Cedric reflects on a decade of gardening advice

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In Cedric’s first “CityNews” column in 2011, he suggested calla lilies for a bold, strident display.

It’s been 10 years since joining the team at ‘CityNews’, hopefully providing the best advice for local gardeners, says gardening writer CEDRIC BRYANT.

ON February 10, it will be 10 years since I joined the team at “CityNews”.

“CityNews” with Cedric on the cover 10/2/11, celebrating 10 years.

I’ve written about 350,000 words, hopefully providing the best garden advice for local gardeners, based on organic principles without the use of chemical fertilisers and sprays; and providing the latest in garden products and ideas. Here’s how I got things started a decade ago:

“Welcome to my first new garden column in “CityNews”… this garden page will provide the right advice to help you enjoy your garden. 

“With more than 30 years designing gardens and providing horticultural advice plus owning a nursery and herb gardens with my wife Gerdina in Yass for 10 years, I am gradually getting the hang of what grows here!

“Canberra has been variously described as a garden city, the bush capital or a treed city. I noted that “CityNews” did not have a garden page, so now we have corrected that situation. More importantly, I write about gardening locally with the vagaries of our climatic extremes. 

“Gardening here has changed dramatically in the last few years, drought and water restrictions having taken their toll on gardens. This has forced us to look at the plants we grow with an increased emphasis on drought-tolerant plants. This is all to the good, as we needed to realise the true value of water with the message of ‘watering responsibly’. 

“Then in the last 12 months record rainfall has lulled many into a false sense of security with lush growth and green lawns again. However, this is not a gardening chat column, so let us get down to the nitty gritty…”

And so I did. During my writing career, a total of 33 years in print, there have been huge advances in horticulture. Many hundreds of new varieties of plants have been introduced since 1986, thanks to modern advances in plant breeding. 

So, as I frequently say, “gardeners are optimists”, as we move on to the next 10 years. 

AUTUMN is the traditional time for planting trees and shrubs, and it’s vital to have the ground well prepared to give them the best possible start.

Canberra is renowned for its clay soil, which interestingly has a good many nutrients, but they’re locked up – and clay soils are very effective in stopping water penetration. 

One way of loosening the clay, if there’s room, is to use a bobcat with the teeth on the bucket breaking up the clay crust. Then add plenty of organic matter. 

Many garden articles recommend using gypsum to break up the clay, but it’s only effective in the depth of soil of which it can be dug in. Also, heavy applications of gypsum can be detrimental to acid-loving plants. 

I recommend a liquid clay breaker that will soak down into and through the soil, such as Multicrop GroundBreaker. It improves water penetration and aeration, and starts working immediately, with maximum effect seen within six to eight weeks. 

When planting trees or shrubs, dig a hole twice the width of the container it comes in and half the depth of the pot. Fill the hole with GroundBreaker and let it soak away. If the soil is in reasonable condition it may drain away almost immediately. With heavy clay, this may take at least a day. 

Editor’s note: Congratulations, Cedric. You are truly the gardener’s gardener and I’m sure I learn something new from your column every week. Thank you for 10 terrific years of good advice and columns of good humour. 

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

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