Saturday, March 31, 2012


I thought the time of plants dropping dead overnight had passed but it seems not. The hot temps in early January took their toll on a 10 year old Banksia marginata that was about 4m tall. It looked like it was growing splendidly and then the next day it was dying. I suspect that the wet spring had rotted some of the peripheral roots and when a day with hot temperatures arrived, it was too much for the remaining root system to cope with, so it gave up the fight!

The soft-leaf buffalo lawn ‘Palmetto’ has drawn lots of favourable comments from visitors. I didn’t have to start watering it until late January. Then when there is no rain I water it with pop-up sprinklers for 30 mins a week and this has kept it looking cool and green all summer. The occasional weed has been easily winkled out with a daisy weeding fork and I threw some lawn fertiliser about a week ago during a brief shower of rain. So far I am very happy with it – traffic areas do not look marked and it only needs edging every month or so from October to February. It is performing much better than cool season grasses (such as rye, fescue, bluegrass or bent) that need much more water to stay green.

Have you noticed that some plants in your garden are looking a little stressed or wilting? A bit of spot watering will probably fix the problem but then it reoccurs. Are there a few plants in your garden that regularly wilt? Perhaps it might be a good idea to group these plants with similar water requirements together and then you can water that area easily without having to traipse all over the garden spot watering here and spot watering there. This is one of the 6 pearls of wisdom offered by Kevin Walsh in his little gem of a book “Waterwise Gardening”. Yes we have enjoyed over 14 months of regular rainfall where everything in the garden grew and grew. But ‘La Nina’ will move on, the climate will go back to ‘normal’ and waterwise gardening is the way of the future. Who knows when the next drought will rear its ugly head? So place plants according to their water needs – put moisture loving plants in damp places and put plants that appreciate good drainage on a raised mound or in a raised garden bed. This will be far easier to maintain in the long run than plants mixed up all over the place. For example hydrangeas and succulents do not make good bedfellows!

Now is also a good time to cut the seedheads off the agapanthus to stop their seed ending up germinating all over the place. This is especially important for anyone who lives near the bush – which probably means most of us! And never dump agapanthus (or any other plant for that matter) in the bush. This just creates a huge headache for others – usually volunteers – who then have to remove it.

There is not a lot of colour in the garden at the moment. White plumbago, red cannas, blue salvias, Big Red pelargonium, pink and white gaura and purple verbena are the stand-outs. But the beds are full and the contrasting foliage colour and forms holds your interest. In the vegetable garden we are living on sweet corn, tomatoes, purple king beans, Sebago potatoes and cucumbers. The butternut pumpkins have set a lot of fruit so I should have a lot of pumpkins to harvest in late March. Late March will be soon enough to plant some winter crops like broccoli, leeks, onions, broad beans, peas and silverbeet. The orchard has been visited by successive flocks of rainbow lorikeets, musk lorikeets and rosellas so there are hardly any apples left. The birds look like jewels scattered through the trees and I didn’t have the heart to shoo them away.

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