Planting for winter colour

Published on April 5th 2021
A pink flower on a plant
Autumn rolls around as the landscape breathes a sigh of relief. The blistering heat has lessened its hold on the northern provinces, and the first rains have awakened the winter growers in the south.
This shift invariably triggers lazy afternoons basking in the midday sun coupled with chillier mornings, steaming cups of coffee and contemplative thoughts. So why not drag that pen and paper closer and make a few plans for colourful additions to your garden beds this winter?
A close up of a tree branch

Gorgeous South Africa

South Africa has the advantage of falling smack in the middle of the subtropical latitudes. Our location means we have ideal solar irradiation year-round, and a mere 4-hour difference in day length between winter and summer (compared to 8 hours in London and 6 hours in New York). What does this mean for us? Well, you will find that many winter rainfall areas will have plants bursting out of their seams as they start to grow, while others go into flower. You can have colour in your garden year-round if you make use of what is on offer.
Take a look at the virtual Tours to see winter-flowering displays:
I took a cue from nature and selected a handful of flowering species that will keep a smile on your face on those cold, dreary days. They are divided into three easy categories to help you pinpoint the best options for your garden.
Wild dagga orange flower

Highveld colour parade

If you have made it through the rain and sun, a bit of colour is just what you need. Normally the frosty winter air would negatively affect any blooms, but a few species choose this time of year to shine. One such vining wonder is the bushman pipe (Ceropegia rendalii). The strange parachute flowers pop out during autumn and winter. Better yet, it occurs naturally from Potchefstroom to Waterberg and does not mind the cold.
Some others plants to consider:
Note that winter is Aloe season as you might already be aware. The massive amounts of Aloe blooms across the country is something to behold and a great winter addition. For more on Aloe see the articles below:
Serruria fynbos winter blooms flowers

Cape Fynbos

Now we all know I am partial to fynbos and it is fynbos planting season after all. There is a multitude of winter-flowering species to choose from. If you fancy yourself a lover of perfumes, you will have to consider a Podalyria burchellii for its unique floral scent.
You can always opt for other scented species to make soaps or creams during winter:
Other soft blooms including several Buchu species, Struthiola striata or Bristly Skunkbush. Otherwise, throw the book out the window and go for statement pieces. If you buy mature specimens of the Mountain Rose, Queen Protea, Witsuikerbos, Silver Pagoda or Rose Spiderhead that are already sporting buds, you could enjoy the delightful blooms and add a glorious bird attractor.
More suggestions:
Now is also the time to keep an eye out for tiny indigenous bulbs hiding in your garden. Never mistake anything for a weed as it might just be more valuable than you can imagine.
Gasteria blooms

Collectors rejoice

I see those sparkling eyes! Now is the time for succulent enthusiasts (and orchid collectors mind!) to whip out those cameras. With the shorter days come the Aloe blooms that turn the barren desert landscapes orange with colour. There are two events we should keep in mind (fingers crossed). The first is the Creighton Aloe Festival scheduled for July. The other is the informal blooming period for our indigenous epiphytic orchids (a good reason for a winter hike with that camera).
Here is a tantalising list for each group that include the flowering wonders:

On a budget?

I recently passed a house with a fairy bell that had come up without the owner's knowledge. This is a wonderful example of why it can be very rewarding to scour your garden for indigenous gems. This winter, why not take a new look at your garden and identify the things you think of as weeds.
A close up of a flower
Tip: Save a few pennies by trying your hand at sowing winter growers. This gives you the delight of seeing the green shoots emerge and grow during winter and develop as bulbs for the coming seasons.
Or hit the trails and see them in their natural habitat.

Remember to share your joyous flowers by using the hashtag #WinterBlooms

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