Gardens for the cool amongst us

Keith Mundy

With the cooler months of the year fast approaching, our gardens can become somewhat drab. Consider adding some colour to the garden—this not only makes the garden look great but also encourages us to get outside, now the heat of summer is over.

There are many plants that can brighten up any garden and warm our hearts with their beauty, and good nurseries will be full of colourful plants just waiting to get out there.
You can add colour in two ways: with flowering plants, and with plants that retain their leaves and are coloured other than green.
I’ll start with annuals that can be planted in pots or the in the ground. These give instant colour and will last until the warmer weather arrives. Pansies, viola, primula, snapdragons and poppies are but a few that come to mind. You can plant them as immature seedlings or as plants already in flower and these give an instant effect. Planted in a full-sun position with a compost-enriched soil or a premium potting mix and fed with a liquid fertiliser, they are a simple and inexpensive way to brighten up your day.
For a more permanent display try using perennials, but be aware that even though they do well in the full sun during winter, you might need to plant some under deciduous trees to give them protection from summer sun.
Many perennials add colour by either flower or foliage and the foliage forms can vary from deep purple to yellow and various shades of variegation. One of my favourites is the amazing Hellebore. These beautiful plants range in colour from white to pink and purple with varieties being single or double. Nurseries specialising in this type of plant will have them in stock now. Other plants to be considered are Polemoniums for their variegated foliage, Penstemon Huskers Red for its scarlet foliage and Heuchera for their interesting range of colours.
An amazing genus of plants is the Salvias. Many are winter-flowering and, with many new varieties appearing on the market, there will certainly be one or more of these that will brighten up your autumn/winter garden.
If annuals and perennials don’t take your fancy, then consider shrubs that have either a variegated or coloured foliage. Variegated foliage plants add another interesting dimension to your garden as in winter many other plants nearby have lost their leaves.
Abelia, a small shrub suited to hedging or as a single specimen plant, can add around-year interest. Two lovely forms are available at the moment, one with a green and silver variegation and the other green and gold. Both will take part shade or full sun. Other variegated plants include Euonymous, Aucuba and Metrosideros (NZ Christmas bush for the coastal garden).
Single-coloured foliage plants that have standout beauty in their foliage but also the added bonus of flowers are also a great addition for the autumn/winter garden. Loropetalum with its burgundy foliage and pink flowers is a beauty. This can be hedged or used as a single specimen. Teucrium with its silver foliage and purple flowers is a good one for a coastal garden.
One shouldn’t forget the amazing selection of Australian natives that flower in the winter and these beauties add colour and also supply food for nectar-feeding birds during the colder months.
The plants that I have mentioned above are but a miniscule of what is available to brighten up the garden and your pots so the rest is up to you. Don’t be afraid to use combinations of plants as many annuals, perennials and shrubs work very well together.
Finally, remember that plants still need water even as the days start to cool off—not as much as in the warmer months but it still must happen, particularly pots.
Until next time.