Gardening / Unsprung, but spring’s here!

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Sunset brilliance of Mollis azaleas.
Sunset brilliance of Mollis azaleas.
WHILE it’s September, so far as the weather is concerned, most gardeners don’t consider spring’s sprung until October.  

However, nature presses on with bulbs and it’s just over a week until the start of Floriade.

But when will the new site for Floriade be announced? This is the last year for the event in Commonwealth Park. Will all be revealed at the launch next week?

BULBS may only provide a short burst of colour with nothing left when they die down, but rhododendrons, azaleas, daphne, camellias, pieris and many other eastern treasures will provide endless pleasure for years to come.

All of these are acid-loving plants that grew originally mainly in forest areas with a constant food supply of rotting, fallen leaves. And yet many gardeners have failures through not understanding the plants’ basic requirements.

Here are a few hints to help:

  • For most acid loving plants (including many of our Australian plants, which I will deal with in a later column) a position with filtered shade is a must. They can be planted under deciduous trees, which allow the winter sun and provide shade in summer. Too dense a shade will inhibit full flowering.
  • It is vital that they are protected from desiccating, hot, summer winds. This may mean that, unless a purpose-built shade house is built, I wouldn’t recommend growing them in new suburbs where there may be no shade from trees for many years.
  • Good drainage is vital and with our common clay soil this needs to be fixed before planting. Alternatively, plant on a mound of soil to which plenty of compost, rotted leaves and/or cow manure has been added. A light crumbly soil is the ideal. To deal with heavy clay rather than gypsum I have used, with spectacular results, Multicrop Liquid Clay Breaker.

A spectacular show of pieris at the National Film and Sound Archive.
A spectacular show of pieris at the National Film and Sound Archive.
MULCHING is possibly the most important job in any garden at this time before the heat of summer. I used to send gardeners to the pine forests for pine needles, especially if you scrape the loose needles on top and collect the decomposing needles underneath. Mulching needs to be 75mm thick to be effective. The best way of watering is with drip irrigation which, providing it is installed correctly, will give the plants a perfect watering regime. Drip irrigation is always laid on top of the soil and under mulch to reduce evaporation to a minimum.

AT planting time, water in several times with Maxicrop Seaweed Plant Nutrient. This specifically promotes strong new root growth. Once well-established apply Neutrog Seamungus, a combination of seaweed and chook poo.

Pruning is usually not necessary except for dead-heading flowers or removing any broken/damaged branches. It the leaves are turning yellow this is usually a sign of magnesium deficiency and can be rectified with a heaped tablespoon full of Epsom Salts dissolved in nine litres of water ie a watering can.

THE spectacular Horticultural Society Spring Bulb and Camellia Show will be held at the Wesley Church Centre, National Circuit, Forrest, after judging, noon-5pm, Saturday, September 12 and 11.30am-3.45pm, Sunday, September 13. There will be a plant stall, a range of camellias for sale and refreshments will be available.


  • Rather than giving a long list of vegetables to be planted, go see what seedlings are in stock at your local garden centre.
  • In the interests of promoting the joy of gardening, I am taking bookings to give free garden talks to any organisation, not only garden clubs. Call 6241 8752.
  • To encourage birds into your garden install nesting boxes with the access holes to suit the bird, perfect for the littlies such as finches.

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


  1. Cedric recmmends looking at the plant fferings in nurseries at the mment fr the vege garden. The trouble is these days that most seedlings are grown for the East Coast and simply do’t suit our cold climate and yet because of franchise or simply lack of stock they are put on shelves for Canberrans to buy.

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