Winter is for filling the garden gaps

In Fiona's Garden | Winter is for filling the garden gaps

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White nerines N. flexuosa Alba flowering in the shade of established old maples at Nooroo, Mount Wilson (www.nooroomtwilson.com.au).

White nerines N. flexuosa Alba flowering in the shade of established old maples at Nooroo, Mount Wilson (www.nooroomtwilson.com.au).

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This is the season for planting - from flowering bulbs to woody, deciduous plants.

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My list of things to do in June starts with a diary note for October.

Nerines have been beautiful this autumn and I'm longing to expand my collection, but nurseries don't offer bulbs until the start of dormancy in late spring.

There's no way I'll remember this, spring being a frantic time in the garden, hence the diary note.

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Autumn flowering bulbs - nerines, colchicums, autumn crocus - are best planted early in the year, in January or February.

Nerines come in various gorgeous pinks and reds as well as the pure white N. flexuosa 'Alba', which is the best one for dry shade.

A rough rule of thumb when planting a bulb is to place it at a depth of twice its height.

But wherever you plant a nerine, it will sidle back up to the soil surface, a useful characteristic that makes the bulbs are easy to spot when weeding.

This is the season for planting and it makes sense to start by moving any existing plants that you want to relocate, before heading to the garden centre to fill all those lovely gaps - all gardeners love a gap in winter.

Hyacinth bulbs that flower indoors in mid-winter should always be placed with their noses at the surface.

I planted a couple of pots in April and they're currently sitting in the darkness of our arctic larder and taking their time to emerge, so I'm continually checking that their potting mix is damp.

Hyacinth bulbs mustn't dry out as this stops their flower stems from elongating and causes the heavenly, scented blooms to hide among the leaves at soil level.

Wrapping pots in black plastic kills two birds with one stone, keeping bulbs both dark and damp, but it's fiddly continually wrapping and unwrapping to check progress, so for the time being I stick with the larder.

Meanwhile there's plenty to do outdoors now that winter is here.

This is the season for planting and it makes sense to start by moving any existing plants that you want to relocate, before heading to the garden centre to fill all those lovely gaps - all gardeners love a gap in winter.

Many woody, deciduous plants can be moved more easily if you wrench them first, by cutting the roots a couple of months before you lift them.

This gives the plant a fright but encourages it to make new roots. The younger the plant, the easier it is to move.

To wrench a deciduous shrub during dormancy, first cut it back by about one third, depending on its size.

Then dig round it with a sharp spade on the edge of its drip line, down and under the root ball, to sever the roots.

Last year I wrenched a two-year old, two metre tall crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) that, being me, I'd planted far too close to an Irish Strawberry tree.

I pruned the crepe myrtle and wrenched it in early June. When I lifted it in August it came out easily and had produced plenty of new white roots.

I re-planted it on the spot and it grew away beautifully and flowered in January.

Last job for June is to sow Iceland poppy seeds saved from last summer.

If you didn't save from last summer, Lambley Nursery will come to your rescue, www.lambley.com.au/

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