This wet bet is a gamble

This wet bet is a gamble | Fiona's Garden

Life & Style
Variegated dwarf alstroemeria Fabiana, purple top verbena and Lomandra Tanika growing without extra water in a recently planted corner of Fiona's garden.

Variegated dwarf alstroemeria Fabiana, purple top verbena and Lomandra Tanika growing without extra water in a recently planted corner of Fiona's garden.

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Cool weather is tempting me to start autumn planting but this is asking for trouble - I'd rather not feel personally responsible for a sudden heatwave.

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A RARE wet summer is turning my gardening days upside down.

Normally February's most strenuous activity is moving sprinklers but this year I've hardly touched a hose.

Grass is unnaturally green, flower borders are a startling jungle and if Bill gives me one more colander of spinach, I won't answer for the consequences.

One result of the unexpected precipitation is that I can't judge if my re-designed and re-planted front garden (The Land, January 14 and 21) actually works.

It's growing beautifully and looks healthy and happy with no extra water.

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But how it would handle a normal Central Tablelands summer - hot, dry - rather than one more reminiscent of Bill's New England childhood - cool, damp - I've no way of knowing.

Another result of the rain is a mile of pruning. Hedges of flowering abelia and winter jasmine are sprouting long whiskery shoots and an ancient wisteria is snaking through shrubs and needs cutting to the base.

I'm also giving my few roses a summer prune, hoping they'll flower again before our first frost. In the past this was around Anzac Day but global warming often delays it now until May.

Tawny 'Just Joey', peachy 'Chicago Peace' and Swane's 'Heart of Gold' are all gorgeous among autumn leaves.

Deadheading perennials can help to prolong flowering.

Sisyrinchium striatum from Chile has iris-like leaves but each spire of straw-coloured flowers causes the leaf shoot producing it to turn a dismal black and then die.

They need regular removal to look at its best. Not long lived but it self-seeds.

Lovely with violet Salvia nemorosa and pale cream Achillea 'Credo' both of which also can be deadheaded now.

February is a great month for propagating.

I'm forever telling myself to take cuttings while I'm pruning, then forgetting.

I solved the problem by putting two 40 centimetre plastic pots filled with cutting compost near the tap in my propagation corner, so whenever I walk past I can poke in new cuttings.

I'm proud to say this works brilliantly. I've refined the set-up by adding a stick to each pot, to make the necessary holes easily, and it's amazing how many shrubs take with no further effort.

A win is always so satisfactory, however small.

Cool weather is tempting me to start autumn planting but this is asking for trouble - I'd rather not feel personally responsible for a sudden heatwave.

But it's the perfect opportunity for removing tenacious weeds like thistles, hemlock and variegated arum (A. italicum 'Pictum') which ran amok last autumn and still pop up to annoy me.

On March 6 and 7 (10am to 4pm) is the Central Tablelands Garden Trail.

It includes cool climate gardens from Hartley to Yetholme, art, pottery, artisans' market, plants and refreshments.

Visit Clover Hill Rare Plants at Highfields Garden, Little Hartley; brilliant double perennial borders at Hillandale, Yetholme (seen recently on Better Homes and Gardens. Pay at the gate, each garden $10 to $15.

Contact David Kennedy, www.cloverhillrareplants.com, 0419 133 154 or Sarah Ryan, www.hillandalegardens.com.au, 0407 082 672.

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