Tips for spring pruning

Garden tips for spring pruning

Life & Style
Miscanthus sinensis Variegata has silvery striped leaves and reaches up to a metre in height in one season.

Miscanthus sinensis Variegata has silvery striped leaves and reaches up to a metre in height in one season.

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A gardener's day is never done, check out Fiona Ogilvie's tips for spring pruning.

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At last a wind straight off the South Pole has dropped, allowing me to finish my spring pruning.

Overgrown mounds of salvias, sedums and South African honeybush (Melianthus major) have been glaring at me for weeks, begging me to tidy them up so they could breathe again, while I told them mutinously I'd tackle the task tomorrow.

But now the job's behind me and I can relax. Well, sort of, a gardener's day is never done.

Woody salvias including red and white 'Hop Lips' (75 centimetres), soft blue 'African Sky' (one metre) and it's beautiful but unpronounceable parent, lilac, pink and white S. chamelaeagnea (2m.) need last year's top growth removed to allow the plants to re-sprout.

Their natural habit is to spread slowly from the base, so this is a good chance to push in a fork and lift some outer pieces to pot up for the kind mother running the school plant stall, whom you promised months ago to support.

Ornamental grasses can also be chopped to ground level and divided now.

Small poas and fescues are easy but you may need a chain saw for Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegata' (1m.), and monstrous M. x giganteus 3m).

Both are sterile hybrids so no self-seeding worries if you leave them for a year but, be warned, they're difficult to divide once they've dug themselves in.

Ornamental grasses can also be chopped to ground level and divided now.

Old flowering stems of sedums and echevarias need removing in September, as new leaves are already growing.

Japanese quince or japonicas (Chaenomeles) can be pruned as their blossom fades, before spring growth starts.

They make dense hedges if clipped now.

My favourite is pale pink and white 'Moerloosei' but all are beautiful, tough and reliable,

My final job was to make a decision about my old friend the honeybush, the essential foliage plant with huge, blue-green, serrated leaves from which plumes of brownish-red flowers arise in early November.

Although the plant itself is frost hardy its leaves are prone to frost damage and are a mess by the end of winter.

Melianthus are suckering perennials and new shoots pop up all the time in all directions.

If I cut the old, woody stems and their tatty, frost damaged leaves to ground level now, I'll have a mound of beautiful new foliage by early summer.

On the other hand, pruning means saying goodbye to any chance of flowers in November.

This is a sacrifice, partly because I happen to have a similarly coloured, velvety brown iris that blooms at exactly the same time and I love the combination.

But if you want to grow Melianthus major in areas of frost you must harden your heart, it's flowers or foliage.

Then again who knows, it might bloom before autumn and I can have my cake and eat it.

What's on

Oberon Rotary Club's Daffodil Dawdle, daily to September 29, 10am to 4pm.

Two gardens, Brydie Park, 63 Sloggetts Road; Minjara, 71 Sloggetts Road, entry $15, tickets Oberon Visitors Information Centre or Brydie Park.

Details including group booking, phone Brenda Lyon, 0418 629 073.

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