the Orange Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa). In Brisbane, I have seen it hanging over many fences in a sea of orange flowers. It does not need a lot of care apart from watering and pruning if you wish to keep its growth under control. Some people may be sensitive to its aroma. The vine produces nectar and will attract butterflies. It is a fast climber and will seek out the sun, although it can grow in the shade only the flower will not be as intense. The orange honeysuckle can grow in most climates and can tolerate winter temperatures that get as low as -30 degrees and as warm as 30 degrees. It is a native of British Columbia in Canada.

If you can't plant one of these lovely beautiful plants in your yard, enjoy the scenery as you notice their colour everywhere around Brisbane.
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Where: Everywhere
Cost: Plants can be purchased from any nursery
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