Bright jewels in the winter garden

Just when it seems winter is never going to end, mother nature lifts my spirits with the blossoming of the hellebore, or winter rose, in lovely shades of pink, purple, lemon yellow, green, magenta and almost black. These entice me back into the garden, and the ravages of winter fade into insignificance. Without cold conditions, there would be no hellebores!

In Mudgee we’ve had a very cold and very dry winter. Everywhere, gardens (including mine) are showing the scars, with frost-burned leaves and parched, yellowed lawns. Even some reliably frost-tolerant plants have been damaged by this year’s extreme weather.

Not so the hardy hellebores! Mine showed their first buds a few weeks ago and are now approaching their best display- although I’m still looking forward to the little blue-black one lifting its head to show its face.


Hellebores in my garden

Recently I was kindly invited to visit the garden of Mudgee’s amazing florist, Shiralee Archer.

The approach to Shiralee’s garden is dominated by a magnificent Japanese Quince (japonica) in full flower. It’s actually a small forest, with a carpet of violets in full flower between the interlaced stems heavy with gorgeous crimson blossoms. This specimen must be at least 50 years old.


Japanese quince

Shiralee’s is one of those rambling country gardens with a surprise around every corner. She grows greenery and succulents for her floral creations here.

Exploring the rustic pathways, arbours, trellises and hidden places, I feel the garden alive with possibilities. Under a bare elm tree, I discover a lovely apple-green hellebore, and in another sunny spot, a pale pink ornamental cherry.

Hellebore and ornamental cherry

The ground is carpeted by grey-brown leaf litter, and the bare branches of many deciduous trees interlace overhead. But the bleak scene is broken with patches of bright colour in the form of clumps of naturalised violets, and other gems like this magnolia, its brilliant magenta flowers bursting from pale, downy buds.



Magnolia bud and flower

Blue-green hen and chickens nestle in the eucalypt leaf-litter, under gum trees.

Hen and chickens

Dusty Miller, a favourite in Shiralee’s bridal bouquets, glows vibrantly silver.


Dusty miller

Traditional golden yellow jonquils have been flowering for some weeks, and another variety, “Earlicheer”, is in bud now. These are filling the air with their heady fragrance, announcing that spring is, officially, on its way.


As well as these lovely winter jewels, Shiralee’s garden is full of exciting spring-flowering trees and shrubs, heavily in bud and promising a stunning display in coming months.

How well has your garden survived the winter?

Do you have any winter-flowering favourites in your garden?

Has spring arrived, where you live?





3 Comments Add yours

  1. anner6556 says:

    Another lovely blog Jane. A lovely neighbour along the creek planted a Hellebore and I crossed my fingers for her. Alas, the conditions said no. Nature is a great teacher and if we can learn from it, there are many delightful surprises.

    Anne x

    Sent from Bruce & Anne’s iThingy


  2. Jane says:

    So true Anne. I’m slowly learning to let go of preconceived ideas about what my garden should be. Maybe being attuned and responsive to nature is an important element of a dream garden. xJane

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