Harvest autumn’s hard work

The superb leaf and flower colour of Pieris for late winter/spring.

I ALWAYS consider autumn the start of the gardening year rather than spring. Autumn is the time bulbs are planted and now, in mid-winter, we are rewarded by those autumn plantings.

In our garden, bulbs such as Galanthus or Snowdrops are coming into full flower, as are the jonquils.

Reports tell me that the first of the daffodils are already in flower. An important change to traditional thinking regarding Snowdrops in recent advice from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Previously it was suggested that they are moved, propagated or planted immediately after flowering. It is now recommended that these take place after the leaves turn yellow towards late spring to avoid root damage.

If you did not plant Snowdrops early in autumn, some garden centres have these for sale potted and in flower now.

Erica x darleyensis will fit into the dry Mediterranean garden.

A winter flowering shrub that seems to have fallen out of favour is the Erica. Ericas flower for an incredibly long time from early winter to late spring.

Coupled with this feature they are extremely hardy, as experienced in our coast garden. Eurobodalla Shire had water restrictions far more severe than here. During the drought, gardeners were allowed a quarter of an hour watering every second day!

Our garden there was only watered once every few months and the Erica did not seem phased at all. Illustrated is Erica x darleyensis pink, which grows to half a metre tall with a similar spread. It is of Mediterranean origin and will fit into the dry Mediterranean garden. Check out your local garden centre for other varieties. As an acid lover, it is ideal planted in partnership with camellias, azaleas and pieris.

ON the subject of pieris, I have recently planted more in our garden. One only has to look at the photo to see why:

The superb leaf and flower colour of Pieris for late winter/spring.

The common name is Pearl Bush due to the clusters of white or pink flowers resembling strings of pearls. These appear in late winter/spring with new, bright red leaves appearing at the same time as the flowers. The most readily available varieties include Pieris japonica “Christmas Cheer” (flowering in the northern hemisphere at that time), an extremely hardy form from Japan. P. j. “Flamingo” has long racemes of flamingo-pink flowers in clusters. P.j. “Mountain Fire” is a taller-growing variety to 2m. Possibly one of the most spectacular is P.j. “Forest Flame”. This is a superb shrub, also to 2m, with the young red leaves changing to pink, then creamy-white and finally to green. I saw these varieties for sale at the Heritage and Yarralumla Nurseries. Check out your local garden centre, they may have other varieties.

CONGRATULATIONS to Graham Ross, garden presenter of “Better Homes and Gardens” for the last 17 years, who was presented with the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society’s Veitch Memorial Medal in London recently.

It is the RHS’s highest honour that can be awarded to anyone not born in the UK who have made an outstanding contribution to the art, science or practice of horticulture.

FOLLOWING my hints about pruning, a comment from Sister Lydia (aged 91) in charge of the gardens of St. Michael’s Convent in London: “Plants are just the same as children; you know what’s good for them and when they need taking in hand.” How true!

This week for your exercise:

  • Prune wistaria to 2-3 leaf joints on each main stem.
  • Remove accumulations of leaves from around stems of plants to avoid collar rot.
  • Plant rhubarb and cover with an open-topped pot to encourage long stems.
  • I always advise to cut the old leaves of hellebores to ground level in late autumn to allow a maximum of winter sun for flower production. However, do not despair. This can be done right now; cutting off all last season’s old leaves, being careful not to damage any emerging flower buds.
  • Rose-pruning demonstrations by the Friends of the Old Parliament House Rose Gardens at the rose gardens, Sunday, July 24 from 11am.
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