Winter Garden Tips With Phillip Withers!

Even though it feels like winter only started about five seconds ago, somehow we’ve passed the halfway point and spring is somewhat in sight! Now it’s time to consider how to get your natural landscape ready for early spring, as the soil starts to warm up and the wattles burst into flower.

Legendary local Landscape Designer and our good friend Phillip Withers is here with some sound advice for taking care of your winter garden and prepping for the coming months! 

Phillip Withers

Legendary Local Landscape Designer Phillip Withers. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

The Yarraview garden, where Phillip and team planned their installation for The 2020 Melbourne International Flower + Garden Show, which sadly did not go ahead! Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Phil at one of his favourite places, Point Addis. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Banksia marginata. Photography – Amelia Stanwix.

Phillip Withers
27th of July 2020


Now’s the time to mulch ready for spring, before the sun starts to shine down onto the bare soil. Mulching can also help to put healthy nutrients such as nitrogen back in the soil, and increase water retention in time for summer.

Late winter is a great time to consider new planting in the garden. Plants that have been dormant and are starting wake up with warmer soil, and better still, the soil is soft and easy to work with. Increased rainfall in the southern states of Australia can help naturally establish plant life. Ensure you have a consistent program for watering for the initial first few months, then, if you’ve planted the right species, you can turn the tap off once establishment takes place. Using the right plants can adapt a landscape to survive off rainfall alone, such as with Banksia robur.

On balconies or in semi-sheltered areas, consider utilising the many self watering or wicking planters that are now available. These gives a plant’s roots more frequent availability to water, which is especially helpful for situations where rainfall is limited or not available.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photography – Amelia Stanwix.


It’s coming around to feeding season, an important time to give your plants a general feed up ready for spring – good quality slow release fertiliser will help to ensure your plants are building strength leading into sunnier days.

The end of winter also marks the time to cultivate the soil – ie break up the soil, to allow last year’s remaining mulch to break down further, also increasing the oxygenation of the top soil. This helps soil organisms and insects play their part in soil health.

As the soil warms up and plant life starts to come out of dormancy, it’s also the right time to get the last of those pruning tasks completed.

Photo – Shutterstock, courtesy of Phillip Withers.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Correa Reflexa (also known as ‘native fuschia’). Photography – Amelia Stanwix.

Callistemon and Grevillea.Photography – Amelia Stanwix.


With end of the season fast approaching it’s a great time to consider crop rotation in the veggie patch, to get some nitrogen back in the soil pre spring. Before planting leafy vegetables, plant some legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils. Legumes feed lightly and have the ability to ‘fix’ nitrogen into soils, improving the nitrogen content for future plantings.

Consider planting some beautiful late flowering plants to bring the birds back into the landscape, to enjoy or to pick for yourself and put inside. Plants such as Banksias, Acacias, Callistemons and Grevillea are all fantastic plant groups because they produce lots of pollen and nectar, bringing birds and bees into the garden.

Plant succulents closer to the house for water wise planting, bringing in a burst of colour and interest. Succulents are great plants to add architectural shapes and interest to the foreground of the garden. They can help create unique colour interest, and guide your eye through the softer textural planting.

This story originally appeared as part of a collaborative series between Phillip Withers and Yarra Valley Water. See more of this series here

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