One particular group of succulents that is in full bloom now is the kalanchoe. Kalanchoes produce flowers in red, orange, white, yellow and pink.
Once the bright flowers have finished, a dead stalk will remain. This should be removed from the plant. Kalanchoes perform best in a soil that is free-draining. They make good specimens when grown in pots, but they are also most effective when used as garden borders.
Succulents are mainly grown for their colourful foliage which can be quite ornamental and create dramatic landscaping effects when mass planted.
They are some of the most water-efficient plants that a gardener can include in their garden as they require very little watering, even in the warmer summer months.
An additional benefit from many succulents is that they produce bright, showy flowers, often in late winter and early spring. Some flowers cover the plant in a mass of colour, while others produce taller stems that feature bell-shaped flowers.
During the winter months it is still possible to have salad vegetables by planting out fast-growing cress. If planted from seed, some varieties of cress can be ready for harvest in four or five weeks from seed planting time.
Children enjoy growing cress on cotton wool, or as the “hair” on creatures made by placing sphagnum moss or soil into a stocking.
In order to have cress available for kitchen use, seeds can be sown into pots that have been filled with a pre-moistened seed raising mixture. Following sowing, the pot should be watered gently and then drained.
Placing the pot on a sunny window ledge will ensure a good light source. As the plants emerge from the soil, the pot should be turned regularly to ensure straight-growing plants. Harvest the plants when they are less than 5cm in height by cutting the stems at their base, using a pair of scissors.
Cress contains minerals such as iron and potassium, as well as Vitamins A, B and C. Plants that have been grown in a good light source will be a healthy green colour and have a higher nutritional value.
The harvested cress can be used in salads, sandwiches, in stir fries or egg dishes, or as a garnish.
There is a huge range of small growing Australian native trees, including indigenous plants local to this area. Many are suitable for inclusion in the average garden.
Tree Waratah (Alloxylon flammeum) Not all shade trees have a spreading canopy. With its upright habit, this evergreen is one example. With its dense foliage and fabulous summer colour, it’s a wonderful tree to provide a shady spot. It is a member of the family Proteacae, which includes grevilleas, banksias and waratahs.
The tree is fairly slow growing and may not flower for seven or eight years, especially if propagated from seed. However, the spectacular waratah-like red flowers are well worth the wait.
Hymenosporum flavum (Native Frangipani) A small, slender, fast growing tree with glossy dark green lanceolate leaves, that reaches 8 to 10 metres. From mid spring to early summer the canopy is covered in clusters of highly fragrant cream flowers turning yellow as they age. They attract honeyeaters and insectivorous birds, as well as butterflies. Although tolerant of poor dry soil and full sun, it prefers a moist, fertile soil with some shade.
Melaleuca linariifolia (Snow in Summer) A fast growing, bushy tree with dull green lanceolate leaves, that reaches about 8 to 10 m. From mid-spring till late summer it produces a profusion of white, scented ‘bottlebrush’ flower spikes. Often found on heavy wet soils, it tolerates sandy and saline soils.
Snow in Summer also makes an effective specimen, screen or street tree. According to the Koala Preservation Society of NSW, it is one of the few non-eucalypts with foliage that koalas sometimes feed on.
Lemon-scented Myrtle, Backhousia citriodora, is a medium-sized shrub or tree, to 8m tall with a low-branching habit. The leaves of B. citriodora are a fresh green colour and strongly lemon-scented. The young foliage is reddish, and the young shoots and undersides of the leaves are often hairy.
Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood) is a long-lived wattle that would be suitable as a small shade tree. In cultivation, most blackwoods will grow 12-15 metres in height. Blackwoods are known for their long life (often living over 100 years), low suckering habit, elegant dark grey-green foliage, and abundant winter flowers. The flowers appear in late winter and are multi-branched inflorescences of pale yellow balls. The fragrance is sweet.
Plunkett Mallee, Eucalyptus curtisii, is a fast-growing small tree. It has many smooth-barked trunks. In spring many white flowers that are full of nectar are produced. Plunkett Mallee reaches about 7 metres.
Read more: Bring colour with winter gardening