Time to finish planting tulips

Time to finish planting tulips


Life & Style
Tall seed heads of Kiwi flax (Phormium tenax) add structure to the winter garden.

Tall seed heads of Kiwi flax (Phormium tenax) add structure to the winter garden.

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Fiona Ogilvie talks about what needs doing in the garden throughout the month of May.

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May is one of my favourite months in the garden. Sunny, windless days are perfect for spending every free moment outdoors, where I can smell the lanolin-like aroma of the bell-like blooms of the shrubby silverberry (Eleagnus pungens) and admire autumn flowering nerines, chrysanthemums and Michaelmas daisies.

Better yet, crab apples, medlars and quinces are ready to pick and boil up into yummy jelly. Yum.

When looking for fruit to harvest, remember that birds invariably start with anything red, before moving onto orange and finally yellow. This means you can safely leave creamy yellow quinces to ripen but you must grab crab apples the minute they turn scarlet or your canny little feathered friends will beat you to it.

I recently lost almost an entire crop of Malus 'Gorgeous' (see The Land, March 14) during a weekend away, to my acute irritation.

May is a good month to weed and cut back perennial borders, though I like to leave the seed heads of sedums and spikes of flowering flax (Phormium) to enjoy during winter.

Autumn leaves, on the other hand, need raking or they make a terrible mess. Luckily they break down into wonderful humus and our soil needs all it can get. I barrow them to flower beds, to a weldmesh cage for leaf mould and the rest to compost.

When looking for fruit to harvest, remember that birds invariably start with anything red, before moving onto orange and finally yellow. - Fiona Ogilvie

Or, you can throw leaves into black plastic garbage bags (punch holes for essential air), add a squirt from the hose, tie up and leave in a shady corner until rotted.

Taking leaves to compost is a reminder to check heaps for dampness. Vegetable material won't rot in dry conditions so your compost may need additional water.

May is a good month for dividing and replanting lilies (Lilium species). Asiatic lilies, November lilies (Lilium longiflorum), regals (L. regale), the easy Taiwan lily (L. formosanum) - their bulbs all need dividing approximately every three years, or they become too crowded to flower properly.

Lily bulbs must never be allowed to dry, this is terminal, so make sure you allow plenty of time to replant as you go.

Lilies absolutely demand good drainage, so throw a handful of grit into the bottom of the planting hole, and plant deeply, at least 15 centimetres down. They wilt quickly in hot sunny weather and are happiest in filtered sunlight. Mulch bulbs thickly, your own compost is ideal, failing that lucerne hay and keep the mulch replenished when the weather starts to warm up next spring.

My last but most pressing May job is to finish planting tulips. Bulbs are still available from garden centres but check for firmness. Soft bulbs have begun to rot and are useless.

Heritage Fruit Trees (297 Back Raglan Road, Beaufort 3373) offer a huge variety of heritage and modern fruit trees and shrubs by mail order, including heirloom pome (apple and pear) fruits, blueberries and raspberries. The 2019 catalogue is online now at www.heritagefruittrees.com.au/

Tulips bulbs are also available by mail order. Try Vogelvry Bulbs & Flowers, (www.vogelvry.com.au/); Van Diemen Quality Bulbs (www.vdqbulbs.com.au/)

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