Gardening: Unexpected herald of autumn

LOOK for potted Cyclamen hederifolium, just coming into flower. These delightful miniature pink cyclamen pop up unexpectedly in gardens at this time.

Cyclamen hederifolium... the true herald of autumn.

Cyclamen hederifolium… the true herald of autumn.

I consider them as the true herald of autumn. The leaves have a beautiful marbled effect of different shades of green. They make a delightful living mulch for part of the year. Some people treat the larger potted cyclamen, now in massed displays at your local garden centre, as a gift and tend to throw them out when the flowering finishes. However, they can be planted in a semi-shady spot in the garden and will multiply each year.

IN the northern hemisphere, St Patrick’s Day is traditionally the time to plant sweet peas.

And despite March being spring there and autumn here, these delightfully fragrant plants seem to do equally well planted in Canberra at this time.

Sweet peas like a well-prepared, deep-root run. One old-timer’s suggestion was to dig a trench 15cm deep, rather than individual holes, if transplanting seedlings.

Fill the trench with a combination of manure and compost. Do not plant the seedlings in the trench, but alongside. The roots will quickly enter the trench and away they go. You will need mesh for the plant to cling to and climb.

If you’re sowing sweet pea seed, here’s an idea from Tom Goward, head gardener of Gravetye Manor in England, who says that as sweet peas like a long root run, try using cardboard tubes from discarded toilet rolls packed together vertically. Being biodegradable, the tubes can be placed in the ground once several sets of leaves appear.

Fill about two thirds with premium potting mix and top up with seed-raising mix. Hold the tubes together with string and place on a tray to stop the soil falling from the bottom. Cover the seeds with damp newspaper and keep in a warm place at about 15C.

To hasten germination, soak the seeds in warm water overnight before sowing. Keep the newspaper damp, but do not water until the first set of leaves appear. Then apply a weak solution of Maxicrop Seaweed Plant Nutrient to encourage root growth. Once two to three sets of leaves appear, plant with the tube into well-prepared soil.

THE 24th Apple Day Harvest Celebration at Loriendale Apple Orchard, 16 Carrington Road via Hall, 1.30pm-5pm, on Saturday, March 29 features locally grown heritage and modern apples, pears and quinces, jams, relishes and chutney. There will be music and activities for children. More information at loriendale.com.au or call 6230 2557.

MARY Murphy, of Kambah, is the winner of the book “Cacti and Succulents for Cold Climates” by Leo J. Chance (Timber Press, 2012). Thanks to everyone for having a go at what was my most popular giveaway.

Jottings…

• Keep whippersnippers well away from tree trunks and shrubs. They can ring bark the plant causing death.

• Feed lawns now with Multicrop Lawn Rejuvenator. The three-way action helps break up clay, feeds the lawn and promotes root growth. Available as granular or hose on.

• Look out for snails after the recent rain. Multiguard Snail and Slug Killer is safer for pets, including blue tongue lizards. Recommended by Dr Harry Cooper, the TV vet.

• After rain, dig a small hole and see how far the moisture has penetrated. This may be only a few centimetres and you will need to turn on your drip irrigation.

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