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Old 07-21-2009, 07:07 AM   #1
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Midwinter blooms

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It's the middle of July here on my side of the world midwinter and at first glance you can sometimes deceive yourself into thinking that there's not a lot happening in the garden, especially when it comes to flowers. But that's not really true. As it was a gorgeous winter morning that was headed for an almost perfect day of clear blue skies and a max around 22C (72F), I headed out into the garden for half an hour to discover the coolest midwinter flowers I could find here on this lovely warm day in Amateur Land.

First stop the poppies, of course. Open our back door in the morning and the first thing you see are the poppies. And until you wander outside you might be mistaken in thinking that there are just poppies and nothing else. This pretty person is a double. I'm getting all sorts of colours and forms from the same set of poppy seedlings, so poppies just keep on providing a delightful bunch of surprises as the weeks roll by.

Pam's in charge of poppy-picking for vases, and this is this morning's harvest, next to the phone in the hallway (in the low morning light).

Helleborus are called Winter Roses by some folk here, and while they're only vaguely rose-like they certainly do bloom in winter. To enjoy a hellebore in bloom you usually need to get your knees dirty. The flowers hang down, quite close to the ground. They are at their best in a garden if you can find a lofty spot for them (say, atop a ridge on some sloping ground), so you can enjoy them by looking up while standing on the lower level. Fortunately I had an entirely expendable pair of jeans on, and so these blooms are well worth the brown knees.

I made the silly mistake of planting my peas in more shade than I thought they'd get. I guessed incorrectly they'd receive about four hours a day when coming up in June, then the sunshine would increase around now as they got into serious growth. Wrong! They never got four hours back then, and they're barely getting four hours now, so I don't think I'll get much of a crop. Live and learn! At least there's a few pea flowers, and I'll hopefully get a little crop, but I'll probably end up garnishing everyone's mashed potato with a single home-grown pea!

Across the path from the sun-starved peas, the alyssum is enjoying a good deal more sunshine and is as happy as can be.

In the ultra-shade not far from the peas, the tiny white cyclamen are in bloom. These midgets survive from year to year, and always put on an ever so slightly unusual show, courtesy of their odd shapes. Cyclamen are easily bullied by weeds and bigger neighbouring plants, so I don't feel quite so much their grower as I do their protector.

This one needs no protection whatsoever in fact with grevilleas such as this 'Peaches and Cream', regular pruning does the trick. I have another grevillea nearby, a red-flowered one called 'Superb' which blooms virtually year-round, as this one does. While this grevillea is included here as a 'winter flower' it and its mate could easily get a guernsey in the spring flower, summer flower and autumn flower blogs, as well. And they're much visited by all sorts of nectar-eating native birds, too.

These little yellow puff-balls of wattle bloom are the very first flowers to appear on the groundcovering Acacia baileyana that makes a spectacle of itself in my front garden. It should be in full bloom by the weekend, I hope, but the show is usually over in a few weeks (depends on the weather how long it lasts).

I might as well include this photo of the next spray of orchids well on the way, as the early-flowering orchids are just finishing now, and looking a bit tatty, while these late flowerers should nevertheless still make it onto the 'winter flowering' list.

For the record, these are the early guys, which are a maroony-brown colour. They're at their best in June, and almost all of them end up in vases inside, where they last for weeks.

And also for the record, this photo of the later-flowering pinky-white ones is of course from last year, but I thought I'd toss it in just to show the two types of orchids which bloom here at either end of winter.

Finally, I'd like to finish off with the winter 'flower' I most regret not growing this year, and which I definitely plan to grow next year. Pretty broad beans, from last year's crop. Superb flowers, wonderful vegetables too. Why I didn't grow them this year is all about having not enough space for everything I'd like to grow, and that's something most keen gardeners know all about.

While only a few of our winter's days are as lovely as today's has been, when Sydney decides to put on a pearler of a sunny midwinter's day it somehow feels more special, maybe because the sun-warmed days are still bookended by crispy cold nights. A perfect day for getting outside and enjoying everything the garden has to offer.

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