"Hurrah for August"

The month of August excites gardeners.
Sunday, 07 August 2022     

August calendar page, illustration by Joseph Austin

Having grown up in a cold area, I have always disliked winter. Even though Sydney hardly has a cruel winter, this year, I found June and July more challenging than usual - with some very cold snaps and the terrible flooding rains that created so much heartbreak for many. So, I am always very happy and relieved when the calendar can be turned to the month of August. Whilst we can, of course, experience some cold days in this month, and windy weather is also common (and we are told we might get more heavy rain as well!), there are without fail some glorious August days - like last Wednesday - that remind us that spring is just around the corner.

It's amazing how just a bit of warmth in the air and perceptibly longer days can raise our spirits and make us want to rush outside and garden. Though there are many important garden jobs that need to be done in winter, I often have to force myself to go outdoors in cold weather, and usually have to start with a cup of tea on a bench to motivate myself. Once out there, I usually get involved and become happy to be gardening. But on spring-like days, the temptations are irresistible.

There are so many signs of growth to be seen everywhere in the garden, so it is a joy to do a slow garden tour to inspect how things are going. Swelling leaf and flower buds on shrubs and trees, and burgeoning growth of perennials and annuals all delight and excite. Some of the things that have thrilled me this week are the emergence of Clivia buds, first nestled deep in the foliage then gradually rising then opening their showy blooms; creamy flowers on my native orchid (Dendrobioum speciosum) and the first of my Cymbidium orchids; the hot-pink flowers of Salvia dorisiana below a tree smothered in the cascading flower stems of Billbergia nutans; plus the pretty flowers on shade-loving Iris japonica and Iris wattii. During a leisurely walk around my neighbourhood on Saturday, I spied the first sprig of bloom on the wickedly invasive but alluringly perfumed Jasminum polyanthum; bare branches with early blossoms such as Prunus campanulata (the bell cherry); and planters in the main street of our village arrayed in brilliant tulip blooms.

August also means I can prune most of my warm-climate plants, which are looking so ratty and unattractive. It is such a relief when I can finally do this as it is hard to look at them. Though I rarely get frosts, I tend to leave these plants till August as if cut back sooner, any new growth can be impaired by cold snaps. A lot of pruning was done in winter (for example, ornamental grasses, Canna, sasanqua Camellia, Hydrangea, Fuchsia and Buddleja). I have learned in recent years that I can prune many salvias in mid- to late May (for example, Salvia microphylla, Salvia x jamensis, 'Indigo Spires', 'Amistad', the Wish series, Salvia sinaloenis and 'Marine Blue'), but most of the others are done now, along with Plectranthus, Tibouchina, Justicia (except Justicia adhatoda, which is about to bloom!), Brugmansia and Duranta - so it is a busy time. Some more cold-sensitive plants are left until early September: Begonia, Pentas, coleus, Hibiscus, heliotrope, New Guinea Impatiens and Clerodendrum. All the prunings I garner are shredded to make mulch or compost.

I also fertilise my garden in August and spread cow manure over the beds, followed by a topping of mulch. It is hard but satisfying work, to know I am giving my plants the best help I can to have a productive year of growth ahead. This thought assists me in getting through the weeks when the garden looks so bare after all the pruning work!

August is also a wonderful time to do bushwalks to look at our native flora in bloom. One excellent spot for such walks is Muogamarra Nature Reserve, near Cowan, north of Sydney, which is only open to the public for six weeks each year. This year it will be open from Saturday 13 August to Sunday 18 September. I haven't been since my kids were young, but I will never forget the amazing waratahs we saw during our visit. There are guided tours you can book into, or else you can do a self-guided tour on the Sundays during the open season. Visit the website for more details.

 Reader Comments

1/4  Rob - 2263 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 08 August 2022

There's a lovely spot near Patonga on the Central Coast where waratahs grow & flower along the side of the road, the town of Patonga itself is a nice place to visit & there's some nice bushwalks in the area with part of the Great North Walk also nearby. Thanks so much for this tip - I hope to get there this spring. Deirdre

2/4  Mez - 2577 (Zone:8-9 - Cool Temperate to Alpine) Monday, 08 August 2022

Waratahs abound in the park next to the historic Robertson Railway Station - red, pink & white. A bit later than Sydney, Google Robertson Heritage Railway Station Thanks so much for this - I had a look online and it looks amazing. Seems early October is the best time to see them. Deirdre

3/4  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 08 August 2022

Thank goodness the weather is warming a little. My plants are responding with flowers on clivia nobilis, buds on other varieties, buds on native orchids, flowers on daffodils and jonquils. Time to think about trimming and feeding. There is lots to be done in our gardens!! Deirdre

4/4  Sue - 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 09 August 2022

I agree a positive vibe comes with August. Buds appearing, a bit of sun and warmth and spring just around the corner, and all of a sudden there seems lots of jobs to do. I have just trimmed my Justicia betonica today and moved it as well. After losing some plants in the wet I have moved many and thrown out some which aren't up to scratch - very satisfying decluttering the garden, though may prove expensive as well:-) Hoping to do the Muogamarra walk this spring, thanks for the reminder. It is satisfying work though my garden looks like a moonscape at the moment! Deirdre

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Previously at this time

2009 - 09 Aug
2010 - 01 Aug
2011 - 07 Aug
2012 - 05 Aug
2013 - 04 Aug
2014 - 10 Aug
2015 - 02 Aug
2017 - 12 Aug
2018 - 12 Aug
2019 - 04 Aug
2020 - 09 Aug
2023 - 06 Aug