This is one of my favourite quotes, from the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, and it also happily sums up my writing process in winter – on the surface it might not look as though there is much going on, but hopefully in my mind and on the laptop screen something is germinating and growing!
Even though there might not be much to look at in my garden in winter, I know I can stroll the streets of my neighbourhood where there are far more industrious gardeners than I, and be rewarded with glimpses of bright scarlet, indigo, orange, sunny yellow and white, from marigolds, poinsettia, alyssum – all flowers that I remember from my English childhood – that never fail to raise my spirits on gloomy days.
Here are half a dozen of my favourites, winter flowering plants and shrubs that are low-maintenance, tolerant of neglect and easy to grow!
1. Hellebore – also known at the winter rose. I love the delicate tones of this perennial flowering plant, and the name alone is so beautifully poetic that I can’t help rolling it around on my tongue.
2. Marguerite daisies – white and yellow is such a cheery combination and these are simple, uncomplicated flowers that grow in great clumps, for plenty of winter brightness.
3. Native violets – these tiny little shade-loving flowers will grow and spread with very little effort and are always a delight to discover in woodland areas, or as underplantings in the garden. Unless you look closely, you might miss them. Small but exquisitely formed, I often imagine that fairies might have planted them.
4. Hardenbergia violacea – also known by the delightful name, Happy Wanderer. This is an evergreen climbing plant, native to Australia, which blooms in late winter and spring with a mass of dark purple small sweet pea-like flowers. There’s something about purple flowers that evokes the mysteriousness of winter. There are also varieties that have white or pale pink flowers.
5. Camellia – I have two camellia sasanqua bushes in my front garden and the lipstick pink of the flowers against the glossy dark green leaves brightens up the dull days of winter. I sometimes snip a few blooms to bring inside for a cheap arrangement and a splash of colour.
6. Golden wattle – seeing this flowering at the end of winter is the first sign that spring is on its way, and its brightness never fails to cheer me up. It’s also a plant that features in The Botanist’s Daughter, and represents new life and growth – just what I’m looking for as spring approaches.
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