Pruning in autumn a high priority

In Fiona's Garden: Pruning in autumn a high priority


Life & Style
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March is here and with any luck the end of the heat.

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Cherry tomatoes will keep producing until the first frost, but must be watered regularly.

Cherry tomatoes will keep producing until the first frost, but must be watered regularly.

March is here and with any luck the end of the heat. This summer has been tough but autumn is on its way, maybe bringing lovely rain. All gardeners are eternal optimists.

March being my preferred planting month (see The Land, February 28) I’ve been furiously weeding, removing handfuls of summer grass and quantities of purslane (Portulaca oleracea), a tiny creeping succulent with yellow flowers that seeds in even the tiniest cracks between pavers. Out it comes and off to the compost.

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Shade is an increasing issue in an old garden, as many shrubs and perennials need plenty of sun in order to flower. It’s worth checking trees and large trees to see what might be cut back. A large branch of a Chinese elm has reduced the sunny area of my summer perennial border by at least half. I’ve made a prominent diary note to attack it this winter.

I’m now planting all my cuttings of Italian and French lavender, cotton lavender (Santolina), rosemary, carpeting Artemisia ‘Powys Castle’ and hardy salvias. They should establish themselves during winter and fire away next spring.

I also need space to plant the spring blooming bulbs I ordered in a mad moment in January, knowing this would be a challenge but unable to resist something new.

Never a month goes by in the garden without something to prune. In March there are roses to deadhead and the dying flower spikes of buddleias to trim back to a lower pair of leaves. - Fiona Ogilvie

Never a month goes by in the garden without something to prune. In March there are roses to deadhead and the dying flower spikes of buddleias to trim back to a lower pair of leaves. This should keep them in bloom until late autumn.

Winter and spring flowering native plants including correas, grevilleas and mint bushes (Prostanthera) can be gently tip pruned now, to keep them compact and prevent them from becoming loose, leggy and space consuming, though this last isn’t normally a problem for country gardeners.

Many smaller shrubs have grown up and out in the heat and can be trimmed back into neat mounds for winter. These include velvety grey ballota (B. pseudodictamnus), the aromatic curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) that smells deliciously of curry but is not a culinary herb, and steely blue rue ‘Jackmans Blue’. All are reliably drought tolerant and happy in sun or shade.

Autumn is the last chance to take semi-ripe cuttings of shrubs you love and would like more of. I’m looking at deciduous ceanothus, fluffy pink ‘Marie Simon’ and powder blue ‘Gloire de Versailles’, a special rock rose with extra large leaves, Cistus laurifolia, and the ever beautiful and useful ninebarks (Physocarpus), purple ‘Diabolo’ and limey gold ‘Dart’s Gold’.

Lastly, cooler weather doesn’t allow any let up in watering veggies. I’m hoping to enjoy squash, zucchinis and yummy cherry tomatoes for a few weeks yet.

Hillandale Garden, 287 Eusdale Road, Yetholme is open the weekend of March 30-31, 9am to 5pm, entry $10, contact Sarah and Andrew Ryan, call 0407 082 672 or 02 6337 5234 (groups welcome at other times by appointment). Two accomplished gardeners have created an outstanding woodland valley garden, combined with beautiful double perennial borders at their best in late summer.

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