Sprucing up the garden

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Dahlia Mount Noddy

Surveying my garden after I'd been away for a week revealed a degree of disarray. With visitors due this weekend, I needed to quickly spruce up the garden - and in fact this is a great time to tidy up the garden: after weeks of hot, dry weather, plants can be looking rather tired and unruly. A few minutes spent deadheading can make a border quickly look a lot better. My Dahlia and Canna plants looked very shabby with numerous spent flowers - snipping these off makes them look so much neater and will promote more flowers through into autumn. I also trim the old flower stems of many Salvia plants at this time - and this will encourage a fresh flush of blooms. I think many Salvia are actually better in late summer and autumn than at any other time of the year. All the deadheads of Agapanthus have now been removed and put in the green bin, and this is a great improvement as these look so scruffy left on the plants.

Gaura lindheimeri in my garden

Giving plants a light overall trim at this time can promote nice fresh growth on those that have basically finished flowering and in some cases renewed flowering can occur, such as with Gaura. I trim off grotty old leaves, such as those of Acanthus mollis, which look hideous at this time of year. I also cut off some of the excess foliage of plants that are smothering other plants. Plants can be killed by overly vigorous neighbours and we sometimes need to intervene to keep plants to their apportioned spots. Plants that are too enthusiastic may need to be evaluated as to whether they require too much work in reining them in - and possibly should be removed altogether. I also plan to prune my Hydrangea macrophylla shrubs this month to allow more space around them for winter and early spring flowers, and to get rid of all the burnt flower-heads. I used to prune them in winter but I have found February is a good time to do it and there is no deleterious effect on their flowering.

Self-seeded Amaranthus caudatus

Removing summer annuals that have had it instantly improves a garden area. The only ones I grow are those that self-seed in my garden. The gawky annual Cleome plants that I maligned in my previous blog have now been removed, as have many plants of Verbena bonariensis, borage and Amaranthus caudatus that I was fed up with. At the same time, I pulled out a few other plants I was thoroughly sick of or that were not thriving, and felt a sense of relief that they were gone, leaving spaces to plant something more enticing.

Weeding was another chore I had been neglecting during the long hot spell we had in January, when I just couldn't bear to be outside in the garden. With a few cooler days this past week, I felt inspired to get on top of the weeds in a few garden beds and it was amazing how these areas looked so much better so quickly! I have also been trying pouring boiling water over weeds growing between my pavers, and this seems to be going well so far.

This is also a great time of year to start thinking about moving plants around into better positions. I won't move anything just yet, leaving this till the weather cools down a bit, but I have lots of ideas about how things could look better in different places. I try to write these ideas down in my gardening notebook as soon as I am inspired - if I don't, they will be forgotten by tomorrow!

Sprucing up the garden needn't take a huge amount of time, and readies it for the very best time of the year in Sydney for gardeners (in my opinion): early autumn!