Sunday, May 29, 2011

Late Autumn

The garden feels like it is slowly beginning to settle itself down for the months of cold ahead. I checked the cobs of the late crop of sweet corn today and as I suspected fertilisation had not taken place and the cobs are empty. I think January is the latest you could plant corn here and expect a bountiful harvest. This lot went in about early March at my daugter's insistence – much too late. Brown onions I sowed last week are coming up as are the garlic corms. I am starting to harvest my broccoli and rainbow chard. The broad beans are a foot high and the capsicums were still green and growing so I pruned off most of the leaves covering the fruit and now they are beginning to turn red. In one section of the vegetable garden I sowed a green crop and it seems to be coming along ok. This will be dug into the soil in spring just as it is about to flower.

In the front garden I have cut back most of the gauras. I could leave these to flower for another month or so but I really need their bulk out of the way so I can get in there to plant and shift things around. I never set out to shift plants but suddenly as I stand there I realise that something is too close to something else and one of them just has to be moved. Cutting back a pink gaura revealed a huge swathe of love-in-the-mist (nigella) seedlings which promptly all fell over when denied their support. I love this pretty blue annual – it was one of the first flowers I ever planted as a child and it just keeps on coming up year after year. I have also put in some snapdragon seedlings – another childhood favourite as well as some polyanthus and pansies. Growing annuals over winter is stress free as you don’t need to be constantly watering them. Other annuals coming up include Flanders poppies, Chinese forget-me-nots (cynoglossum, much bluer than English forget-me-nots) and some violas. Some perennials that self seed and could be problematic (if I left them all) include the pink evening primrose (oenothera sp), kiss-me-quick (centranthus) and gaura.

Time soon to sharpen the secateurs and think about pruning the roses. I’ll also have to prune the smoke bush (Cotinus 'Grace') when it has shed all its leaves. The leaves are just starting to turn now making it one of the very last shrubs to light up the garden in a blaze of orange. It has grown so much over the last 8 months with all the rain. It’s almost doubled in size. Another plant that has doubled in size is the tree dahlia. I have a species and a hybrid growing and both have just begun to flower. The species is pale lilac and three metres tall and the hybrid (Timothy Hammet) is a metre tall and is purple. I hope I get a few more flowers before a hard frost reduces them to mush.

Lastly I was thrilled to discover a new plant in my blue and yellow garden the other day. Many years ago I had a tweedia (Oxypetalum caeruleum) growing in the garden but it succumbed to the drought. One little seedling has appeared and I am looking forward to its baby blue flowers next summer – it’s such an old fashioned cutie!

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