Less Water Can Be A Blessing

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A knowledgable colleague pointed out to me recently that many summer and autumn flowering plants require a period of dry weather before they flower well in the warm season.

The list includes frangipani, plumbago (below), bougainvillea, adenium and crown of thorns. That’s why these plants thrive in gardens that don’t get watered until well into summer. It is also why frangipani and the others flower until late autumn.

Watering the garden and these plants in spring will actually reduce flowering through the warmer months.

Stunning floral display

THE lovely winter and spring flowering primula malacoides (not P. obconica as it causes primula dermatitis) thrives on our local soils.

They can be planted now from seedlings, or sow your own seed. The seed will germinate evenly when exposed to the maximum amount of sunlight in 15-18 C – germination time is about 3-4 weeks. Shallow sow or on the surface and water by immersion.

Time for those hardy herbs

HARDY Mediterranean herbs such as rigoni, oregano and rosemary establish easily when planted at this time of year.

I put the hedge trimmers over mine about three times a year to keep them compact – and they taste best when grown hard.

It is the opposite to growing lettuce, where fast is tastiest.

And seek out the variegated forms, too, if you are looking for an ornamental trailing effect from a pot or a steep retaining wall.

The tiny variegated leaves on oregano are very attractive – and just as tasty as the plain green.

Divide, plant and conquer

FOR any evergreen perennials that are destined for the shade, this time of year is perfect to plant or divide.

In particular, the red-foliaged iresine and bergenia can be divided and violets planted. I would even include philodendron Zanadu in that category as it thrives in a shaded area. When planted now they will appreciate the cool nights and mild days so they can develop a rapid root run to ward off the stress of late spring.

Hyacinth magic in a jar

IF YOU have a bulb jar I suggest you take it with you when you buy this year’s hyacinth.

Growing a hyacinth is great fun and involves the whole family as it unfurls and presents its magic.

A small charcoal chip in the water reduces fungal infections. Boil the water first and let it cool.

No nutrient is required and the fragrant flower is already in the bulb so it will flower given light and temperature is around 12-18 C.

Pernicious weed a pest

ELAINE at Somerton Park asked that I bring this pernicious weed to your attention. It’s a sly grey leaf prostrate creeper with unassuming yellow flowers followed by the most atrocious prickly and woody seed capsules. It is best to sever the root and pull the whole plant up.

Dispose of it in your household waste, not the green waste process, as that will just spread the pest.

Rambling roses

THERE are a few roses that simply command attention. They are disease free, gorgeous flowering plants that would do any garden proud.

Carefree Wonder is a pale pink floribunda rose but quite a cutie as a cut flower when in bud.

It forms a dense thicket to 1.4m and just 1m wide.

It was bred by the house of Meilland in southern France and has been in the trade here since 1992.

For an apricot hardy rose, I don’t think Just Joey has an equal.

In lush conditions I’ve seen them up to 2m but even in untended gardens they make a nice compact 1m shrub.

I maintain a garden with 30 of them in one drift and I’ve never seen aphids or black spot on them.

All I do to keep them looking great is monthly foliar spray of Eco-Oil and fertilise in September and February.

They are best picked when in bud as they open pretty quickly