Superbly scented, daphne greets your nose first, even before its dainty white and pink flowers zoom into view. Best in semi-shaded spots and sometimes fickle to grow, they require well-drained soil and are often easier to cultivate in pots. The recently released Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ is hardier, tolerates full sun as well as shade, and promises repeat flowers in summer, too.
For shrub-level colour during the cooler months, three of the best winterblooming grevilleas are ‘Robyn Gordon’ with its zingy red blooms, bicoloured ‘Peaches and Cream’ and orangey ‘Superb’. All reach about 1.5-2m tall, prefer frost-free areas in full sun, and enjoy well-drained soil with a little native plant fertiliser in spring and autumn. Pruning them back in early spring maintains plant shape and encourages more flowers. Grevilleas also provide food for native birdlife, so you may entice a few visitors.
A wonderful choice for enlivening shady corners, Camellia japonica blooms from autumn to late spring. The glossy dark-green foliage is a perfect foil for white, pink or red flowers, which vary from simple singles to elegant doubles. These hardy evergreen shrubs enjoy well-drained, slightly acidic soil, enriched with compost and manure, and they are drought-tolerant once established. Most prefer semi-shade, although the red-flowering varieties will tolerate full sun.
Hellebore - winter's rose
Thriving in mild to cool climates, these elegant woodland beauties suit planting under tree canopies with dappled summer shade or amongst shrubs. And they look lovely in pots, too. Flowering in a range of colours including subtle greens, dusky pinks, deep purples and whites – in both singles and doubles – hellebores perform best in positions where they receive plenty of winter sunshine in enriched soil.
Pot fillers – pansies and violas
Blooming from late autumn to spring, pansies and violas are just the thing to cheer you up on a chilly day. For something new, seek out Pansy Spreading Rose Shades or the delightful yellow and white Viola ‘Lemon Frost’. Both will fill bare spaces quickly and look stunning in pots or hanging baskets. Apply a liquid fertiliser every two to three weeks and trim off spent flower heads to prolong the show.