What to plant in your winter garden

Living Well | RACV | Posted on 16 July 2020

Gardening expert’s guide to the best herbs, vegetables and flowers to plant in winter. 

As the last of the leaves fall from the branches and autumn officially concludes, gardens can start to look a little sad. Bare trees, very few flowers and frost-covered lawn. But while there might not be much happening on the surface, below the ground it’s the perfect time to get planting ready for spring.

Wintersweet flowers

Wintersweet.


Hardenbergia flowers

Hardenbergia.


Grevillea flower

Grevillea.



What to plant in your winter garden



Flowers

Pops of colour in your garden look amazing when the winter sun breaks through the clouds and adds a touch of warmth, when it often feels like summer is never coming again. Speak to your local nursery to get recommendations on the best options for your area or try any of the below options which are perfect for cooler climates.

Daphne

With an intense perfume and compact star-shaped flowers, daphne is a warming addition to winter gardens. Contrasting nicely against the dark-green foliage, the white-pink blooms appear mid-winter and last through to spring, filling the air with their rose-citrus fragrance.

Begonia

Unlike many other blooms, begonias are favoured for their asymmetrical flowers and variegated foliage and instantly add colour to shady areas with their bright flowers. These plants are typically on the smaller side, making them perfect for balconies or petite garden beds. With red, pink, white, yellow and orange varieties available, these flowers are fantastic for both indoor and outdoor planting.

Alyssum

With masses of pink, white, violet and cream blooms, Alyssum are easy to grow and a beautiful addition to any garden. A fragrant favourite of bees and garden insects, they can be planted as borders, ground cover, hanging baskets or in large pots.

Grevillea

A native Australian beauty, grevillea produce a striking spider-like bloom. Attracting birds and bees alike with its nectar-rich flowers, these red, white or pink blossoms provide a spot of light in your frosty backyard.

Hardenbergia

Similar in appearance to a wisteria but hardier in nature, these evergreen climbers continue to produce masses of rich purple pea-shaped flowers from winter through to spring. Often used with bougainvillea to disguise unsightly structures, these vibrant and proliferous flower chains are a blessing for your winter garden.

Luculia

A bushy, evergreen shrub with an explosion of rose-pink clusters, luculia grow up to four metres tall and are well suited to cooler coastal areas of Australia. With a heady vanilla-like fragrance and delicate flower, these add a touch of elegance to your garden bed.

Calendula

Also known as pot marigold, calendula produce more than just a beautiful, vibrant yellow-orange flower; they also make a great addition to stews, broths and salads. The sunny petals have historically been used in butters and cheeses for their distinctive yellow colouring, while the plant itself is known to stimulate the immune system and can be found as an ingredient in many cosmetics. Calendulas are also a great guard-flower for your vegie patch as they attract aphids and other harmful bugs, keeping them off your valuable vegetables.

Delphinium

Typically seen as a towering mass of blue and purple, delphiniums also come in a range of hybrid colours including pink, red, white and yellow. Reaching up to two metres tall, these showy blooms work best planted in groups towards the back of the bed to provide a gorgeous backdrop to the rest of your garden.

Wintersweet

A unique, semi-transparent yellow blossom with an intoxicating sweet scent that grows directly on the branch, wintersweet ensures there’s always a little spot of sunshine in your garden. Growing up to three metres in height, with blooms lasting for months, this unusual plant will draw the attention and admiration of any visitors to your garden.

Close up of fresh-picked vegetables at market stand

Root for these winter vegetables.


Vegetables

Chicory

A flowering plant in the dandelion family, chicory has a light-purple flower and tough, hairy stem. The leaves are often used in salads and the root is commonly boiled and eaten with butter, or roasted, ground and brewed into a bitter coffee.

Jerusalem artichoke

With a sweet, nutty flavour and appearance similar to a ginger root, Jerusalem artichokes are often cooked in a similar way to potatoes and parsnips. Whether roasted, sautéed, dipped in batter and fried or pureed in a soup, they are a seldom seen but still delicious addition to the dinner table. A good source of iron, Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes) are also reported to be a folk remedy for diabetes.

Onion

Red, brown, yellow, white and green – onions come in all colours and sizes and are used in dishes from all over the world. Easy to grow and harvest, onions are perfect winter vegetables, ready to harvest two to three months after planting.

Garlic

For all those out there who have left their garlic in the cupboard a little too long, those little green shoots coming out of your clove can actually be a good thing – plant them in the garden and in just a few weeks you’ll have a whole new bulb. Frequently paired with onion, garlic adds flavour and aroma to any meal, providing plenty of nutrients but very few calories. It is frequently used to combat illness, particularly the common cold, and has been found to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

Radish

A popular root vegetable, radishes are delicious eaten raw in salads or roasted alongside your favourite meat. With a crispy, pungent, peppery flavour, they add bite to fresh dishes or colour to baked meals. High in fibre and good for your heart, these hearty vegies pair perfectly with a winter meal.

Cabbage, lettuce, endive, peas and shallots are also winter-growers and can be adapted to a winter diet through baking to bring out a different flavour and unique texture.

Rosemary plant close up

Rosemary.


Close up of flourishing mint plant

Mint.


Close up of garden thyme plant

Lemon thyme.



Herbs

When the weather gets colder and the nights get longer, it’s the perfect time to turn to comfort foods – stews, casseroles and slow-baked deliciousness – and there’s nothing like cooking with herbs from your own garden. Some of the best options to plant over winter include dill, mint, rosemary and thyme.

Dill

A member of the celery family, dill has many health benefits such as aiding in digestion problems, intestinal gas and liver problems, as well as useful in the treatment of fever and colds, infections and sleep disorders. Above all else, it is delicious with salmon and other seafood, but also pairs well with eggs, salads, potatoes, white meats and roasted vegies. The feathery green leaves are perfect as a garnish, providing both flavour and aesthetics, while the seeds are often toasted and added to a dish early in the preparation, allowing them to release their flavour slowly. Dill is also often used in pickling and is great to have on hand if you want to preserve some extra vegetables from the garden.  

Mint

Easy to grow but hard to control, mint will happily pop up in your herb garden from just a cutting, however it’s best to plant in a pot to avoid a total takeover as the roots will spread as far as they can. Despite this, it’s a fantastic staple regardless of which variety you choose, with shiny, fuzzy, smooth, crinkled, bright-green and variegated leaves all providing slightly different flavours, including apple/pineapple, Corsican mint, pennyroyal, peppermint, citrus mint and spearmint. From exotic cocktails to plain butter potatoes, add mint for a fresh flavour in any dish.

Rosemary

A favourite of bees and lamb-lovers alike, rosemary is an attractive evergreen shrub with needle-like leaves and stunning blue flowers. Not only is rosemary used as a seasoning in a wide range of dishes, it’s also a lovely addition to the garden landscape that provides a clean, piney fragrance. Add to soups, casseroles, salads and stews for a delicious, aromatic addition that also improves digestion and increases circulation.

Thyme

Don’t let the small leaves fool you – thyme is packed full of flavour and complements other herbs such as rosemary, sage and marjoram perfectly for a deep, rich meal. Both common thyme and lemon thyme have their own unique flavour and pair well with braised or roasted meat. Add both leaves and stems to marinades, stocks, cocktails and teas, but be sure to remove the stems before eating as they won’t break down.