Gardening / Spring bulbs are calling for attention

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Preserving valuable moisture by using stones between the lines of vines.
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A pebble mulch for container plants.

NOW, half-way through summer, it’s time to start thinking about autumn planting.

The next couple of months are a busy time for the home gardener and February/March is the time Floriade starts its spring bulb planting.

Cedric Bryant.

But where to plant bulbs? They love full sun, so don’t plant under evergreen trees. Deciduous trees, which lose their leaves in winter, are better because by the time they are in leaf, the spring bulbs have finished flowering.

Bulbs will provide visually a delight in your garden for many years, so it’s worth buying quality. Garden centres offer bulbs for sale in bulk and the biggest and best can be personally selected. Buying on line may be cheaper, but you cannot see the quality before they arrive.

THE next six weeks will be the hottest part of summer. Any action to help our plants is now vital, which comes back to mulching.

A pebble mulch for container plants.

Here is an alternative mulch for container plants. I use 10 millimetre,  peach-coloured pebbles from Corkhill Brothers landscape supplies in Mitchell to about 10 centimetres thick on top of the potting mix. The pebbles reflect the heat during the day keeping the root zone cool. At night as the temperatures drop the pebbles cool down providing moisture to the plant.

This technique is used on a broader scale in many overseas countries with hot climates. For instance in the south of France they clear the soil of rocks, laying them between the rows of grapevines. The amount of moisture under the rocks as they cool at night is considerable; plus they reduce run-off as most grapes are grown on slopes. In Israel and Spain rocks are placed around trees such as olives and citrus and painted white to further reflect the summer heat. This idea can be used even in the home garden.

SUMMER is also the time of fragrance in the garden and a climbing plant with superb fragrance is Trachelospermum jasminoides or star jasmine. Growing on the fence alongside our drive now in full flower, it is almost unforgettable walking to the back door.

On the other hand, one climbing plant I do not recommend is Solanum jasminoides or potato vine. Belonging to the same family as potatoes and the highly poisonous deadly nightshade, it is highly poisonous if the berries or any part of the plant are ingested by animals or humans. This climber can run rampant overwhelming other plants. Its insignificant white flowers have no fragrance.

I don’t often condemn a plant readily available from garden centres, but quite simply this one has nothing going for it whatsoever.

Coneflowers for summer to autumn colour.

OTHER flowers providing colour in the summer garden include Echinacea or coneflower, Penstemon “Bull Tower Purple” and a real star Alstroemeria “Princess Zsa Zsa”. The latter will continue to flower up to the first frosts.

I mention these to provide ideas for the summer garden. All will self-seed or simply multiply to give you a never-ending supply to fill bare spaces in the garden over the years.


  • Start cutting hellebore leaves to ground level now that the flowers are finished. Leaving them provides the perfect haven for slugs and snails.
  • Bulbs that need to be relocated, perhaps in too much shade or too deep can be dug and moved at this time.
  • To encourage more flowers on dahlias reduce the height of the stems and remove some of the buds. This strengthens the stems to support the extra flowers produced.

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

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