After a RAMPANT growing season, early winter offers an opportunity to restore a little order. Early winter also brings spade work – dividing perennials, lifting dahlias and planting bare-rooted roses and trees. Sharpen up the edge of the tool first to make the work easy. And sharpen those secateurs!
Frost sensitive plants will need protection: bring pots closer to the house, spray at-risk frangipani stems with polymer sprays, hessian wrap younger trees and drape tarpaulins over frost sensitive shrubs.
It’s finally coriander’s time to shine – I know it’s a winter herb not a summer one! That’s why it’s been an epic fail. Try again now for coriander success – and be careful it’ll grow at least 1m high. Parsley also grows like a weed through the cooler weather. Whiz them up into a green salsa verde with lime juice, rocket and sorrel and spoon over fish or through pasta. Chervil is another gardener’s favourite for this time of year.
Lift dahlia tubers. Sort through and throw out rotten tubers. Dust with fungicide and store until spring.
Divide perennials such as Easter Daisy, Shasta Daisy, Canna Lily, Liriope, Clivia and Agapanthus, if clumps are getting too big or are in the wrong spot.
Camellia japonica is the queen of winter, unrivaled for glamour, yet she is down to earth, easy to manage and long-lived. Growing into a classic small tree that prefers dappled light, including that found under gums. They grow from subtropical Brisbane to the frosty hills of Tasmania and flower from April to October, depending upon the variety. Your local nursery can help select cultivars that will thrive in your area. My favourites? ‘Desire’ and ‘Lovelight’ make me swoon.
Use bright winter annuals to plant up bare patches and window boxes. Call me retro but I particularly like Polyanthus with her cheerful disposition – she never fails to make me smile! In shade, choose the old-fashioned blue and lilac tones of Cineraria, and in sun try pretty Pansies and Violas. Fairy Primrose Primula will stand tall in sun or part shade. Cyclamen are bright and cheery for indoor window boxes. Continue liquid feeding with flower fertiliser for masses of blooms.
Enjoy the bark of the River Birch, Betula nigra, which flakes away to reveal underlying layers of cream, pink and orange. Other good winter barks include Snakebark Maples, such as Acer davidii, which has unusual green bark with prominent vertical stripes. Track it down from a specialist supplier. My pick of the glowing winter bark trees is the Coral Bark Maple, Acer japonica ‘Sango Kaku’ also known as ‘Senkaki’.
June is a great time for a big tidy-up and general groom. Even if you’re not a great fan of garden tidiness for it’s own sake, in winter it can come as a great relief to be able to restore order.
Take hardwood cutting from deciduous shrubs such as Roses and Hydrangeas. Use sharp secateurs and trim off leaves and side shoots to leave a cutting of about 8cm. Dip in hormone rooting power before potting into propagating mix.
Bare rooted roses! Climbing roses are sensational in sunny spots, over sheds and hot walls, they’ll need support wire so their masses of spring flowers can be admired at eye level. I like the pale green buds and palest of pink blooms of ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ the best.
Watering for succulents and indoor plants. As the weather cools, their demand for water decreases and in fact they risk rotting out completely if rain persists. I suggest a monthly dribble for indoor plants and bringing potted succulents under cover whilst completely ignoring succulents and frangipani until spring!