Sow poppies with ease, simply scatter and rake in

Sow poppies with ease, simply scatter and rake in


Life & Style
Choisya ternata 'Sundance' sometimes produces new plants by self-layering.

Choisya ternata 'Sundance' sometimes produces new plants by self-layering.

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May is the last chance to plant spring bulbs and you can improve the shining hour by sowing poppy seeds among all your sun lovers.

Aa

A nippy wind off the snow has brought a wintry chill to the air.

Elders tell me the temperature is 8.2 degrees feels like 4.5 (how do they know what it feels like?) and thus abandoning the slow combustion heater for the garden is hard. I pave the way with an indoor job, in this case writing bulb labels.

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I've finally managed to make a habit of advance bulb labelling, having found it impossible to write out labels when I'm crouched down, surrounded by bulb packets and with nothing on which to rest the bendy little plastic label apart from a damp knee.

But labelling is so worth the relatively minor effort, next spring someone will ask the name of that new Dutch iris or an intriguing daffodil and I feel such an idiot if I can't remember.

May is the last chance to plant spring bulbs and you can improve the shining hour by sowing poppy seeds among all your sun lovers.

David Glenn at Lambley Nursery (lambley.com.au) has a wonderful selection of mail order poppies to sow now, including Flanders, Icelands, Shirleys and his own adorable peony mix in fabulous doubles and shades of scarlet, burgundy and purple.

Poppies are easy to sow, just scatter them and rake in. Keep damp with your hose set on shower and thin out as they sprout. Don't try to transplant them, poppies hate root disturbance. You can buy punnets from garden centres but in my experience seeds soon catch up and overtake.

May is the last chance to plant spring bulbs and you can improve the shining hour by sowing poppy seeds among all your sun lovers. - Fiona Ogilvie

One good thing about a sudden cold spell is the resumption of my supply of ash for the garden. Wood ash contains up to 10 per cent potash, a vital ingredient in fertiliser as it helps plants to build strong roots and stems, develop fruit and resist disease.

Potash or potassium is the K in NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) fertiliser. I used to confuse phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) until I discovered that the chemical symbol K comes from kalium, Latin for potash.

Kalium in its turn came from Arabic qali meaning alkali, and is a useful reminder that wood ash is alkaline and therefore seriously not for azaleas, camellias, blueberries, magnolias and any other acid soil lovers.

But it's a wonderful product if your soil is acid, being a substitute for lime or dolomite and thus saving you time and dollars. Remember that wood ash is highly soluble and must be spread when dry, as water rapidly leaches out the potassium.

Spreading ash on the garden this morning, I noticed that my gorgeous golden Mexican orange blossom (Choisya 'Sundance') had produced a rooted layer for me to dig up and replant.

It had done this of its own volition, a good example of this easy method of propagation. But you can also help shrubs to create layers yourself. All you need is a flexible stem to bend down and push into the ground, a stone to keep it there and patience.

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