Perennial Garden Design in Winter

Landscaper Melbourne
Our Design Manager, Bethany taking some plant photos at the Garden of St Erth.

As some of you, who have read our past blogs will know, we have been researching perennial gardens for a long time now. A big part of this research is to make regular trips to visit various gardens around Victoria throughout the year. This gives us the chance to see how the perennial plants hold up through the different seasons, and therefore find out what sort of plants will work in our perennial garden designs  .

A few weeks ago, Ian and I made the trip out the central Victorian Goldfields to visit both Lambley Nursery in Ascot and The Garden of St Erth in Blackwood to see how their gardens were looking as Winter once again draws to a close.

Perennial gardens are fantastic for their ability to remain interesting and beautiful for most of the year. Their colours and shapes change throughout the seasons as the plants bloom and then start to decompose, creating an evolving landscape design that is just as beautiful to look at in full bloom as it is when the only the seed heads and bare skeletons of the plants remain and the colours transform to a warm rusty hue.

There is a short time in Winter, however, when the perennials need to be cut down to the ground in order for them to renew and flourish for the next year. So, does a perennial garden still look any good in Winter, when the plants have been slashed down?

When we visited the garden at Lambley in December last year, we thought the mass of purple salvia flowering under the pear trees was just amazing. It has to be said, however, that seeing the salvia cut back and the carpet of purple crocus bulbs bloom in their place was quite spectacular.

Melbourne landscapers
The Salvias in full bloom at Lambley in Summer (L). The Salvias are gone in Winter but underneath is a carpet of purple crocuses (R).

We love that the crocus bulbs remain hidden away throughout most of the year while the Salvia takes centre stage, only to burst forth again and have their time in the sun once the Salvias have been cut down in late Winter. What a great idea!

Garden design Melbourne
The carpet of purple crocuses at Lambley.
Landscape Melbourne
With the perennials gone at Lambley the structure of the shrubs is more noticeable.

Despite the dry garden at Lambley having little colour in Winter as there were not many flowers in bloom, there was definitely interest to be found elsewhere in the garden. Having shrubs incorporated into the landscape design means that once the perennials have been cut down, the shapes and colours of the various shrubs and their foliage are much more noticeable and become the focus of the garden.

We thought that there was still more than enough going on with the different types of shrubs as well as the bulbs scattered throughout at Lambley, to compensate for the short absence of perennials in Winter.

Over at St Erth, it was very interesting for us to see how their perennial beds coped in Winter. As we had arrived just after they completed the late Winter cut back, we did notice that the perennial beds looked quite bare compared to our visit back in December last year. However, new growth could already be seen coming through the soil, signalling the arrival of Spring.

Landscaper Melbourne
The perennial border in front of the cottage at St Erth in Summer (L) and in Winter (R).

The emergence of new growth means the ‘bareness’ is only very temporary and, similar to Lambley, there are a number of shrubs in the garden design that become much more prominent during this time and bulbs that will flower during the late Winter and Spring period, creating a sprinkling of colour.

landscape design
The perennials at St Erth have been cut down for winter but new shoots are already coming though.

One of the highlights of our visit to St Erth, which I have to make mention of, were the gorgeous white hellebores that were flowering en mass under the Birch trees. They really did look magnificent and created some fantastic Winter interest in the garden!

Landscape Melbourne
White Hellebores growing en mass under the Birch trees in front of the cottage at St Erth.

We are confident that as a company, we are starting to build a great palette of perennials that will thrive in the extreme Australian conditions of both frost and drought while looking great and creating seasonal interest. We are very passionate about this and will continue to develop our knowledge and visit each fantastic garden design in Melbourne so we can create beautiful perennial garden designs for our clients.

 As always, if anyone out there is trialling perennials that they think will suit Australian conditions, we’d love to hear from you!

– Bethany Williamson
  Design Manager