This morning I awoke to the rattle of rain on the roof, this is a rare pleasure I need hardly tell you. In the event the rain didn't last long, but even a few millimetres has a miraculous effect on the garden, especially in mid-winter when there's no evaporation. July is a great time to get rid of weeds as you can generally then count on a couple of months before they reappear. This year is so mild, they seem to be popping up again immediately which is annoying, but it doesn't take long to demolish them.
This is a good month for planting bare-rooted trees and shrubs, including roses. Roses were one of the great survivors in last summer's extreme heat in Victoria, so though they involve extra time - pruning, fertilising, deadheading - they are worth it if only for their ability to cope with hot, dry weather. I love striped roses and this year fell heavily for the tempting illustrations in Tesselaar's winter catalogue. I've ordered 'Cabana', cerise striped with cream, and 'Scentimental', burgundy, red and cream, both recommended for their scent.
When looking for a spot to plant roses, remember they need plenty of light to grow and flower properly, and enough space to ensure good air circulation, overcrowding being an open invitation for fungal attack. They also need well-drained soil, so though they are happy on clay, you may need to fork in some gypsum if you have extra heavy soil (.5-1kg. per square metre). When planting, dig a hole double the size of the plant's roots and add a couple of spadefuls of compost or old manure. Soak the plant in a bucket for a few minutes, then after planting tread the soil down firmly: roots need to nestle into soil, not dehydrate in an air pocket. Keep newly planted roses watered regularly, mulch thickly in spring, and give them a handful of fertiliser after about three months.
July is also a good month for moving plants. I've just divided a huge clump of chives, as I had enough to make an edging for a border, and now have my sights set on some daylilies, now so overcrowded I'm afraid their flowering may be affected. Our main pruning job for July is the ornamental grape, which Bill cuts back to the main runners. Wisteria can also be pruned now: trim lateral stems back to two or three buds to maximise flower production. While out and about, I notice I haven't trimmed the cannas, something I usually take good care to do before we have a really cracking frost. Heaping the crackly dead leaves over the tubers is usually enough, otherwise dig them up and store in damp sawdust until late spring.
- Tesselaar's Winter 2009 Catalogue is valid until July 31 www.tesselaar.net.au.