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Turn dull into droll

22 April 2024
camellia japonica / japanese camellia flower: red, pink and white color
Camellias (Camellia japonica) have bold blooms and hold their masses of flowers bravely in the face of winter conditions.

Discover a novel way to inject colour into the winter garden and get creative with your kids.
WORDS & PHOTOS Sarah O’Neil

On this last autumnal approach toward winter, many of the showy summer flowers and vibrant autumn leaves come to an end. The sky is often grey and dreary with miserable drizzle. The garden takes on muted tones of deep green and brown as trees stand bare. Perennials retreat back into the ground and the soil becomes earthy, waiting for their return. Thick mulches lay across garden beds to suppress the weeds that attempt to creep in and fill the space left by summer plants. All and all, the cool-season garden can become quite dull. However, it needn’t be. There are plenty of ways to bring colour and life into a winter garden. A surprising number of flowers bloom spectacularly over the winter months, and some even deliver a fragrant sweet scent to lift spirits on a cold winter’s day.

Add colour to the garden with paint
Once the plants have died down, your garden may be left with bare trellis, frames and support structures, with nothing to disguise their ordinariness. Painting them with a bright colour can turn an eyesore into a focal point and protect structures from the elements, allowing them to last for many seasons to come.

Birds for seasonal interest
Invite birds into the garden with a bird feeder and bird bath to give them somewhere for a regular reliable meal and a bathe. Birds flitting about can bring plenty of interest to the garden. You can watch them enjoy the space you have created for them from a comfy chair beside a window in the warm and dry. There will never be a dull moment as they fill their hungry beaks. Or you could take matters into your own hands and make some pretty stone flowers to bring some bright happiness to the gloomy days ahead.

Stone flowers

kids 9 1

You will need

Materials

  • a collection of flat stones
  • paint, suitable for outdoors
  • paintbrushes
  • thick, strong, weatherproof glue, ideally clear
  • chopsticks or short bamboo poles
  • an old ice cream container
  • scissors
  • permanent marker pens

Gathering the stones
First, collect your stones. Go for a walk to the beach, beside a river or wherever you can find the best flat stones in your area. Make it a lovely day out and take a picnic. If you don’t have a local spot where you can collect suitable flat stones, your local garden centre or craft store should have some for sale. Wash and thoroughly dry your stones so they are free from any dirt. You may want to leave them overnight to ensure they are completely dry.

Step 1 Sort through the stones and lay them in flower shapes with petals and a large round centre.

Step 2 Once you are happy with how they look, paint your stones. Make the centre stone a different colour from the petal stones. Paint everything plain or add a beautiful pattern.

Step 3 Paint one side of each stone, allow to dry, then turn the stones over and paint the other side.

Step 4 Once the painted stones are dry, arrange them back into the flower shape.

Step 5 Lay the chopstick or bamboo pole through the centre of the stones.

Step 6 Using a strong waterproof glue, join the stones and chopstick or bamboo pole on the edges where they meet. Glue the back of the centre stone with a thick coat of glue and press it on top of the petal stones and the chopstick or bamboo pole, making sure the glue has good contact with each stone. Leave to set for as long as the glue instructions say.

Step 7 Once the glue has set, turn the stone flower over. Cut a circle out of an old ice cream container, big enough to cover the exposed edges on the back of the flower. Run a thick bead of glue around the edge of the circle and attach it to the stones, making sure there is good contact. Leave to set for as long
as the glue instructions say.

Step 8 Once the flower has fully set, decorate the circle to make the back of the flower look fabulous too. Try drawing a face, another flower, a bee or a butterfly or writing your name in a fancy way.

Step 9 Once the glue has set, check to make sure everything is held firmly and fill any gaps or holes with more glue and wait again. Once you are happy with the way each flower looks, take them out to the garden and push the chopsticks into the soil in a place where you can see them from a window, so on a miserable rainy day you can look out and see your cheerful stone flowers.

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