White way to a cool garden

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ON hot days, white-flowering plants give a sense of coolness and there are many white-flowering plants at this time of the year.

For example,  Anemone hupehensis, or Japanese wind flowers, grow on long stems to 50cm. These are a delightful perennial plant, dying down in summer and appearing in autumn. There is also a pink variety. Some say they are a pest and spread everywhere, but are not really a problem as they are shallow rooted and easy to thin when first emerging.

Dietes grandiflora, with strong strappy leaves and delightful flowers, can make a real statement. It is a tough, South African plant ideally suited to our climate that needs room to grow, with the leaves up to 80cm tall and the flowers on long stems above the leaves. It flowers from summer to autumn.

Dietes... a tough, South African plant ideally suited to our climate that needs room to grow.
Dietes… a tough, South African plant ideally suited to our climate that needs room to grow.

For a great hedge with white flowers consider Myrtus communis or myrtle. This can be kept to one metre or for a taller hedge to two metres. Deep-purple, edible berries follow the flowers, which people from the Mediterranean make into a great liqueur. They also use the leaves as an alternative to bay leaves in casseroles etcetera.

THE old idea of spring planting as the ideal time has long gone. In autumn plants are not battling extreme temperatures as we experienced this summer. The ground is still warm for good root development, further encouraged by applying liquid seaweed such as Multicrop Plant Food Concentrate when planting. This specifically encourages new root growth and, interestingly, reduces the effect of frost on plants.

If you dug up an autumn-planted shrub after about 12 months, you will almost certainly find twice as much root growth as the same shrub planted in spring. Soil preparation is essential. Do not dig a massive hole for plants. Digging an excessively large hole into clay soil, in the mistaken belief by filling the hole with compost etcetera will get the plant off to a good start is wrong. All it will do is form a clay “bucket” with water seeping into the large hole and not draining away. Clay swells with water, resulting in water staying in the hole for weeks. This can eventually lead to root rot and a dead plants.

The basic rule is dig the hole slightly wider and deeper than the pot the plant has been grown in. Without getting too technical, if the pot is 12cm wide x 12cm deep then dig the hole 20cm wide by 20cm deep. Fill the hole with a liquid ground breaker such as Multicrop Ground Breaker and allow time for it to drain away. Depending on the density of the clay, this may take a couple of hours to a full day. The ground breaker soaks down and sideways, working on the clay more effectively than gypsum. Then fill the space between the root ball and the hole with a cocktail of good soil from elsewhere in the garden mixed with the existing soil.

If you do not have a drip irrigation system make an earth bank around the plant to prevent run-off. For a pot size mentioned above of 12cm or equivalent to one litre, make the bank to hold at least five litres, preferably 10 litres (ie a standard bucket.) The water will soak down to the root zone. Flooding this bank once a week will normally be sufficient to sustain healthy growth.

If you do not have a drip irrigation system make a water-retaining earth bank around the plant to prevent run-off.
If you do not have a drip irrigation system make a water-retaining earth bank around the plant to prevent run-off.
Obviously, the larger the plants – such as trees – the larger the bank. For a group of plants in the same location make a bank around all the plants rather than around each individual plant.

Autumn flower show

THE Horticultural Society of Canberra’s Autumn Flower Show will be held at the Wesley Church Centre, National Circuit, Forrest , noon-5pm, on Saturday, March 2 and 11.30am -3.45pm on Sunday, March 3.

There will be a display of dahlias and roses along with general flowers and stunning floral art displays. The ever-popular plant stall will have an abundance of plants. Refreshments available both days. Entry is free.

Quote of week

QUOTE of the week (maybe not to be taken too seriously?): “Introduced species [exotic trees and shrubs] can actually increase bushfire frequency and intensity, not reduce it” (Westgate and Ikin, January 26, 2013).

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

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