Tag Archives: winter flowering plants

A Mid-Winter’s Day in Tikorangi

IMG_8681Winter can be very pink, here. Or so I have often declared. I hereby move my position. Late winter and early spring can be very pink – all those camellias and magnolias. In late autumn to mid-winter, the dominant colours are more inclined to the oranges and yellows with a smattering of reds.

Having been relatively confined by a combination of wintery, wet weather (Mark says he is consistently tipping 2.5cm or an inch out of the rain gauge each morning) and a bad head cold, I decided I would go and see how many flowers I could find that are in the orange, red, yellow colour range. There is still the last of the autumn colour evident but I figured that I would keep to flowers without adding in coloured foliage. It is probably indicative of our soft climate that I can expect to find a range of different blooms in the depths of winter.

IMG_8669I could of course have added in fruit. The citrus trees add a glorious blaze of colour in the depths of winter – just a common old lemon and a very productive mandarin tree in this photo, but the orange trees we have scattered through the ornamental gardens are also indubitably orange and a very cheerful sight for that.

IMG_8464And it is hard to ignore the glory of the persimmon tree, be the sky grey or blue. It is a feature of our climate that we have high sunshine hours and bright, clear light even in mid-winter, albeit interspersed with the rain. We don’t get many days when it is irredeemably grey and gloomy, without spells of clear skies.

IMG_8673The tamarillos are also hanging decoratively. These used to be known as ‘tree tomatoes’, botanically Solanum betaceum. Apparently the ravages of the potato psyllid have hit commercial production hard, but our plants just continue on in a regime of benign neglect. The fruit is usually stewed with sugar but stewed fruit is not part of our diet. I enjoy them more as a fruit cordial. Mark’s father used to like eating them sliced on wholemeal bread with a little raw, chopped onion. The yellow fruit beneath are windfall grapefruit.

IMG_8684But to the flowers. On the left, we have the vestiges of autumn – salvias, impatiens, tree dahlia hybrids, daisies and Oxalis peduncularis. At the front are a few berries and seeds – baby figs from Ficus antiarus,  Nandina domestica ‘Richmond’ , a small berrying shrub whose name escapes me at the moment and the showy seeds from Arisaema speciosum.

Moving to the middle, the winter bloomers include, excitingly, the first of the bulbs – Lachenalias aloides and reflexa, a brave jonquil and the lesser known Phaedranassa carmioli (both Mark and I had to look that one up). The big yellow candlewick flower is Jacobinia chrysostephana adjacent to the flowers of Ligularia reniformis  and what I think is still classified as a datura, not a brugmansia. Also included is an early flowering clivia and Agapetes serpens.

There is only one red azalea out so far, several red camellias but interestingly, the stars are the vireya rhododendrons – plenty of these frost tender subtropicals flowering their socks off and lighting up the woodlands. I guess they speak volumes about the nature of a Tikorangi winter. We should not be complaining too much.

Hovenia dulcis (1)Finally I offer you… the ‘fruit’ of the Japanese raisin tree, Hovenia dulcis. I am guessing that as our plant is maybe 20 years old and planted in a somewhat out of the way position, we just haven’t noticed these before. They are actually the swollen tips of the stems and are edible. They even taste fruity, in a raisin-ish sort of way. Apparently drying them makes them even more raisin-y. It is more a curiosity than an edible essential, but we like these odd additions to our diet here.

Plant collector : Helleborus x sternii

Helleborus sternii in a woodland setting

Helleborus sternii in a woodland setting

There are more hellebores than just the common H. orientalis and sternii is one we appreciate in the winter woodland. It has distinctive green flowers, sometimes flushed purple, and lovely glaucous foliage which is finer in appearance. Glaucous just means it has a blue or grey cast to the colour. It is more upright in growth and does not make as dense a clump as orientalis. In addition to that, it holds its flowers in a cluster above the foliage and many of them are outward facing rather than all nodding (or facing downwards). So it displays its flowers a little better than H. orientalis.

The x sternii means it is a hybrid – in this case a cross between H. argutifolius (from Corsica and Sardinia) and H. lividus (from Majorca). From those origins, you can guess that it is quite happy in hot, dry conditions and the information is often given that it is suited to sunny positions. In our garden, sunny positions are at a premium whereas we have woodland in abundance so we are always after plant candidates for shadier positions. Plants like this hellebore which are not at all fussy, are very handy to add winter interest.

Sternii can be raised from seed or by division. There are named selections of sternii around – the seed from these won’t come true so they need to be divided or increased by cutting if you want to keep their special features. It appears that many of the newer forms are extending the colour range into purer pinks, burgundy, slate and white – akin to the orientalis colour range. We only have the original green flowered forms and have not seen the other colours in this country yet.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.