“Readers may assume I keep my garden immaculately. Not a weed to be seen and all the shrubs immaculately pruned?” Far from the truth this year, says gardening writer CEDRIC BRYANT.
WITH more-than-usual rain and warm days, plants have exploded into growth.
Been away and returned to chaos? Possibly plants have grown larger than ever before, and some are in flower in completely the wrong season. My own garden is certainly experiencing this.
Readers may assume I keep my garden immaculately. Not a weed to be seen and all the shrubs immaculately pruned? Far from the truth, this year!
A couple of examples of plants out of control. The blue flowering Ajuga “Jungle Beauty” tends to spread very easily with runners, particularly after flowering. Normally this isn’t a problem, I simply pull out the runners to keep it within bounds.
This year it caught me off guard. It’s like an invading army smothering all in its wake; covering dianthus and thyme. I also have another invasion of what I call a wild viola, with large green leaves and no flowers. This one is relatively easy to pull out, but once again it started to smother the Michaelmas daisies.
Michaelmas daisies, along with chrysanthemum and salvia, traditionally flower in autumn, getting the “Chelsea Chop” about now.
This is when fast-growing perennials are cut back by at least 50-75 per cent to slow growth and encourage more flowers.
In the UK, this chopping back takes place in spring, at the time of the Chelsea Flower Show. All these plants have tripled in size in the last few weeks and are coming into flower. Even so, I’m still recommending giving them the chop now, and again in February. Don’t worry, they’ll still flower in autumn.
To demonstrate my unruly garden this year, I’ve included a photo (above) in which the disarray from excessive growth can be seen. At the foreground is the brilliant Alstroemeria “Princess Zsa Zsa”. This started from one small plant, given to me by Anthony Tesselaar of the Dandenong Nursery, to see if it would grow in the extremes of the Canberra climate. It certainly did and is a real winner. In autumn, I pull pieces up and plant in other bare spots.
Behind these is the Penstemon “Bell Tower Purple” and Echinacea or coneflower, about to burst into flower and will continue to do so all summer. The latter is well-known for its medicinal properties. Hidden underneath is a group of chives about to be given the chop to go into the freezer.
Still in the same bed is a group of Armeria with a select variety known as Dreameria “Sweet Dreams”. This has clusters of pink pom-pom flowers, almost identical to chive flowers. I’ve grown these next to each other for continuity.
As a backdrop to all these perennials are two Daphne Eternal Fragrance “Spring Pink”. These have finally finished flowering after a continuous show since winter. I’ll reduce their growth by one third to keep them fairly compact; at the same time encouraging more branching and flowers next winter/spring.
Another name that could be applied to pruning is “stimulation”, to promote more vigorous growth. These daphne are of the Italian variety, with considerably smaller leaves than the Chinese Daphne odora and are thus capable of tolerating the hot weather.
My “cannot do without” gardener Dave has cut back my three white flowering Camellia sasanqua, which should have been progressively pruned after flowering each year for the last few years. Now more than three metres tall, Dave reduced them by 1.5m.
Prune wisteria now, too, which has finished flowering. Cut back all the wispy branches to about three leaf joints from the main branches.