Yes, after a cold night (- 0.9°C), I admit it really is winter.
We're in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges so luckily this sudden frost is pretty unusual. So I'm wondering - have we ever had such a cold night before? I simply can't remember, ever, the salvias knocked off by frost - all of them (even Mexican sage, S. involucrata (above) and S. `Anthony Parker' which (usually) bloom in winter here); tomatoes like skeletons and Gloriosa suddenly sticks. Even the giant circle of tree dahlias (below) is affected, unexpectedly, and how!: one day a glorious green birthday cake topped with lilac flames, the next a ghostly circle (how Morticia would approve!).
Luckily the petite winter bulbs have started to flower: Cyclamen coum with chubby deep cerise blooms; snow-white snowdrops (Galanthus) with green markings; and sweet little pale lemon hoop petticoat daffodils (Narcissus bulbocodium grailsii).
Hellebores, too, one of my favourite flowers: deep pink in flower with many others throughout the garden in bud, promising blooms, some double white, soon - but I need more apple-green Corsican winter roses (Helleborus argutifolius) which start to flower so much earlier.
Before long it will be August, which feels like early spring to me - daffodils in bud, some perennials waking up, and continuing bright pink flowers of saxifrage (as my Mum called it - or Elephant's Ears: Bergenia cordifolia) - the colour welcome in winter. (There are white and pale pink and deep pink forms (the latter with red leaves in late autumn), but these ones are too shy to flower - probably too small - so far this season.) And hellebores all through the garden.
While some people go to the ski slopes and others escape to sunny Queensland, I can feel the breath of spring in the air.
But that's probably just me.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au).
Photos on this post by talented photographer Andrew Burgess.