The simple, unadorned beauty of winter, often punctuated by the early emergence of bulbs makes winter in Tasmania PETER CUNDALL’S favourite season of all
Celebrates our winter wonders
Winter is an ideal time for landscaping and re-organising existing gardens
We shouldn’t be surprised by the rapidly-increasing numbers of tourists now visiting Tasmania in the middle of our relatively chilly winter.
What makes it astonishing to me is that so many are directly arriving from warm or tropical parts of Australia. Clearly many are here just to experience and even enjoy our winters.
When I meet them, happily rugged up in warm clothes they tell me why they love it. It’s so different from what they are used to and I agree because winter is by far my favourite season.
This is a beautiful time of the year and I get enormous pleasure just by seeing deciduous trees, totally leafless and displaying wonderfully-balanced patterns of bare, black branches.
In the tiny valley where we live, nighttime temperatures certainly drop well below freezing, but they are usually followed by sparkling, sunny days and beautifully cool, bracing air.
Early one morning last week I glanced at our garden from the warm comfort of our living room.
The simple, unadorned beauty had a special enchantment. Soft, slowly-drifting mist half-concealed many trees and shrubs. Drooping curtains of weeping wil- low branches were already taking on a gleaming, yellow-green; indicating that we are on our way back to spring.
Down below massed drifts hellebores were already blooming, snowdrop colonies had defiantly popped up and great clumps of early jonquils made great golden splashes beneath the naked trees.
So I pulled on a thick jumper and went wandering.
On any cold and misty morning there is always a sweet, ancient smell of earth and decomposing fallen leaves. On this day, something else was in the air, the unforgettable, spicy fragrances from three hardy, winter-flowering shrubs, a Chinese Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) with its small highly-scented, translucent yellow flowers, daphne odora with gorgeously-scented, rosy-pink flowers and an
almost forgotten needle-bush (Hakea sericea) with its pink spider flowers and powerful, honey-like scent.
Several sasanqua camellias were covered in flower in various shades of pink and one large seedling was a mass of semi-double white blooms.
A reticulata camellia – also grown from seed – has already unfolded several huge, deep-pink flowers, each with a large golden boss of stamens. On this moist winter morning, the deeply-waved petals were beaded with glittering dew, a breathtaking but common sight in many Tasmanian winter gardens.
Winter is a time of waiting and we sense it in the silence and stillness. Yet deep in the cold, moist soil there is intense activity.
New roots have already begun to penetrate deeper and wider in a relentless search for moisture and nutrients. Long dormant seeds have started to swell, but also pause, sometimes for weeks until soil temperatures rise just high enough for safe germination.
Winter is a perfect time to work out in the garden. There is no more satisfying pleasure than hard physical work without sweaty discomfort or irritation by flies. After all, this is the busiest planting time of the year, especially for planting new deciduous trees, shrubs and roses.
Winter is ideal for dividing and opening up clumps of congested perennials while still in winter sleep.
Steadily lengthening daylight hours also mean we can safely plant seedlings of hardy vegetables including onions, garlic, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, peas, broad beans, winter lettuce, globe artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes.
In fact, seeds of most brassicas can now be sown under cover so healthy seedlings are ready to go in during early spring.
That means full maturity well before summer’s caterpillars and grubs get a chance to move in.
Winter is ideal for landscaping and reorganising existing gardens. Almost all trees and shrubs may be safely planted or transplanted this month.
Still, it’s nice to look forward to spring when our gardens explode with colour. But to be honest, right through those warm, golden spring and summer days, some of us will be quietly looking forward to the magic of our coldly-beautiful winter gardens.