Create a winter wonderland in your garden

The coldest months are the best time to take stock of your garden, make some plans and – surprisingly – even do some planting.

Breathe life into your garden

There’s nothing exciting about a bare patch of dirt, yet that’s what we can end up looking at during winter. But instead of waiting for the seasonal delights of the warmer months, you can be creative with planning and planting to breathe life into your winter garden. “It may seem strange to plant now, but autumn and early winter are gentle periods,” says horticulturist and garden writer Roger Fox. “Plus, with deciduous trees bare of leaves, now is the time to take note of gaps in the landscape and fill in with screening plants, feature trees or a mix of foliage colours and shapes.

Pick the right plants

Choose plants that will extend interest through the seasons. Evergreen trees, such as wattles, camellias and certain magnolias, are ideal as the backbone of the garden, providing colour to a winter landscape. There are other plants that add stunning beauty, too. Look to the unusual leaf forms, colours and scents of conifers – fine-leaved junipers, lemon-scented cupressus or blue spruce. Balance the evergreens with deciduous trees, such as crepe myrtle, silver birch or Japanese maples; when their rich, fiery autumnal displays are over, the show continues with sculptural silhouettes and textured bark. 

Ornamental grasses and flowers can be major players on the winter stage. “Browse the potted colour at your local store and plant up a cluster of pots to concentrate the effect – violas, polyanthus, cinerarias and pansies are perfect,” says Roger.

Camellia flower

Enhance the plan

A well-designed garden is balanced with shape, structure, colour and texture. “Take a good look at the composition of your garden. Does it have adequate diversity of colours, shapes and textures to make it attractive through winter?” asks Roger. “Consider livening it up with bold red and burgundy-leaved plants, splashes of warm gold foliage and hints of crisp silver.” Interplant species to create pockets of interest. You could try contrasting silvery hues of cineraria with the purple tones of phormium or loropetalum. If you need height, try going bold with the architectural forms of yuccas, agaves or clumping bamboo, or plant in rows to provide structure and uniformity. For a softer approach, ornamental grasses such as lomandra or purple fountain grass (Pennisetum advena), offer movement and sound.

Add a pop of instant colour to your winter garden with a grouping of pansies.

garden plants
With their large striking leaves in tones of red, structural bromeliads make a dramatic statement.

Productive patch

Add elements of country life to your backyard. Chickens reward with fresh eggs and manure for fertiliser; ensure the coop provides protection from foxes, even in suburbia. Consult your local council for any restrictions. If you’d like to keep bees, check your council’s bee policy and the state’s primary industries department for licences, regulations and information. In cooler climates, grow fruits such as apples that prefer colder weather, or invest in a green house to extend the range of edibles that you can grow.


Nourish to flourish

Whatever the season, it’s a good idea to improve the soil so all plants will thrive, especially if you’re planting. “Add organic matter, such as compost or organic-based plant foods, to encourage microorganisms and promote soil health,” advises Mark Ellis, marketing director at Evergreen Garden Care (formerly Scotts Australia). “It’s important not to over-fertilise, as strong nitrogen sources can burn new seedlings,” he says. To make the most of winter flowers, feed them well with a fertiliser that’s high in potassium to promote blooms and use regularly through the season. “Controlled-release fertilisers are fantastic, as they only release nutrients when moisture and temperature allow it, which means less waste or leaching in the cooler months,” adds Mark.

viola flowers
Add a pop of instant colour to your winter garden with a grouping of pansies.

Protect from cold

After planting, cover garden beds with an organic mulch, such as pine bark, to help insulate the soil from frost and cold snaps. “Frost damage is hard to prevent, but mulching and watering the night before a predicted frost may help to maintain soil temperatures,” explains Mark. You can also use frost covers or cloths to protect plants. 

Do resist pruning parts of plants that have been frost damaged, as this can stimulate new growth, which is disastrous if another frost passes. These sections are also functioning to protect tissue that hasn’t been damaged by the initial frost.

wheelbarrow in the garden

Get creative

“While maintenance jobs are at their lowest ebb, you can use this time to add ornaments and artistic flourishes to your garden,” says Roger. “Make a mirror out of an old window frame, paint a timber bench in chalk paint or buy off-the-shelf garden screens to create zones or hide ugly utilities.” 

A fire pit is also a great decorative element to introduce into your winter landscape. Use it as a focal point and surround it with cushioned seats – it’s one sure-fire way to seduce you into the garden. 

outdoor fire pit

Bring life into the garden

Have all bases covered, including trees, perennials, shrubs and ground covers, in varying colours, to make your garden feel complete.

Photo credit: Brigid Arnott, Gap Photos/C Drake, Gap Photos/J Kossak, Gap Photos/F Lea, Gap Photos/N Stocken,  Getty Images, Gap Photos/B Wilson, Gap Photos/FHF Greenmedia.
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