Welcome to Winter!

The second Monday in June is a holiday around most of Australia, honouring the Queen’s birthday (except for Western Australia, who like to be different and have it in spring). It used to be a great tradition to celebrate with a bonfire and cracker night when I was a young lad. Corner shops sold fireworks, and great excitement was to be had in amassing a collection for the great day in an old globite suitcase under the bed.

Thunder bungerBungers, tom thumbs, catherine wheels that never worked until you went to see if they needed relighting, evocatively named pretty ones like ‘Golden Cauldron’, ‘Rainbow Fountain’, ‘Joyous Mountain’, and the grand finale of the rocket in the beer bottle.

tom thumb cracker night

Most of the crackers had a small bit at the bottom of the colourful labels- ‘do not hold in hand after lighting’ and ‘Light fuse and retire immediately to at least 5 metres’. Aussie kids tend to take things like this as a dare rather than a warning, which led to calls from doctors, opthamologists and veterinarians for more controls on the old style cracker night. And rightly so.

Blown up letterboxes, passing a lit bunger to your mate just before the wick burns to the bottom, exploding ants nests….so many memories. Though the memories of singed flesh, accidental damage and cranky parents are also strong!


So, inspired by my memories of cracker nights gone by, I’d love to explore the idea of a winter flowering landscaping homage to cracker night……..

Correa ‘Autumn Blaze’ for the Tom Thumbs, Ozothamnus ‘Radiance’ are my sparklers


Banksia ‘Cherry Candles’- a bunch of bungers, Acacia buds exploding!

Grevillea ‘Firecracker’ is well named, Grevillea ‘Flamingo’ making a fine rocket finale

My cracker night garden illustrates some of the fine winter flowering natives on offer. The nice part about the ones I have used above is that they are also great plants for nectar feeding birds, which will appreciate a bit of tucker now that the weather is turning colder. They are also great for flower arrangements, to bring a bit of nature indoors in wintery weather. They will all flower over long periods too.

Correas are fabulous and adaptable plants which will flower through till spring, and suit many different gardens and containers. They are rarely affected by pests or disease, and smaller honeyeating birds love them.

There are some great winter flowering Grevilleas that our determined plant breeders have produced. Using the Queensland species for cross breeding, we have some beaut large flowered varieties, such as ‘Flamingo’ and ‘Pink Surprise’ which can flower all year round, but these don’t handle frosts very well. Grevilleas which use the more cold tolerant alpine varieties as their parents have smaller and numerous cat claw type flowers and will suit cooler areas, and flower over winter. Some good ones are G. Fireworks, G. Firecracker and G. Lady O.

Banksias are wonderfully Australian, and I love many of the dwarf varieties on offer, making them suitable for today’s smaller growing spaces. The larger varieties are equally good for bigger spaces, with wonderfully generous blooming.

So, head to your local nursery and design your own winter cracker garden!

Landscape Lilac kangaroo paw

I’ve had a great reaction to my new kangaroo paw, Landscape Lilac, and have had many people ask where they could get it. It is a new release plant and is in limited quantities for now, with just a few selected nurseries who can stock it at this stage.Try Newcastle Wildflower Nursery and The Wildflower Place at Erina. Sydney Wildflower Nursery in Heathcote is a great native plant nursery for the  Sydney area, they also does mail order for people in other areas. Cool Country Natives in Canberra and Zanthorrea Nursery in Perth are two more great specialist native nurseries.