With the sun lower in the sky every day from now ’til the end of the year and the rams coming on, this is the time when we appreciate more than usual good fortune in living where flowers bloom in December, where vegetables can be harvested in January and where winter doesn’t mean bare branches, fallen leaves and leaden skies.
Planting for winter interest is ideal for areas close to walks, doorways, and spots are easily seen from indoors. A Hardenbergia clambering over a fence or around an entry pergola is wonderful in January, a cloud of lavender. More unusual Hardenbergia selections are the white, ‘Icicle,’ a dark lavender “Myrtle Wolf,” and a closely related species, Hardenbergia comptoniana with blooms tending to blue rather than lavender. They can and should be cut hard after bloom to keep them fresh and billowy. Those old standbys Jasminum polyanthum and Solanum jasminoides (potato vine) need no introduction, and despite their ubiquity are good solid performers, again, ones that benefit from a hard, some would say severe, trim in spring.
Our mild winters can have rhododendrons blooming as early as January. Several early blooming Maddenii are suitable for small gardens or pots and a number of them are fragrant. Vircyas, extraordinary tropical rhododendrons best grown in pots, are wonderful winter bloomers. We all like the brilliant orange and yellow selections and the very fragrant peach/yellow clones.
Citrus come into full fruit over winter and Meyer lemons are at their best in January and February. The key to keeping them looking good is ample year-round fertilizer and snail control. Eureka and Lisbon lemons will perform well if they have enough warmth and room to grow.
Many bulbs, narcissus, freesia, chasmanthe, to name a few, are in bloom by early January and with careful selection, bulbs can still be going strong right through June.