Tiny Winter Treasures

Winter Header web

From Trevor Nottle - The cold, slow weather of Winter gives gardeners an opportunity to grow and enjoy some small plants that would scarcely attract a second glance in the floral competition of the warmer months.

In particular small, early bulbs are very useful in this regard. Interplanted with later shooting perennials and small shrubs they will flower when the bigger plants are dormant and benefit from the shade as the bigger plants leaf out. Like all bulbs, the small kinds need a dry resting period over Summer but they will not tolerate being baked in soils over-heated by direct sunshine. Being thrifty plants, accustomed to living in hungry root-filled soils among low shrubs and herbs – such as the phrygana of Greece and the maquis and garrigue* of Provence, they get by with a light sprinkle of tomato food applied as the new leaves emerge.

*Two kinds of shrub, one with small shrubs and stunted trees, the other with dwarf shrubs and low herbaceous perennials.

Winter 1 Snowdrops web

Snowdrops flowers come what may, wind, rain, frost and hail.

SnowdropsGalanthus species. A race of winter flowering bulbs with strong cultural connections to Europe and England, which explains their current popularity. While many species are available from specialist bulb growers, the hardiest kinds are derived from Galanthus Elwesii, which are readily available from growers in Victoria and Tasmania. Silver green leaves appear first followed by stems holding up pristine bells of white flowers; the outer three petals are snowy white and the inner three are marked with green blotches in a variety of combinations – by which the numerous kinds can be distinguished.

Winter 2 Mouse plant web

 Mouse plant, a great favourite with children and so easy to grow.

Asrisarum vulgarethe Mouse Plant. A very eager colonizer of shady dry-ish spots that appears in late Autum bearing 2 or 3 narrow cordate leaves (heart shaped) with some silvery blotches. By mid-Winter short stems appear and hold up curious brown, hooded flowers with white stripes. Most appealing to children and a very willing do-er. A tuberous plant well suited to dry out-of-the-way spots where it can multiply happily without becoming a nuisance. A plant much loved by Colonial era gardeners that has now fallen from favour but charming none-the-less.


 Winter 3 Cyclamen coum web

Cyclamen coum has no common name which seems appropriate for such a rare beauty.

Cyclamen coum - A race of small tubers from Turkey where they inhabit mountain passes and coastal plains generally among rocks and under the high cover of deciduous trees. There are many selected cultivars in a range of leaf patterns and flower colours ranging from pure white to deep rose and cerise. By not digging around the tubers new seedlings are encouraged which can be moved to new spots after a year or two. Tubers produce large amounts of seed which will soon spread to make a delightful colony.


 Winter 4 Helleborus cyclophyllus web

The Green Hellebore is but one of a handful that shows green flowers; slow to get started, it will make a strong and floriferous clump inside 5 years.

Helleborus cyclophyllus A strong green flower colour marks this Hellebore as one of distinction. Hailing from northern Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Albania this is a plant of the edges of deciduous forests among rocks and leaf mold. At mid-Winter the leaves have blackened and should be cut away. Very soon the flower stems will emerge and grow strongly, first showing a ruff of bright green leaves with matching flower buds held among them. The flower buds and stalks will keep growing until they stand above the leaves and the flowers open to the familiar pendant circular flowers with prominent stamens and anthers – all dressed in a brilliant apple green.


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