Renishaw Hill’s landscaper, Elsa Pooley, shares practical tips for a colourful winter garden

Renishaw Hill’s landscaper, Elsa Pooley, shares practical tips for a colourful winter garden
Renishaw Hill’s landscaper, Elsa Pooley

Despite the arrival of the winter chill, the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast’s temperate climate and sunny skies allow for vibrantly colourful gardens throughout the season. Well-known South African landscaper, Elsa Pooley, who assisted in creating the stunning indigenous gardens at Renishaw Hills, has shared some useful tips for designing a beautiful winter garden on the coast.
“The autumn and winter months are wonderfully colourful at the coast – and the air is filled with butterflies and other insects, with the seed-eating birds make the most of the seeding grasses,” explained Pooley. “The winter garden can actually be more colourful than the summer garden, it’s just a matter of a knowing what to plant.”

Tip #1
Use waterwise succulent plants which thrive at the coast. For the months of May to August, the aloes – which are form plants in summer – become a brilliant splash of colour. The following plants are reliable succulents to try:

· Aloes: A. arborescens, A. chabaudii, A. ferox, A. spicata, A. thraskii, A. vanbalenii
· Crassulas: Fairy Crassula C. multicava, Trailing Jade C. sarmentosa, Pink Joy C. ovata
· Cotyledons: C. orbiculata with many leaf and colour forms
· Kalanchoes: White Lady K. thyrsiflora, K. sexangularis, K. longiflora, K. rotundifolia
· Kleinia fulgens

Tip #2
Planting nectar-rich flowers will provide food for birds and many insects including a range of bee species. At Renishaw Hills, Pooley and her team planted a large range of other succulent plants among the aloes as a way to provide colour and food for birds and insects. As the cool dry weather moves in, the leaves of many succulents also change to deeper pink and red. According to Pooley, excellent winter flowering shrubs that provide colourful shrubbery and also attract birds, butterflies and other insects include:

· Barleria species (Bush violets)
· Hypoestes aristata (Ribbon Bush)
· Leonotis species (Wild Dagga)
· Syncolostemon densiflorus and S. rotundifolia (the Pink Plume)
· Crassula ovata (Pink Joy)
· Polygala myrtifolia (September Bush)
· Eriocephalus africanus (Wild Rosemary)
· Gymnanthemum colorata (was Vernonia colorata) now Lowveld Bitter Tea

Tip #3
A variety of local trees and shrubs flower in the late summer and autumn, carrying fruit into winter. These fruits provide food for a wide range of birds and insects. Some species found in Renishaw Hills include Grewia occidentalis (Crossberry-raisin), Apodytes dimidiata (White Pear) and Vepris lanceolata (Ironwood). The main winter flowering trees are the Coral trees, with scarlet flowers attracting even non-nectar eating birds. The nectar also attracts insects which, in turn, attract insectivorous birds. Pooley said that reliable shrubs which flower almost throughout the year – and have a flush of flowers in autumn – include:

· Tecomaria capensis (Cape Honeysuckle)
· Chrysanthemoides monilifera (Bush tick Berry)
· Plumbago auriculata

According to Pooley, the gardens at Renishaw Hills, a mature lifestyle village on the KZN South Coast, are a great example of how indigenous planting can be resplendent year-round: “The gardens are a rich mix of succulent and herbaceous species. In winter, the red-hot pokers come into their own, with glorious, colourful, nectar-rich flowers.”

Phil Barker of Renishaw Property Developments explained that the restoration of the natural environment and indigenous gardening were central to the design of Renishaw Hills: “The benefit of such welcoming open spaces has been particularly felt throughout the lockdown period, with residents commenting on the mental and physical advantages of these natural spaces. It affords residents the opportunity to ‘live the holiday’ lifestyle throughout the year.”

For more information about the mature lifestyle village, or to book a tour with all relevant health-and-safety measures adhered to, contact Renishaw Hills on [email protected] or visit