Gardening columnist CEDRIC BRYANT admires the fragrant flowers of autumn, particularly the hardy camellia sasanqua.
At this time of the year, gardens are a great delight.
Looking out of windows to see plants in flower or spending time in the garden, enjoying the fragrance, lifts the spirits. Garden centres at this time must be considered an essential service! Even if you live in an apartment, balcony gardens provide a safety valve to help our sanity when confined to home. Plus a little weeding every day gives both exercise and vitamin D from the sun.
The range of autumn flowers vie for attention with the brilliant leaf colours of deciduous trees and shrubs. Flowers, from perennial plants to trees, are setting seed and particularly after our recent soaking rain, the conditions are perfect. Just look at the delicacy of the winged seed pods of maples, pictured below on acer Trompenburg. The wings guarantee the wind will disperse these, and some are already shooting in our garden, with the first new leaves appearing. Many will fall in the wrong place, but what an opportunity to pot them up for plant stalls at the numerous fetes in spring.
AS deciduous trees and shrubs shed their leaves, other shrubs come into flower. Autumn is the time for camellia sasanqua, the nectar providing a wonderful feast for honeyeaters. When we had our nursery, we’d often hear: “I’m surprised you don’t have such-and-such camellia”. To put this into perspective, there are more than 38,000 named varieties of camellia! However, now is the perfect time to choose camellia sasanqua. These are the hardy ones that will take full sun and are remarkably drought and frost-tolerant, as opposed to the larger-leafed camellia japonicas, which require filtered shade and flower in mid to late spring.
Being confined to home has allowed me to catch up on jobs I’ve intended to do for years, for example we have one of the most beautiful, small, pure-white flowers of camellia sasanqua “Mine No Yuki” growing; perfect for training on a trellis. It has been growing all over the place for years but no longer, with some judicious pruning and tying onto a lattice using reusable Velcro plant tape, they are now happy.
AMERICAN garden centres always promote “Autumn Time is Planting Time”. Here we hung onto the idea that spring was the perfect time, and I went against the grain when we had our Yass nursery and promoted autumn to plant evergreen trees and shrubs. Reluctantly, it is now accepted the Americans were right. The timing is perfect now, especially with the present moist ground. The extreme heat and blasting winds have gone, and yet the ground will remain warm for some time. Even now the first frosts have arrived, they only affect a few centimetres down and rarely stay around for long. By planting now, roots will develop rapidly until spring for evergreen shrubs ready to do battle with the elements in summer.
A QUICK hint for this week: deciduous climbers should be pruned in winter, such as clematis and evergreen climbing plants, like Trachelospermum or Chinese star jasmine in early spring.