And so, to joyous autumn

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AUTUMN has arrived and we are still wondering what happened to summer! Mind you, most plants just loved the milder weather – and so did I.

However, let us look to the positives of autumn with flowering plants and brilliant displays of leaf colour as the weather cools.

While emphasis is placed on the big, blousey flowers, some small plants, with delicate, equally-small flowers, can also provide enjoyment at this wonderful time.

These are ideal for the townhouse or courtyard garden. As an example, Tulbaghia violacea is a plant providing delicate, lilac blooms from spring to late autumn with narrow, greyish-green leaves up to 30cm long that are garlic scented when bruised. The fragrant lilac flowers appear from midsummer into the autumn. The T.v. “Silver Lace”, pictured here in our garden, has attractive, cream-striped leaves and lilac-pink flowers.

Cyclamen hederifolium (syn.C. neapolitanum) is the best and most easily grown of this species.

At this time of the year, the delicate, pink flowers start to appear, gradually increasing in number to make a real statement from now and into winter.

In our garden, this plant pops up in the most unexpected places. I think the corms must be spread by birds.

With its attractive, marbled leaves it makes a great ground cover, although never a pest. It is a hardy, drought-tolerant plant, as the common name suggests, from around Naples, although able to withstand our frosts in winter. The best time to divide this plant is in spring after it has finished flowering.

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IT makes a great companion plant to Daphne neapolitana, which flowers later in winter with its compact form of one metre by one metre. This Daphne, like many Mediterranean plants, has tiny leaves to combat extremes of summer heat, especially in Italy. In flower, it presents a mass of tiny purplish-pink flowers. However, the plants are quite hard to find, so if you see one for sale, buy it – you will never regret it.

 

I HAD a big clear out of garden books last week. For example, how many books does one need on roses? In any case, I have neither the space nor inclination to buy more bookcases. My excess books go to Book Lore in Lyneham (next door to Tilley’s). I have dealt with this secondhand bookshop for more than 20 years and, so far as I know, it has the best range of garden books in Canberra.

 

I HAD a query from a reader asking advice about a tree having a lot of dead branches, and at the same time numerous suckers from the base of the trunk. Were the suckers indicative of it dying?

There is no relation between the two and the amount of dead branches can be a carry over from the drought.

Suckers can appear at the base of the trunks of many trees. One has only to drive around Canberra to see every tree – from oaks to liquidambars – with masses of suckers. More on on how to deal with this problem next week.

[box]Into the garden…

  • Lightly prune Trachelospermum jasminoides (what a mouthful) or the commonly named Chinese Star Jasmine. This will encourage new shoots before winter.
  • When taking cuttings, NEVER use garden soil or potting mix. Most potting mixes include fertilisers that will burn the stems and new roots. Use 50/50 washed river sand and perlite, the latter available from your garden centre. Some garden suppliers already have seed-raising mix and cutting mix already prepared.
  • If you have not already done so, prune lavenders now that most varieties have finished flowering. At this time, only cut off the flower stalks, leaving most of the foliage to protect the leaf buds over winter. In mid-spring, prune back most of last year’s growth to stimulate new shoots.
  • Look out for potted Nerines in flower in your local garden centre. These can be planted in the garden after flowering. They are a brilliant cut flower, lasting for a couple of weeks.[/box]

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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