Taking stock

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Hemerocallis August Flame, a late-flowering daylily

Happy New Year to all! This is the time of year when many of us seem to make lists of good intentions for the year, or clean out cupboards or other activities of making a fresh start. It also seems an appropriate time to take stock of the garden and plan what might be done in the year ahead. Of course, with the terribly hot weather we have had so far in January in Sydney, this is not the time to actually carry out any of these changes. All the better - as it is much easier to have these ideas in one's mind than actually do them! The reasons for the need for change in gardens are many and varied. In some cases, the microclimate of a garden area has altered over time, so that plants which were doing well in the original conditions start to struggle. I have examples of both extremes of this situation in my garden at the moment. Several years ago, I planted a couple of lilly pilly shrubs (Syzygium australe 'Aussie Gem') to provide height and bulk in a new garden area. They have grown beyond my wildest expectations, forming solid, large shrubs in five years. The plantings beneath them, which had been established prior to their installation, are now looking decidedly unthrifty (and are probably also suffering from root competition). In particular, the daylilies (Hemerocallis cultivars) that had loved the sun that beamed down on them previously, are not the robust clumps that they used to be. So I plan to move these in autumn into a more open position.

Old-fashioned shrubby Fuchsia cultivar, Ambassador, that enjoys sun

At the other end of the spectrum, where I had some large conifers cut down a few months ago, the relentless rays of the summer sun in a now-exposed area are savaging the shade-loving plants that had been positioned there when it was a very gloomy spot in my garden. These may also need to be shifted. However, I have noticed that with the removal of the trees, an old-fashioned shrubby Fuchsia cultivar, which had languished for years in the shade, is now flowering madly - reminding me that many such Fuchsia actually do well in sunny positions.

Crocosmia Lucifer

Other plants that need to be reconsidered are those that are taking up too much space - going berserk, in other words - and those which, conversely, are really not thriving in my garden. The thugs I have recently identified include some Crocosmia cultivars - which I really do like when they are in full bloom. However, I am amazed and rather alarmed at just how quickly they seem to be multiplying. They definitely need to be culled back to a smaller clump or removed completely.

Reluctant specimens that really are not doing well, are sometimes harder to get rid of, in some ways, than the thugs. Often they represent some mad and unrealistic dream I have had to grow something unsuitable for our climate. I am getting better now at understanding which plants are likely to do well and which are doomed to failure. I am becoming less inclined these days to try to grow some rare alpine plant from a snow-capped country in Europe. My folly now lies in the other direction - attempting to grow something from a tropical jungle: and such plants usually don't like our colder days in winter.

Euryops chrysanthemoides

Other plants need to be evaluated as to whether they need a good pruning if they have got very old and woody - my specimen of Euryops chrysanthemoides falls in to this category. It is quite elderly now and very gnarled. I will try a big cut-back but will also take some cuttings just in case it dies; I have also noted there are some self-sown seedlings around it that I could pot up. Sometimes, very old shrubby perennials really need to be propagated and started again from scratch. I have noticed this with a few Salvia specimens that I grow. They definitely seem to reach an age where they lose a lot of vitality.

In other places in the garden, there are actually gaps, where some poor old plant has actually succumbed to the heat and/or drought. It's sad to see a plant has perished but on the other hand, it means there is a new space for something else, and I always seem to have plenty of plants in my potting area just waiting for a new home ...