Gardening / Sleeves up, it’s springtime!

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Clematis are one of the easiest plants to grow for summer colour.
Clematis are one of the easiest plants to grow for summer colour.
OCTOBER heralds the real start of spring and one of the busiest times of the year for gardeners.

What to do first? Concentrate on the summer floral display or prune shrubs to keep under control and encourage more flowers?

This is the recommended month to trim conifers, but be sure not to cut into the older wood, as they don’t grow back from there. As with conifer hedges and all hedges, trim the top of the hedge narrower than the base to allow the sun to reach all parts of the plant.

As the spring bulbs finish flowering, it’s time to plant summer and autumn flowering bulbs and annuals, which should be planted without delay. Improve the soil by digging in home compost or rotted leaves, both of which help to retain moisture in summer.

From planting time to full flowering usually takes six to eight weeks. After planting, water in with an organic seaweed plant nutrient. Apply this every few weeks to encourage good root growth and more flowers.

WHILE it’s tempting to wait until they are in flower, I’d suggest planting clematis now.

With today’s labels it’s easy to see the colours and, by planting now, the roots will be well established before the heat of summer.

Here are a few growing hints to get them off to a good start:

  • Plant clematis with the roots in the shade and the stems in the sun, if possible. Alternatively, shade the root zone with a large, old tile to keep the roots cool and moist in the summer.
  • An ideal frame for clematis, sweet peas and other climbing plants.
    An ideal frame for clematis, sweet peas and other climbing plants.
    New shoots in our garden are already taking off, growing up to 30cm a day, as the warmer weather combines with plenty of moisture in the soil. It’s important to tie new shoots to a frame or lattice as they grow, otherwise they will quickly get out of hand and start tangling with other shrubs in the garden.
  • Use Velcro tape to prevent damage to the soft, new shoots. About the same width as sticky tape, this is a better alternative than using the green, plastic-covered wire that can ring-bark stems, even on thick stems of roses.


  • It’s unnecessary to wait until the leaves of spring bulbs die before cutting them back. This can be done to keep the garden looking tidy four to six weeks after flowering.
  • Plant seedlings of lettuce, broccoli and cabbage and seeds of French beans.
  • Encourage children into gardening by sowing sunflower seeds. Dwarf varieties can be grown in containers.
  • Plant peonies, the princess of flowers, without delay in a sunny spot.
  • The Horticultural Society of Canberra’s popular Rhododendron and Azalea Show, featuring spectacular floral displays, floral art and the ever popular plant stall, will be held at the Wesley Church Centre, National Circuit, Forrest, on the weekend of October 22-23 (noon-5pm, Saturday and 11.30am-3.45pm, Sunday). Entry by donation. Refreshments available.

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


  1. Being new to Canberra I rely heavily on your excellent garden column for my new little townhouse garden, and I look forward to each week’s hints. Thank you so much. I live in the new suburb of Coombs. Coombs has many new gardens as new homes are being built and a lot of people would be helped if a paper copy were available in our area. Could you tell me where paper copies can be obtained?

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